In the wake of the unexpected death of Teresa Prendergast, a well-known figure in the community and superintendent of Great Neck schools for eight years at the age of 60, the district found itself faced with the task of finding a successor who could step into her sizable shoes.
The search for a new leader began months earlier, in January, when Prendergast revealed her retirement plans, which were approved by the Board of Education at its Jan. 18 meeting. This decision came as she prepared to take on the mantle as the 11th principal at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead, an appointment set to start in August.
Prendergast was transitioning to become the 11th principal of Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girls, Catholic, college-preparatory school, when she died of a ruptured brain aneurysm on June 10.
On June 14, the district officially announced the selection of Dr. Kenneth Bossert as the new superintendent for Great Neck schools. This appointment was facilitated through District Wise Search Consultants, an education search firm. As Bossert steps into this pivotal role, he does so fully aware of the legacy left by Prendergast—a legacy that has ingrained her not only in the education realm but also in the hearts of the community.
Bosset was the superintendent of the Elwood school district and worked in the Three Village school district as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, among other positions. He also has served as president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and is on the executive committee of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
At the Board of Education meeting Aug. 23, he shared some of his goals going into the new school year, which is also available for view online.
In addition to discussing his priorities with the public, they will have the opportunity to directly meet and speak to Bossert over coffee, tea, and refreshments at an upcoming meet-and-greet. The event, which is open to all community members, is scheduled for Sept. 13, at 5:30 p.m. in the William A. Shine-Great Neck South High School library, on 341 Lakeville Rd.
“Just as the board has engaged in meaningful conversations with Dr. Bossert, we are excited to present this opportunity for the school community to get to know our new educational leader as well,” Board of Education President Rebecca Sassouni said.
Bossert said he was looking forward to engaging with the school community.
“My top priority for my first 100 days as superintendent is to meet with stakeholders and develop relationships grounded in our shared commitment to ensure the success and well-being of every student,” he said. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with many individuals and small groups since my arrival in August, and I thank the board for organizing this event for the entire GNPS community.”
In Bossert’s “Superintendent’s Entry Plan: The First 100 Days” document posted on the Great Neck Schools website, he detailed his plans for the upcoming year. Objectives listed include developing key relationships, organizational review, financial review, site visits, curriculum review, human resources, transportation, technology, public relations and communication.
“The success or failure of the new superintendent can hinge upon the relationships developed with the various stakeholders within the school community,” Bossert writes in the document, “I will work vigorously to ensure that I create a positive rapport with all constituent groups.”
These groups include the PTA/PTOs, SEPTA, UPTC, along with local civic leaders.
He will also gain insights into the district by reviewing district materials and previous goals to continue the trajectory of goals already in the process. Financials will also be looked at by Bossert. “In the tax cap era, this will be one of the most critical components of the first 100 days,” he writes, “It will be imperative to gain a full understanding of the financial standing of the district and any challenges that may be faced in the future.”
Over the summer, Bossert told the Aug. 23 meeting he began his tour of the schools and facilities to get a sense of the needs of each building and property. Specifically, he plans to visit the cafeterias during lunch to make himself a “visible presence within the buildings and build familiarity with the students (as well as support staff).”
He views that as a time management challenge. “It is important to take the time. I have always worked under the mantra that ‘paperwork will always be there, the buses roll at 3 p.m.’”
Students may also see Bossert riding on the bus to ensure the transportation department is “operating at a level of maximum efficiency without jeopardizing student safety,” he writes. “This will give me the ability to gain firsthand insight into the various routes and portions of the community that I may not be familiar with. In addition, this will give me the opportunity to ‘shake hands’ with parents awaiting students and distribute my contact information (business card) for those interested.”
The biggest impact on students during Bossert’s first 100 days will be his review of their curriculum. He plans to implement a cyclical review process for the curriculum that will make sure core curriculum and special areas are reviewed on a rotating basis, or as New York State mandates.
“This process will be of particular importance as we move forward in implementing curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Standards and the revised 3-8 testing program in E.L.A. and Mathematics as well as the new Regents Exams and AP exams,” he writes.
Prior to her tenure as the district superintendent of Great Neck Public Schools, Prendergast held a series of diverse roles during her career. These included positions such as assistant superintendent, classroom teacher, principal, dean and assistant principal.
Prendergast held a doctorate of education as well as a professional diploma at St. John’s University. Additionally, she had a master’ degree in math education for grades 7-12 from CUNY Lehman College. She also held a bachelor of science in elementary education (nursery-grade 6) and mathematics for grades 7-9, acquired from St. John’s University.
“Dr. Prendergast always led with grace and dignity, attention to detail and a caring attitude. These attributes not only made her an outstanding superintendent but were the qualities that endeared Dr. Prendergast to those who knew her well,” wrote the Board of Education in a statement after her death. “She guided our staff, students and greater school community through several challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, with patience, understanding and a commitment to working with all community stakeholders.”
Bossert officially started his tenure as superintendent of the Great Neck Public Schools on Aug. 1. His five-year term will end on July 31, 2028.
For more information on the meet-and-greet, call the Superintendent’s Office at (516) 441-4001.