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Assistant principal

Shoreham-Wading River assistant principal Kevin Vann will be replacing retiring Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony this June. Photo from Kevin Vann

Kevin Vann will be returning to his roots this June.

The now assistant principal at Shoreham-Wading River High School will be reentering middle school doors, but this time as principal of Albert G. Prodell Middle School.

“I feel a strong sense of loyalty to Shoreham-Wading River,” Vann said. “The district gave me my first opportunity as an administrator, and I think I’ve developed some great relationships. I thought this was a great opportunity to stretch my wings a little bit and still stay connected to a community that I really have a lot of respect for and enjoy working with.”

Albert G. Prodell Middle School Principal Linda Anthony will be retiring at the end of this school year. Photo from Linda Anthony

Vann will be replacing retiring principal Linda Anthony, who has been at the helm for the last 11 years. An English teacher in Japan for four years, she took a unique approach to special education and at-risk students, also living in California before returning to New York.

Anthony said she’s fortunate for the extended stay that helped her move the Prodell middle school in the right direction.

“A lot of different instructional practices were put into place in the middle school, the culture of the middle school changed quite a bit — I was able to hire about 40 percent of the staff,” she said. “With so many years you can really initiate change, sustain change and then lock change.”

Some of the changes she made include increased collaboration with teachers and the level of rigor for students.

Anthony has a long history with art, and upon retirement, hopes to get back to her roots, too. She also said she wants to assist in some way with the refugee crisis.

After working with Vann, and attending a weekend conference with the soon-to-be principal, Anthony said she knows what he’s capable of doing in his new position.

“I think he will be an outstanding principal and I think he really is the best possible choice,” she said. “He will take the school to the next level. I have full confidence in that.”

Dan Holtzman, principal of the high school, said the last decade has been productive and meaningful, especially having Vann at his side the entire way.

“He has been my right hand, my support, and even more importantly, my friend,” Holtzman said. “We have worked tirelessly in creating a safe and welcoming learning environment for our students, and I am very proud of the outcomes. I think this transition will prove to be a smart move for the district and Kevin. The strengths he will bring will be an asset to the middle school. I could not be happier or more excited for him.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

—Kevin Vann

Vann began his career in education at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, working in the business world prior to earning a job teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford School District. He also worked on a grant for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students while in Pat-Med, and was the dean of students at Shoreham-Wading River High School. In both capacities, he said the administrative and disciplinary actions he learned to take will help guide him in his new position. He also earned a master’s degree from Touro College in educational leadership.

Prior to him working in the district, there hadn’t been a tenured administrator in over a decade. Anthony, Holtzman and Vann helped change the Wildcats culture.

“There was a lot of turnover — a lot of inconsistency and a lot of uncertainty with students and parents — so we worked hard to create a culture of acceptance, and a student-centered environment where the students could always come talk to us,” Vann said. “We wanted to have an open line of communication.”

To assist with that, the district brought back an advisory period, where for 15 minutes in the middle of the day, kids can connect with teachers. Advanced Placement training for educators was also added to increase subject concentrations, and the College Board has recognized the school as a result.

“We wanted students to know that their opinions and ideas were respected, and when dealing with parents we wanted them to know our goal was to create the best environment possible for their students to succeed,” Vann said. “I think that really has happened.”

Now, he said he’s hoping he can carry down what he’s learned as assistant principal at the high school, while continuing the current successes already put in place.

“I know they have a highly-engaged staff that’s connected to the students, so I’d look for any opportunity I have to continue to foster that growth,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of change kids go through at that level physically, socially and emotionally. We’re looking to make kids feels supported and know there’s adults in the building that care about them, and try to give them good opportunities to develop and to learn.”

Christopher Patronaggio was appointed assistant principal at Harborfields High School last week. Photo from Harborfields school district

Harborfields has found the last piece to its administrative puzzle, after shuffling the staff last year when Superintendent Diana Todaro announced she would be retiring in 2017.

Christopher Patronaggio was appointed assistant high school principal at a board meeting last Wednesday, replacing Timothy Russo, who was recently promoted to principal.

He is currently the administrative dean at Walt Whitman High School in the South Huntington Union Free School District, and will officially take over the helm at Harborfields on Aug. 1.

Patronaggio lives in Nassau County with his wife and 2-year-old son, but said the family plans to make the move to Stony Brook in the near future.

“I am excited to be able to create lifelong relationships with our students and families, and assist in providing anything they need to be successful in all aspects,” Patronaggio said in an email. “In doing so, they know that I am always here for them and my door is always open. It excites me to be a part of a community that continues to produce remarkable students which progresses into productive young adults.”

He said he was able to meet the staff at Harborfields High School last week, and it only made him more enthusiastic to officially take his post in August.

“It made me… excited to begin my career at Harborfields just seeing how passionate and caring they are,” he said. “The Harborfields school district is among the best out there so I am thrilled to become part of the Harborfields family. They have a proven record in providing an unbelievable educational experience for students, which prepares them to face their future endeavors. That is a testament to the unbelievable parents and staff that help make the community such a wonderful place.”

Patronaggio joined the South Huntington team in 2015, and said he learned how to build successful and meaningful relationships while there.

