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Jan 8, 2020 9:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton High School Principal Will Take Over District Superintendent's Spot In 2021

Adam Fine
Jan 9, 2020 8:27 AM

Adam Fine, the East Hampton High School principal, will step up to replace Dr. Robert Tymann, the school district’s assistant superintendent, at the end of the school year, as part of a plan to move Mr. Fine into the superintendent’s role in 2021.

The East Hampton School Board announced a four-step plan to fill key positions at a meeting on Tuesday, January 7. Richard Burns, who’s been the superintendent since 2012, plans to retire at the end of the school year ending in 2021, and Dr. Tymann, who’s been with the district for eight years, plans to retire at the end of school this year.

Mr. Fine will assume the role of assistant superintendent at that time and spend 2020-21 working with Mr. Burns to prepare to take over his position.

The School Board will now seek applicants for the high school principal position beginning in 2020-21. The board planned to extend Mr. Burns’s contract through June 30, 2021, and to accept Dr. Tymann’s letter of retirement, a press release said on Wednesday morning.

On the phone Wednesday, Mr. Fine described the prospect of leaving his high school position, which he has held for 10 years, as “bittersweet,” confessing that “in my head, I was tearing up” when the School Board president, J.P. Foster, publicly announced the multi-pronged succession plan the night before.

“I love the interactions at the building level,” Mr. Fine said of the high school, adding that going forward he will need to get better acquainted with younger students and their teachers in the other school buildings, beginning at the prekindergarten level. His own four children are in kindergarten to ninth grade.

He said he plans to spend a lot of time visiting the different schools rather than sitting in the district office and that “I feel I’m going to have a lot of fun and put a lot of miles on my car.”

The superintendent role represents a “once-in-a-career opportunity,” he said, and he doesn’t know of “any better place” than the East Hampton School District. Being a principal has prepared him to understand overarching district issues in a concrete way, he said.

Back at the high school, “they have a great foundation, two great and talented assistant principals,” he said of the Timothy Fromm and Karen Kuneth. “So I think were going to be in definitely good shape.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Foster, who also commended Mr. Fromm and Ms. Kuneth, said that the search for a new high school principal was unlikely to be “global,” or extremely widespread. Mr. Foster explained that the board has been working for years on a plan to fill the top three district positions — those of the superintendent and the two assistant superintendents — who were all eligible to retire at the same time, trying to stagger the retirements by seeking contract extensions.

“They were all stellar employees — I would take all three of them any day of the week,” Mr. Foster said, noting that the district has enjoyed an unusually long period of stability and community support.

The first top administrator to go was Isabel Madison, the assistant superintendent for business, who retired in 2018. She was replaced that year by Jerel Cokley, but he left in October, and she has since returned to fill in while the district searches for a long-term replacement.

Then Dr. Tymann, the assistant superintendent for instruction, announced his plans to retire effective July 17, which the board on Tuesday agreed to accept. Dr. Tymann was instrumental in expanding professional development for teachers and improving instructional practices as well as in introducing new academic programs like district-wide coding classes and the middle school Science Oympiad program, according to the district’s press release.

And Mr. Burns, who was a special education teacher and then the district’s director of pupil personnel services before he was named interim superintendent and then superintendent, has been “kind of kicking it down the road” when it comes to retirement, Mr. Foster said. He credited Mr. Burns — who has five children and grandchildren living in the area — with “being everywhere” in the community.

Mr. Burns said that he does want to have more personal time, but also that “I want the young bloods to take over and start running the district.

“Adam has so much energy — he’ll bring it up a notch,” he said.

“If Adam didn’t move this way — it’s definitely going to be good for him — he would be gobbled up,” Mr. Burns said. “Adam is a very gifted high school principal.”

For Mr. Burns, as well as Mr. Fine, the next chapter may be bittersweet. “Honestly, yes, I enjoy this a lot,” he said of being the superintendent. “You’re connected to the betterment of kids.”

He said a long stretch of stable leadership has not only eliminated what in the 1990s were periods of turmoil but also made it possible for the district to “get so much done.” Examples include introducing recent initiatives like a dual language program, a Capstone AP program and new vocational programs that could potentially help recent high school graduates establish careers here on the East End.

“What other school district has the New York State Legislature giving $175,000 for emotional health initiatives?” he asked rhetorically.

“It really is a wonderful school district,” Mr. Burns said. “I just feel like it’s a very positive place now and I just really want that to continue.”

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