Education Dean Search Coming To A Close

The School of Education, which moved back to Old Main Building after construction was completed, is still searching for a dean.
The School of Education, which moved back to Old Main Building after construction was completed, is still searching for a dean.

The search for the next dean of the School of Education is winding down, college officials said.

While the searches for two other high-ranking academic officials — the provost and the dean of the School of Science and Engineering — have been completed, the president must still decide if he would like to act on the search committee’s recommendations for the top seat in the School of Education.

President Donald Christian said while the three searches for these academic officers at SUNY New Paltz were happening simultaneously, they were largely independent and the campus should not find it strange that the School of Education search is being completed last.

“We intentionally started the provost search earlier so we would have a provost named by the time we were picking the dean candidates,” he said. “The science and engineering folks were able to get their ad out earlier and that’s the only reason there is a difference in timing.”

In the School of Education, the search for a new dean began when Robert Michael retired after 37 years of work at SUNY New Paltz. Karen Bell, who served as an associate dean of her academic unit from 2003 to 2010, was appointed interim dean of the School of Education in December 2010.

Bell said the biggest challenge she faced as interim will also affect the new dean: budgetary issues, particularly ones at the national level.

“New teacher and principal evaluations are impacting our ability to place students for field work and student teaching, particularly when some districts are closing schools and the number of children in the region is declining,” she said.

The search committee responsible for finding someone to relieve Bell of her duties was formed in 2010. They were charged with the task of drafting position descriptions, criteria and more before placing an advertisement for the job, Christian said.

Aaron Isabelle, a professor in the Elementary Education department and the School of Education dean search committee chair, said last December the group put together an “extensive” list of desired qualities for the next dean. He said input was gathered from the School of Education faculty members and narrowed down to 12 to 15 qualities that became the basis of the application screening criteria.

Since then, an advertisement was placed and the pool of candidates was narrowed to four finalists. Isabelle said after the candidates completed on-campus interviews, the search committee submitted formal recommendations regarding the future of the position on April 18.

“We are awaiting the final result which, hopefully, should not be too much longer,” he said.

The first finalist to come to campus was Dr. Valerie Martin Conley, associate professor and director of the Center for Higher Education at Ohio University. Her visit was followed by one from Dr. Michael Rosenberg, who currently serves as the associate dean for research in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. He is also a professor of special education.

On April 5, Dr. Philip Belcastro was available for a “Pizza Lunch with Students” session like the other candidates. Belcastro is the chair of the Department of Health Education at the Borough of Manhattan Community College at the City University of New York. He is also a professor of health education. The last finalist in the search to come to campus was Dr. Alfredo Cuellar, dean of the School of Behavioral and Social Science at Imperial Valley Community College in California.

Christian said he is currently deliberating the search committee’s recommendations and will be making a decision soon.

Chief of Staff Shelly Wright said the School of Education dean search ended up pacing nicely with those for other academic officials.

“There was no intentional delay — it was all scheduling and meetings,” she said. “The staggering was good in a way.”

On April 10, Christian announced Phillip Mauceri, the current dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Northern Iowa, will begin serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs starting in August. Daniel Freedman, interim dean of the School of Science and Engineering at New Paltz since August 2011, will be taking on the top role in his academic unit.