By Kevin Redding
With the start of a new school year, the Shoreham-Wading River school district will be led by a fresh team of administrators — a newly appointed high school principal, assistant principal and middle school principal.
Leadership changes within the district began in April when new superintendent Gerard Poole was officially sworn in. Poole previously served as assistant superintendent in the Freeport School District and is replacing interim Neil Lederer.
“It’s truly a privilege and an honor to have the chance to collaborate and build upon the successes of the school district,” Poole said during an April 18 board of education meeting.
Welcoming new high school principal Frank Pugliese
Pugliese, 45, who has been an assistant principal in the Half Hollow Hills School District for the past 10 years, officially started his new position as Shoreham’s high school principal Aug. 1, taking over for longtime administrator Dan Holtzman.
With 20 years in education under his belt, Pugliese — a Brookhaven native with a bachelor’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Albany and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Radford University in Virginia — started out teaching social studies at Goochland High School in Virginia and Commack High School before receiving his administrative certification through Stony Brook University.
He was administrative dean of students at Ward Melville High School before settling in at Half Hollow Hills, where he worked as assistant principal for four years at Half Hollow Hills West and six years at Half Hollow Hills East.
Pugliese said he’s looking forward to bringing his years of experience in the high school setting to Shoreham-Wading River, a community he said has already made him feel at home.
“I feel incredibly supported here and it’s clear that everyone wants this to be successful — this is a community that values education,” Pugliese said. “I’ve always really enjoyed high school and being part of that environment, the structure, the bonds and making sure it’s a home away from home for students.”
Having gone through an extensive hiring process, which included multiple rounds of interviews with the district office and community members, he said it was intense but appreciated.
“They really took the process very seriously and wanted to make sure they were bringing in somebody competent for the job and also a good fit for the building and community,” he said. “I can’t wait to be out there meeting everyone at the football games, soccer games and not just become principal of the building, but a real member of the community.”
As principal, Pugliese said, his main priority is to build a strong trust with his students.
“The biggest thing is you have to get to know your kids and have to know what motivates them,” he said. “You also have to really accept the fact that something that may have worked previously may not work again. For me, it’s about being real, being genuine and letting the students know that I care, which can give way to very honest conversations. When they know you have their best interests in mind, that’s when they listen. If they think you’re just feeding them a line, they’ll tune you out faster than anything.”
But most importantly, in his first year, he wants to learn.
“Even though I’ve been here officially since the start of August, it’s not a school until the kids and teachers are here,” Pugliese said. “What I’m hoping for this year is to get to know the teachers, get to know the kids. It’s about learning what this community values and how I can best fit into that.”
Kevin Vann moving on up to middle school principal
The new principal of Albert G. Prodell Middle School is a familiar face to the community. Vann, who will be replacing retiring principal Linda Anthony after her 11 years at the helm, has been the assistant principal at the high school for the last decade. Vann said he jumped at the opportunity to lead a school in the district he knows so well.
“I know the middle school is an excellent school, they’ve had a lot of success and the faculty is highly engaged with the students, so there’s a lot of really good things going on,” he said. “I just want to work with teachers, students and families to continue to move the school in a positive direction.”
Vann, 50, said working in the high school for so long has given him a good sense of what he should expect in the new building.
“I saw the product of the middle school when they came up to the high school,” he said. “The kids are very polite, very engaged, very eager to learn and I know that’s because of the good education and experience they’ve had here in the middle school.”
Before he landed the assistant principal position at the high school, Vann worked in sales before teaching social studies at the middle school level in the Patchogue-Medford School District. He also worked on a grant for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students at Pat-Med, and was the dean of students at Shoreham’s high school.
Vann holds a bachelor’s degree in history and education from St. Joseph’s College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Touro College.
As Vann prepares for the new job, he said he is already planning on implementing a Chromebook program for sixth-graders this year, but mainly just hopes to build on the middle school’s friendly environment.
“We certainly want to continue to make the school a welcoming place for students,” he said. “I think the social and emotional aspects of middle school is extremely important. We want to make sure that kids feel valued and welcome and safe when they come in. Once that’s taken care, the kids are in a better place to explore mentally and for learning to occur.”
High school assistant principal Michael Winfield returns
Winfield is another familiar face to the community. He returns to the same position he held at Shoreham-Wading River in 2014, before he left to serve as assistant principal for sixth grade at Hempstead Middle School.
The longtime education leader, who has earned a doctorate in modern world history, a Master of Arts in history and a Master of Arts in sociology from St. John’s University, among several other degrees. He was also dean of students at Bellport Middle School, social studies chairperson at upstate New York’s Spring Valley High School, assistant principal for operations at Riverhead High School and administrative supervisor for the Hempstead High Annex.
Winfield will be replacing Vann, who will be leaving the position to become principal at Prodell Middle School.
“I’m looking forward to, again, working with the school, the community, the parents and to really get their students prepared for work, career and beyond,” Winfield said. “I want to help them become lifelong learners who embrace learning, embrace life and become good citizens. I’m excited to be here.”