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.”
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.”
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.”