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Jay Matuk

Jay Matuk smiles in his office. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Cold Spring Harbor Junior-Senior High School will be changing leadership for the first time in more than a decade, as Principal Jay Matuk is set to retire after the current school year ends.

Matuk grew up in New York City, a background he admits is very different than what his students at Cold Spring Harbor have had. He was a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, where he said he learned how to listen, a valuable trait for the job he’s about to leave. He and his wife moved to Chicago where he taught social studies, and once he moved back to New York he got a job teaching in West Hempstead and eventually landed in administrative roles.

He arrived at Cold Spring Harbor in 2006, after serving as principal in the Patchogue-Medford school district, and said he was excited to work in a place with the significant reputation the district had for successful education.

“One of the things that I had really grown tired of, year after year working to put programs together and hire people, would end in programs being dismantled and positions being terminated because the financing wasn’t there,” Matuk said in a phone interview. “Here was an opportunity to be able to come to a school district where there was a real strong commitment to education and to programs and the right personnel.”

Matuk said he found very quickly that here the students understand and appreciate they’re growing up in a unique environment and work very hard.

“What’s amazing about the school is that there is something for everyone,” he said. “There’s over 100 athletic teams … there is a significant level of support. If there’s a club the kids want to form, the district again is very supportive. If there’s eight or nine kids and it looks like it’s something that they could work with an adult after school I love it because then they’re with an adult after school doing what they’re interested in.”

He said he’s proud he has been able to grow the music and art departments during his tenure, by encouraging students to be involved in those classes and giving the teachers the resources they need to do it well. The principal said he hopes the school continues to create opportunities for students after he leaves, with things like business courses and college accounting.

Matuk said he’s also proud of the fact that he started open enrollment at the district, so any student can enroll in any course to take on any challenge they might feel up to.

“If a student wants to take an [advanced placement] course and gets a C in the course, I’m okay with that, because that’s part of the experience,” he said. “To me this is the correct way to go about it.”

Matuk praised the district’s offering of more than 20 AP courses for students and smaller class sizes so students are able to work with teachers on a more personal level.

“Cold Spring Harbor is a school district where it’s cool to be smart,” Maturk said. “You’ll have someone who is a star on the lacrosse team but will also be performing in a school play … kids that are strong academically will be participating in the comedy club.”

The principal said he believes the opportunities supplied to the students at the high school will impact the rest of their lives.

Matuk said he’ll miss the traditions of the school, the activities and programs that staff, parents and students work on every year to help celebrate the district.

Superintendent Robert Fenter said Matuk’s leadership will be missed.

“Mr. Matuk has demonstrated a strong desire to support the many programs in our schools, to support the professionals and support staff who work with our students each and every day, and to ensure that our students were able to engage in the learning experiences necessary to be successful, both in high school and beyond,” he said in an email. “His knowledge of our programs, our students and our community were extremely valuable resources and I will be forever grateful to him for his guidance and assistance.”