Opinion

The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) has selected Dr. Don Sternberg, principal of the Wantagh Elementary School in the Wantagh Union Free School District, as the 2009 New York State Elementary School Principal of the Year.

The award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.

Sternberg has been an elementary-level administrator for 28 years, 26 of those years in his present position and two as assistant principal in Wantagh Elementary. In addition to these positions, Sternberg served as an art teacher for seven years and an adjunct professor at SUNY Stony Brook for four years.

Among his accomplishments are having his school named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the New York State Education Department and a School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, Redbook magazine presented him with the Award for Overall Excellence. Under Sternberg's leadership, an emphasis has been placed on nurturing the whole child - mind and body.

Teachers and parents in the Wantagh School District offered their own praise for Sternberg's service to the community.

In a letter of support for Sternberg's nomination, Dawn Matrochano, Wantagh Elementary assistant principal, stated: "Anyone who meets Don Sternberg gets an immediate understanding that his sole interest is the children. Decisions that he makes and policies he puts into place are all designed with the wellness and benefit of the students in mind."

Karen Kerge, a fourth-grade teacher at Wantagh agreed. "Over the years, I have seen Dr. Sternberg make difficult decisions that can be unpopular but he has always made these decisions with an eye towards the success of our children," she said.

"The motto of Wantagh Elementary is Together We Make a Difference," noted Ann Tigue, a parent and PTA president. "I have felt, for 10 years, that I have been a member of the team, and that team is led by our wonderful Don Sternberg. Last year, our community defeated our school budget - twice - forcing us into a contingency budget.. . . . Few people in our school know that he [Don] spearheaded donations from individual administrators in our district, specifically to help restore music and arts programs that were cut in our elementary schools."

Sternberg will be honored for his accomplishments at an awards ceremony on May 1 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY. As New York's Elementary School Principal of the Year, Sternberg will be celebrated as a National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) at a recognition program this fall in Washington, DC.

Sternberg holds a bachelor's degree in art education from Ball State University, a master's in fine arts from Adelphi University, a professional diploma from Long Island University and a doctorate from Columbia University, both in educational administration. He is an active member of SAANYS and the National Association of Elementary School Principals, serves as co-president of the Nassau County Elementary School Principals Association, is a member of Phi Delta Kappa and the Long Island School Leadership Advisory Board, and has served on the advisory board for the New York State School Music Association.


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