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Welcome Back to School!

The 2009-2010 school year ended in a way that will long be remembered by all of Great Neck. A stupendous storm occurred at a moment almost exactly between our graduations of North High School and South High School and only shortly after our other schools had been dismissed at half day. Much of the district experienced damage beyond anything seen here before. And yet, as others have pointed out, not a single serious injury was reported.  Once again, we are all reminded how an act of nature can quickly prioritize our human concerns when faced with forces beyond our control.  And despite the massive inconvenience to many, lives soon resumed their normal pace as many of you and the school district began those needed repairs.

One of our most immediate repairs was to the pool at North Middle School, the location that suffered the most serious damage. Thanks to Alfredo Cavallaro, the district’s Director of Facilities, the pool was functional all summer long and come this fall will see some permanent repairs that will return it to its former condition.

Our efforts at preparing for the opening of school were most certainly hampered by this storm.  As a result, the summer of 2010 was one where we had to play catch up, but our custodial, building and grounds and security staff rose to the challenge and our schools will be in their typical excellent condition by the time staff and students return on September 7.  It is this talent and dedication that the Board of Education wishes to recognize at their meeting of September 20 as we take a moment to thank them for all they did and do on a regular basis.

Our instructional staff has also been hard at work this summer, many on a wide range of curriculum and summer study projects, but all preparing in some way for the year ahead. Notably, the Office of Instruction, now led by Kelly Newman, assistant superintendent of elementary education and Dr. Steve Lando, assistant superintendent of secondary education and our Human Resource Department, directed by Jennifer Kirby, have met the challenge of replacing almost 40 retirees from the teaching ranks. They have done so admirably and we will welcome these individuals at a new teacher orientation this week. The quality of these new teachers is impressive and while we will be diminished by the departure of dozens of stalwart veterans, we are now made whole by the addition of some very talented newcomers. I am sure you will be hearing about them from the buildings where they have been assigned.

Joining our administrative ranks, or assuming new positions, are several other excellent additions. Mrs. Phyllis Feldman has begun her tenure as the principal of the Lakeville School. Also joining us at Lakeville is Renay Sadis, our new assistant principal. Finally, beginning his Great Neck career is Jeffrey Ryvicker, who is the new assistant principal at E. M. Baker.

As alluded to before, the Office of Instruction has seen the retirement of Mrs. Terry Horowitz and we thank her for her years of service to the district. She will be with us for a period of time this fall working on various projects and assisting Mrs. Newman and Dr. Lando in their transition.  Dr. Dennis Ryan retired as assistant superintendent for special education and we thank him for all his efforts as well for all that he has done for our students. A search is ongoing for his replacement, but we are fortunate to have Dr. Ryan with us until the right person is found for that key position.

Amidst all that personnel change, there is much constancy in terms of purpose and mission. And, you may ask at this juncture —- What is that mission?

That is a question more easily answered in actions than in words, but if there is a word that should be involved it is children. They are our clients, they are our focus and they are our joy. The schools of Great Neck aspire to be student-centered and for as long as we do this, our efforts will be well-intentioned and likely to result in the kind of success that defines our mission.

Students have started to return, and in most cases, the first students who return in any school year are our football players. Their season starts earlier than other teams, and so they are like that first bird of spring that announces a new beginning. I had a chance to welcome our two teams back last week and for me that is the start of the school year. Let it begin!

All students report on Tuesday, September 7 and we are ready for them. I have the privilege of speaking for the entire district in welcoming them back, encouraging parents to become involved in all aspects of their child’s experience and wishing everyone a successful and productive school year.