It may have been a retirement party, but the friends, colleagues and family of Assistant Superintendent of Schools Ann Israel were hardly retiring. At a bash given at the Crest Hollow Country Club on June 14 for this beloved and caring administrator who has served the educational community in Port for 35 years, the family of the Port Washington school district party-heartied ... and shed a few tears ... throughout the evening.
The evening, filled with joy and sadness, celebrated "Ann Sue's" career with both professional and personal tributes extolling, among many other stellar qualities, her extraordinary people skills and her depth of knowledge on educational issues.
Among the many kind, thoughtful and well-deserved words showered on Mrs. Israel, those of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra captured some of her range of talents.
After characterizing the gathering of the amazing turnout of 315 guests as a "gansa meshpuchah, (a gathering of the clan)" Dr. Inserra spoke of his first few "difficult" years in Port. He recalled "the capital deficits, whole language wars, etc." which Ms. Israel helped him navigate, to helping him learn the complicated issues involving the teachers association. To him, she has been "a colleague, supporter, confidant and most importantly, a friend."
He then complimented Ann on her ability to employ the full range of strategies used by assistant superintendent when they weigh in on decisions. More importantly, he noted, Ann added a few of her own. "Haunting him," was usually most effective, said her boss. But, he added, "to no one's surprise, her judgment and instincts were pretty much on the money."
Dr. Inserra also praised Ann's exceptional ability to handle difficult situations. "She is the best at making someone understand, maybe even feel good, when things are at their worst. People are in and out of her office all day long ... walking in with problems, walking out with solutions. People gravitate to her because they know she can help... and they know she cares."
One of her most outstanding qualities is her gift for friendship, said Dr. Inserra. "She is not capable of disappointing anyone, often at her own expense." Sometimes, after a meeting ran very late, he recalled that on his long ride home, Ann would stay on the phone with him to make sure he stayed alert.
In addition to all of these extraordinary personal traits, however, Ann's capacity for managing an enormous amount of work was also touted by Dr. Inserra.
One of the memorable highlights of the evening was the "administrator's chorus" led by Dr. Dick Barry, who himself is retiring this year. He composed a lovely parody of the song Supercalifragilistic expialidocious for Ann. It went like this.
When Annie was a little girl, her mother thought it strange
She went from cooing baby talk through a dramatic change
Instead of saying Ma and Pa or any simple word
She started greeting everyone and this is what was heard
Hello honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie
My name is little Annie Sue, I'm on a natural high
I love the world and it loves me, that's why I'm never shy
So I'll greet you, one and all, who chance to catch my eye
With honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie!
At meetings of the Board of Ed. when hot words are exchanged
The superintendent slowly slumps as people get deranged
The crowd sits silent and stares in total disbelief
Then up jumps Annie Sue to speak and bring us all relief
With honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie
She calms the feelings of distress and lets our spirits fly
And God forbid if anyone continues with a spat
The next day you're invited to her office for a chat
It's honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie!
When we're all stressed from too much work that reaches to the sky
We take a break and the gal who's Mom and apple pie
She listens hard and comforts us and always shares our woe
Her soothing words revive our strength and this is how they go
Now honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie--
Do not tie yourself in knots; stay calm and clear of eye
Just follow my example: you can do it if you try
Take my advice, indulge yourself and watch your troubles fly.
Take yoga to relieve your stress or sample rich bon bons
Shop till you drop and after that go to the nail salon
A pair of shoes, new dress or scarf will make you feel much better
Instead of seeing therapists, just knit yourself a sweater
If that all fails I've one more trick to lessen all your grief
A sure-fire way that's guaranteed to bring you much relief
It works for me and I promise it's a way to keep much saner
Forget the cost, commit yourself to the care of a personal trainer
Yes, honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie!
And now we sadly note the time has come to say farewell
Port Washington without our queen, we fear will go to hell
You're full of zest and charm and wit, and you know we don't lie
We'll always love you, Annie Sue, and now say with a sigh
Good-bye honey, baby, darling, cookie, dear and sweetie pie.
When asked by the Port News for a few parting words, Ann Sue Israel said:
"Port Washington has been so much a part of my life for 35 years that it has been difficult to separate my work life from my personal life. It is my hope that my time in the district has in some way benefited students, staff and the community. My years have certainly been memorable and will never be forgotten.
"The complex nature of the Port Washington Schools and community has always been a challenge and also made my years in Port most rewarding. I am appreciative of all the support I have received over time , and hope I have been open and responsive to the suggestions that have been made for improvements within my areas of responsibility. I leave with pride in the schools and great hopes for the future of this wonderful district."
Ann Israel obviously gave much and received much in return. She will be missed.