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Matthew Murphy

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Port Jefferson Middle School has a new interim principal. Photo by Caroline Biondo

A familiar face will guide Port Jefferson Middle School as the district searches for a new principal.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday night, members approved Leonard Bozza to serve as interim principal effective July 1. The board resolution stipulates that Bozza will be in the role for no more than 100 days, and will be compensated $600 for each day.

According to a Wednesday letter from Superintendent Ken Bossert, Bozza was previously an interim assistant principal in the district and an interim high school principal. Before stepping into those roles at Port Jefferson, he had retired from his position as the Longwood High School principal.

The district is searching for a permanent replacement for outgoing Principal Antonio Santana, who announced earlier this month that he would not return for the 2015-16 school year, instead going to work for a Nassau County high school beginning in July.

Santana’s news came about three months after the high school principal, Matthew Murphy, announced his own departure at the end of the current school year, saying he was going “to pursue other educational opportunities.”

Murphy and Santana had been hired together three years ago to jointly replace Roseann Cirnigliaro, who had served as principal of both the middle and high schools.

Despite the pair’s coinciding resignations, the district has said the two schools will retain separate principals. Officials have already filled Murphy’s spot — Christine Austen, the Pre-K to grade 12 assistant principal, will take the helm of the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.

Until a permanent middle school principal is chosen, parents can reach Bozza at the school’s main office, at 631-791-4431.

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Port Jefferson Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson school district officials announced on Thursday that middle school Principal Antonio Santana would not return for 2015-16, making him the second building leader in the last few months to step down.

In a letter to parents and staff, Superintendent Ken Bossert said Santana would leave Port Jefferson Middle School for a role at a Nassau County high school beginning in July.

“While this news is disappointing, we are happy for Tony that he has chosen to continue to shape his career in the manner that he believes is best for him and his family,” Bossert wrote.

Antonio Santana, above, is leaving his role as Port Jefferson Middle School principal after three years. File photo
Antonio Santana, above, is leaving his role as Port Jefferson Middle School principal after three years. File photo

The same day, Santana sent out an email to parents about his departure.

“I cannot emphasize enough what a pleasure it’s been working with my students, staff, and parents,” he said. “As I have mentioned at many school functions, it has been a true privilege working in such a great community and all of your efforts in raising such wonderful children have been much appreciated. Having said this, I can’t help feeling a great deal of sadness when I think about all of the people I will miss, especially my students.”

Santana’s news comes about three months after high school Principal Matthew Murphy said he would resign at the end of the current school year, “to pursue other educational opportunities.” Murphy and Santana were both hired three years ago to jointly replace the combined middle school-high school principal, Roseann Cirnigliaro.

The district has filled Murphy’s slot — it announced recently that Christine Austen, the assistant principal for all grade levels and a Port Jefferson graduate, would succeed him at the helm of Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.

“It is wonderful to be given this opportunity to come home and give back to the community this way,” Austen said in a statement.

Austen said she wants to introduce more technology into classroom learning and implement new technology-related courses.

“Our goal is to prepare our students with skills that will last a lifetime,” the incoming principal said.

Bossert said in his Thursday letter that the search is already underway for a new middle school principal, but “due to the timing of this vacancy, it is likely that there will be a gap between Mr. Santana’s departure and the appointment of a new principal.”

Parents may reach out to Bossert, Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister or Executive Director of Curriculum Maureen Hull with any questions.

“Further information about the progress of our search for Mr. Santana’s successor will be shared with our community as it develops.”

At the time of Murphy’s resignation announcement, the superintendent said the district did not plan to return to its previous system of having one principal for both the high school and the middle school. The district was able to operate in that manner for the two schools, which share a building, because it had a waiver from the state education department but that waiver has expired. Bossert has previously said the two schools are different learning environments that require “separate and distinct” principals.