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Farewell To Kienke

Debra Kienke, who was the director of special services in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District for 13 years, has left Oyster Bay to assume a position in Oceanside, which is closer to home for her. During her tenure in Oyster Bay, she was instrumental in creating many education programs and initiatives that have helped to make the district’s special education program one of the most respected in Nassau County. Her overall philosophy for “keeping our kids in our community” has created programs that not only address students’ individual educational needs, but also includes community based job opportunities for students aging out of high school and beyond.

Kienke noted that “the OB-EN school community has been unbelievably supportive of our students over the years. The relationships that have developed between mainstream peers and our students reflect on the families and character of this district. The thriving after-school peer mentoring programs at Vernon and the high school are a testament to that. These programs offer opportunities for all students to come together, have fun and enjoy each other’s unique gifts.”

A fitting farewell to a wonderful lady is best expressed by another wonderful lady who worked side by side with Kienke as the Assistant Director of Special Services, Johanna Canonica.

 Canonica commented, “In my almost 25 years in Oyster Bay, I think I can safely say that there has never been, nor will there be again, someone who has had the impact on the lives of special needs children, their families, teachers and colleagues as Debi has had over these past 13 years. The one thing that I think sets Debi apart is that she is a woman with a great deal of faith and belief in what is possible. She believes in kids and what they can achieve. She believes in teachers and what they can accomplish. And she believes from the heart. Debi is a true visionary – she looks beyond what most people see and sees what I would have thought impossible. I’ve learned many things in my five years with Debi, but if I had to sum it up, I would say I’ve learned the most about dealing with people with kindness. I am a kinder person today than when I walked into her office five years ago. And I will tell you that in those five years, we have never had a cross word between us. She may not have agreed with everything I did.

“Through it all, she has been my mentor and my friend. She has been there for us in our joys and in our sorrows and she has been much more than our administrator. We all share the fact that we love her and are deeply sorry to have her leave us. So Debi, we bid you farewell with our love and gratitude for all you have done for us, and for the Oyster Bay community.”