Aside from working in administration, he has also coached basketball and baseball and volunteers for the Special Olympics.

“My variety of experiences — from being a coach, adviser and mentor to many — will help continue to guide our students to make the most out of their experience,” he said. “My experience working with a wide variety of diverse learners can help guide instruction and provide resources to students’ individual needs.”

Patronaggio earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a concentration in adolescent education, followed by his master’s in adolescent special education from St. Joseph’s College. In 2013, he received his certificate of advanced studies in educational leadership from the College of Saint Rose.

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Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Officials are finishing up a large staffing shift in the Port Jefferson schools, recently choosing a new assistant principal for grades nine through 12.

Kevin Bernier is joining the Royals from the William Floyd school district, where he was an assistant high school principal and a career and technical education administrator.

“We are certain that Mr. Bernier, who comes to us with years of administrative experience, will serve our district well and help to ensure that all of our students receive the personalized, rigorous education that our community has come to expect,” Port Jefferson Superintendent Ken Bossert said in a statement this week.

Bernier, who will start at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School on Aug. 24, has a background as a secondary English teacher and is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and of the National Council of Teachers of English, the Port Jefferson school district said. He is a Sayville resident.

The position Bernier will hold opened up after former high school Principal Matthew Murphy announced he would not return for the 2015-16 school year. Port Jefferson officials promoted assistant principal Christine Austen to Murphy’s role, vacating her spot.

As assistant principal, Austen previously handled all grade levels in the district, but officials split that job in two — creating one assistant principal position at the high school and one for the elementary and middle schools. Bernier’s primary education counterpart is former Middle County school district employee Claudia Smith, whom the school board appointed last month to serve the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School and Port Jefferson Middle School.

Those shifts are not the only staffing changes this school year — there is also a new principal at the middle school and a new district special education director.

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Photo by Elana Glowatz

A Miller Place official will change his rally colors to purple and white this summer.

The Port Jefferson school board hired Robert Neidig as the district’s new middle school principal on July 28, a couple of months after three-year principal Antonio Santana announced he would not return to the position for the 2015-16 school year.

Neidig, an assistant principal at North Country Road Middle School for the past eight years, will start at Port Jefferson on Aug. 17, a letter to the community from Superintendent Ken Bossert said.

A recent press release from the Port Jefferson school district said Neidig has two master’s degrees from Stony Brook University and a doctorate in educational administration from Dowling College, and started his career as a social studies teacher in Babylon before becoming an administrator.

At Miller Place, he “fostered a positive relationship between the school and community, initiated character education programs to improve the school climate, facilitated the implementation of the Common Core Learning Standards and served as chairperson for four academic departments,” the press release said.

Until Neidig officially makes the move to Royals country, the middle school has an interim principal, Leonard Bozza, who was once the Longwood High School principal and has previously served in interim roles in Port Jefferson: once as an assistant principal and once as the high school principal.

In addition to appointing the new Port Jefferson Middle School leader, the school board also added Brentwood’s head of speech and hearing, Jodi Cahill, as the new director of special education and Claudia Smith, currently a Middle Country school district staffer, as the elementary and middle school assistant principal.

Cahill has a master’s in speech language pathology from LIU Post and served on Brentwood’s special education committee, the press release said. Smith has been an elementary teacher for 18 years and has a master’s from Dowling College.

“Each was selected based upon outstanding vision, strong content knowledge, and the ability to collaborate with all stakeholders in an effective manner,” Bossert said of the three new staffers.

The district is still looking for an assistant principal for Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, and Bossert said the goal is to have one appointed before school starts.

Neidig, Cahill and Smith are part of a new lineup throughout Port Jefferson schools. In addition to replacing Santana, the district had to find a replacement for Matthew Murphy, the former high school principal, who announced his departure a few months before Santana. Officials recently promoted Christine Austen to the position from her role as the assistant principal for grades pre-k through 12.

Smith is absorbing Austen’s former elementary and middle school duties and the educator who is hired as the high school’s assistant principal will complete that transition.

“This is an exciting time in the Port Jefferson school district,” Bossert said in the press release. “[It is] a time filled with opportunities for growth and development as new leaders join the team.”

Huntington High School. File photo
Joseph DiTroia and Gamal Smith are the new assistant principals. Photo by Darin Reed
Joseph DiTroia and Gamal Smith are the new assistant principals. Photo by Darin Reed

On July 7, the Huntington school board appointed three new faces to serve in administrative roles at different levels. The meeting took place at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School auditorium and ended with the appointment of Kathleen Acker, Joseph DiTroia and Gamal Smith as superintendent and assistant principals, respectively.

According to a press release, trustees approved the appointment of Acker who will serve as the superintendent for finance and management services for the Huntington school district’s administrative team. Before joining this team, Acker was a business education teacher for six years at Walt Whitman High School. Since 2010, Acker was also the high school’s principal.

But before she was in charge of overseeing 250 Walt Whitman staff members and nearly 1,900 students, Acker was the school’s assistant principal for six years. She attended Long Island University Post, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in management. She then attended Stony Brook University for her Master of Science in technological systems management. Acker, who will assume the appointed position on Aug. 3, also has an advanced graduate certificate for school district administration, which she received while attending Stony Brook.

