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Dr. O’Hara Receives Excellence Award

Oyster Bay High School Principal Dr. Dennis O’Hara, OBHS Assistant Principal Taryn Johnson and Carolyn Probst, a guidance counselor at Westhampton Beach High School, presented at the 2014 College Board Middle States Regional Forum, where Dr. O’Hara was honored with “The William U. Harris Award of Excellence.”

The William U. Harris Award of Excellence recognizes an individual from a College Board member institution who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the field of education, has inspired, prepared and connected young people to college, and has shown a genuine commitment to mentoring education leaders in an environment that supports their development and growth.

Dr. O’Hara has dedicated himself to the field of education for more than 25 years, most recently as the transformational leader of Oyster Bay High School (Grades 7-12) in Oyster Bay.

Dr. O’Hara’s career began as a middle and high school science teacher, where he served students not only as a classroom teacher, but spent time working with at-risk students, coached wrestling and track, and acted as a class and club advisor.

His administrative career began when he served as Science Department Chairperson at Hauppauge Union Free School District on Long Island from 1998-2001, and then as assistant principal in that district from 2001-2003.

Since 2003, Dr. O’Hara has been principal at Oyster Bay High School. As an educational leader, Dr. O’Hara has focused on the professional development of his staff. He implemented a Peer Coaching program, established a three-year cohort-based staff development program, crafted a school-wide professional development program called “Small Learning Teams”, and encouraged the use of student-centered teaching methods and team teaching. In addition to furthering the professional development of his own staff, Dr. O’Hara has served as a Secondary Education instructor at Long Island University and Dowling College.

Dr. O’Hara’s most noteworthy contributions, however, have been in the betterment of the students in his care. As an assistant principal, he launched an interdepartmental program in collaboration with the guidance and athletic departments aimed at improving the academic performance of student-athletes. He has also worked to improve special education and ESL programs to improve the quality of education provided to these populations. Dr. O’Hara’s primary focus has been on encouraging students to graduate high school and pursue higher learning. During his tenure as principal at Oyster Bay High School, graduation and college- going rates have increased among all sub-groups. Oyster Bay is now ranked among the top two percent of all high schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek magazine, and the Washington Post.

As Christopher Weber, Library Media Specialist at Oyster Bay High School puts it, “Dr. O’Hara has made it his mission as principal to instill in his students the belief that anyone can and should attend college.”

 To this end, he has designed and championed two unique college visitation trips. Each January, 10th grade students go on a five-day trip south, and visit colleges and universities in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. In the spring, 8th grade students participate in a three-day trip to Philadelphia where they visit local colleges. Dr. O’Hara leads these trips himself, and collaborates with campus admissions officers who give a presentation and a tour to the students. These trips, made possible by hours of fund raising and planning, provide an opportunity for students who may not otherwise be able to visit colleges to experience some of the East Coast’s leading campuses.

Particularly for the eighth-graders, this early introduction to the college admission process can be pivotal in instilling a desire to succeed in high school in order to attend the college of their choice. Dr. O’Hara has been successful in ensuring that college-going culture permeates Oyster Bay High School. These tours, along with many other initiatives, have encouraged students to challenge themselves in and out of the classroom, and to work diligently toward their college dreams. Assistant Principal Johnson had the pleasure of presenting the William U. Harris Award of Excellence to Dr. O’Hara.

“Dennis O’Hara has given his students some of the greatest gifts that an educator can give,” said Johnson in her introduction of the award. “He has torn down barriers and redefined boundaries. He has given them agency and the ability to dream and believe. He has taken statistics that say can’t and don’t and traded them for numbers that dictate the will to do. What resonates amongst all of us that know him and love him, is his ability to create opportunities for student success that is not limited to that which is measurable. He has created an educational environment that embraces families, challenges mindsets and transforms students from hopeless dependency to autonomous maturity."

News

The Raise The Roof Concert, held at Christ Church on Nov. 9, was an intergenerational event to benefit the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay’s seniors.

Board member Suzanne Paolucci explained the center’s wish to get iPods for the seniors as a source of musical therapy. She brought the idea to the center from a talk by social worker Dan Cohen, the founder of Music & Memory. He has produced a film, Alive Inside, that tells the story of music as being restorative. Music is like therapy for the elderly, in particular for those with dementia, as it has been shown to awaken memories of happier times in life, when energy and enthusiasm were boundless.

Driving rain and an early start time did not deter 600 people who arrived at Crest Hollow Country Club recently to celebrate the Women’s Fund of Long Island’s 20th year and to honor four exceptional women.

The breakfast started with a meet and greet and a chance to showcase Women’s Fund contest winner Patti Hogarty, designer of “Women as Bamboo.” Inspired by her neighbor’s bamboo, she entered the contest drawing a design of the bamboo, which Ambalu Jewelers of Roslyn then turned into various pendants of which 40-percent of the profits would go to WFLI. Hogarty wrote a short essay comparing women to bamboo in that they are strong and can weather difficult storms, yet remain graceful and continue to grow sending out new shoots.


Sports

On the weekend of Nov. 8, the Oyster Bay High School Boys and Girls Cross Country teams traveled to the State University of New York at Canton just a few miles from the Canadian border to compete in the New York State Cross Country Championships.

Alex Tosi became the first Bayman since Joe Jazwinski and Justin Nakrin (2008) to become All-State, placing 16th with a time of 16:53. Most runners ran about 20 seconds slower than their Bethpage times because of the muddy conditions on the course. Tosi’s time was basically equivalent to his best Bethpage time, as he powered through the toughest parts of the race. He led the Baymen to a seventh place finish in the Class C race, an improvement from their 11th place finish last year, which ties the highest place at the New York State Championships of a Baymen team since 2009.

In the history of Oyster Bay High School athletics, no one has ever won a Girls’ Tennis New York State Championship. Celeste Matute and Courtney Kowalsky became the first when they won the 2014 New York State Doubles Championship in Latham on Nov. 3. What makes this tremendous achievement even more remarkable is that Matute is a junior and Kowalsky is a sophomore.

The girls, who are usually singles players, teamed up to take on the very best players in Nassau County and New York State. They won all 10 matches in the section XIII and NYSPHSAA tournaments and left Latham as the 2014 New York State doubles champions.


Calendar

Annual Turkey Trot

Thursday, Nov. 27

Turkey Detox Workshop

Friday, Nov. 28

East Norwich Holiday

Sunday, Nov. 30



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