Dr. Robert Shaps, superintendent of schools in Hastings-on-Hudson, is expected to become the new superintendent of the Mamaroneck School District on July 1, replacing Dr. Paul Fried. Dr. Shaps will be appointed at the April 20 meeting of the Mamaroneck Board of Education, according to a March 25 release from the district.
As of yet, Dr. Shaps’ salary has not been determined. According to SeeThroughNY.com, he earns $235,434 in Hastings; Dr. Fried earns $268,623.
Last week, the district confirmed that Dr. Shaps, 50, was a finalist for the Mamaroneck position. This week, Mamaroneck Board President Linnet Tse described some of the attributes that led to the selection of Dr. Shaps.
“As a successful superintendent of two high-performing districts over the last seven years, Dr. Shaps comes to us with the leadership skills we believe are vital to move our district forward in these difficult times,” said Ms. Tse. “Dr. Shaps has a proven record of unwavering commitment to academic rigor and educational excellence. He has demonstrated the vision, creativity and problem-solving skills necessary to tackle the tough financial challenges ahead and energetically pursue the continuing improvement of teaching and learning in our district.”
Dr. Shaps was selected through a multi-month process led by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. The search began with community focus groups, whose input was used to create a profile of what Mamaroneck was looking for in its next superintendent. That led to recruiting of candidates and multiple rounds of interviews with the board. Finalists also met with a broader advisory committee.
“I’m enthusiastic, excited to start and eager to begin working with the board and the educational community,” Dr. Shaps told the Gazette on Thursday afternoon.
Asked about the biggest issues he will face, Dr. Shaps said there are many for a new superintendent. “Mamaroneck is facing the same economic challenges as Hastings and districts across the country: How do you further the district’s work in a fiscally responsible manner, without compromising excellence in our schools?”
In Hastings, he recently recommended a budget for 2010-2011 that was smaller than last year’s. He said the budget decrease was a product of “four years of work – of aligning our educational priorities, looking for efficiencies and collaborating with stake holders – including the board, our finance committee, administrators and teachers.”
“And we were successful at introducing a budget committee to serve as an objective third party advisory,” he said. “We were more transparent at explaining the challenges, as well.”
A priority for him in Mamaroneck will be “learning about the people, history, success and community- and to really emphasize collaboration.”
He said it was a “great honor and privilege for me to join the Mamaroneck School District, with its reputation for educational excellence and its engaged, dynamic community.”
According to the district’s release, Dr. Shaps has spent four years as superintendent in Hastings. Before that he spent three years a superintendent of Manchester Essex Regional School District in Manchester By the Sea, Massachusetts. He was principal of Manchester Essex Regional School District’s Middle/High School and before that assistant principal at Londonderry High School in New Hampshire.
Dr. Shaps began his career in education as a men’s lacrosse coach at Lehigh University and Washington & Lee University. He then launched his own business developing multi-national joint ventures in the areas of agribusiness and technology with Eastern European countries and former countries of the Soviet Union, making use of his Russian language skills. After nine years in business, he went back to teaching, starting as a special education teacher at Londonderry High School.
Dr. Shaps said his business experience had proven beneficial to his work as superintendent – particularly “in these tough economic times.”
Dr. Shaps lists as one of his proudest accomplishments the implementation of the Hastings’ Strategic Plan, a ten-year blue-print developed by the board and community before his arrival as superintendent.
He said he was in the “wonderful position of starting as a superintendent with a strategic plan.” the challenge was to “take the community’s thoughtful ideas to improve the quality of the schools and operationalize them in a very pragmatic way.” After his first year, he was able to accomplish 12 of 16 preliminary goals.
He is also proud to have promoted the integration of instructional technology into the classroom. Last year, Hastings was recognized for its distance learning partnership with the Metropolitan Museum. Other top achievements include establishing the Hastings high school science research program, which has produced two consecutive Siemens Math and Science National Semi-finalist Award Winners, and expanding the high school art program and strengthening the theater arts program.
The district’s release also highlighted Dr. Shaps’ emphasis on building coalitions. In Massachusetts, he worked with two communities to design and gain support for constructing a new regional middle/high school. In Hastings, he promoted sharing of services and progrmas among the Quad Village school districts and communities.
Dr. Shaps has a B.A. in English from Hobart College, a Masters in Teaching and Learning from Harvard University; a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Educational Administration from the University of New Hampshire, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois and graduated from Scarsdale High School. He now lives in Yonkers with his wife Kathleen and his son Ari. He has four children and one grandson.