Acker will replace Sammy Gergis starting Aug. 3 and receives a salary of $185,000 for this position. Acker is up for tenure Aug. 3, 2019.

Both DiTroia and Smith will serve as assistant principals at Huntington High School and assumed their positions on July 8. Both individuals will receive a salary of $137,041. DiTroia will also handle master scheduling duties. According to Jim Hoops, public information coordinator for Huntington school district, the assistant principal who handles those duties are required to work 10 extra days in addition to the normal school year workdays. While Smith is not replacing a current faculty member, DiTroia will replace Brenden Cusack, according to a Huntington school board meeting agenda.

Kathleen Acker will be the school’s new assistant superintendent for finance. Photo by Darin Reed
Kathleen Acker will be the school’s new assistant superintendent for finance. Photo by Darin Reed

For DiTroia, life before Huntington High School included serving as a teaching assistant for two years at Plainedge High School. For nine years, he was also a social studies teacher at William Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School in Brooklyn, followed by becoming the dean of discipline. His accomplishments include serving as the dean of students and positions as the assistant principal of Alfred G. Berner Middle School in Massapequa and North Babylon High School, respectively.

DiTroia received a Bachelor of Arts in history while attending the University of Delaware. He also acquired a Master of Science in secondary education from Queens College.

Smith attended Clarkson University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in biology and premedicine. He attended Mercy College and obtained a Master of Science.

Before the board appointed him as one of the assistant principals, Smith worked at Richmond Hill High School as a teacher and lab instructor. While working at John Adams High School, Smith served as the dean of students. He was also the assistant principal at John W. Dodd Middle School and PS 212 in the Bronx.

Smith held the positions of assistant principal and science department chairman at Dr. Richard Izaquierdo Health & Science Charter School, was a science teacher and the dean of students for PS 254, and the principal of Nassau BOCES Positive Alternative Twilight High School.

DiTroia and Smith could not wait to get to work, as they began familiarizing themselves with the high school as well as Huntington faculty and staff members only several hours after the board appointed them to assistant principal positions. DiTroia and Smith are both up for tenure July 8, 2019.

Superintendent proposes adding assistant principal

Superintendent Jim Polansky. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Shifts in staffing will be playing a big role in Huntington school district’s 2015-16 budget, as Superintendent Jim Polansky is recommending funding nearly 19 new positions — including hiring a new assistant principal at the high school.

“I’m just going to warn the board that what I’m about to present to you is what I believe is needed to service the district, K to 12,” Polansky said prior to a budget presentation on staffing on Monday night.

Polansky pitched hiring a new assistant principal at an estimated cost of $143,792, which does not include benefits. The position isn’t included in his proposed approximately $120.1 million working budget, “but I do believe that it’s something worthy of consideration,” he said, noting he’s thought about it for “quite a bit of time.”

The superintendent pointed out that there will be more than 1,400 students at the high school next year and 160 staff members and teachers who require observations and regular reports that can be time consuming for just two administrators.

“To run a building of that size with a principal and an assistant principal as the only two administrators, can it be done?” Polansky said. “Yes. Is it tough to do? Yes.”

Polansky pitched funding 18.7 additional staff positions next ranging from instructional, noninstructional and administrative employees. The greatest increase in instructional staff is in the area of bilingual and ESL teachers, where Polansky suggested hiring 3.6 additional instructors mostly at the high school.

The increase is needed, Polansky said, because of changes in New York State Education Department requirements governing ESL/bilingual education, which is known as Part 154.

“This does not mean there is a tremendous increase in ESL students, but there is an increase in the amount of services we have to provide for them based on Part 154.2 regulations,” Polansky said. “That hits the high school most significantly.”

School board President Emily Rogan added, “This is not necessarily in terms of the number of kids but the way and how we distribute services.”

School board member Bill Dwyer said the additional bilingual/ESL instructors would cost the district around $300,000 and asked if this cost would qualify as an unfunded mandate.

“That is most definitely what we call an unfunded mandate,” Polansky said.

All told, Polansky is recommending funding four new instructional positions at the elementary school, 7.7 instructional positions at the middle and high schools, six noninstructional positions and one assistant principal at the high school.

Susan Tully, a Huntington resident, urged board members to consider the long-term financial impacts of their present-day budget decisions. She noted that due to high taxes and cost of living, the area is becoming too expensive to live in for young people already, and she doesn’t want to see Huntington become just “a community of a bunch of old people.”

So far, the proposed budget includes funding for 12 contingent positions, meaning most of the proposed increase in staff is already accounted for. However, next year’s proposed $120 million spending plan is still about $408,000 above where it needs to be, as per a state-mandated cap on tax levy increases. Polansky expressed his hope that once the state aid figures become clearer, coupled with pending retirements, the gap will be closed.

The district could see a significant reduction in staff through two early retirement incentives it is offering its administrators and teachers. Five employees, including Huntington High School Principal Carmela Leonardi and Carmen Kasper, the district’s director of foreign language, ESL and bilingual programs, have already taken advantage of the incentive.