The quote on the invitation to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra's retirement party was written by Sir John Lubbock. It read, "If we succeed in giving the love of learning, learning itself is sure to follow." For those who have come to know Dr. Inserra over the past seven years during his tenure as superintendent of the Port Washington School District, they know that the quote aptly applies to this dedicated and caring educator.
And, on a lovely summer evening recently, family, colleagues (both present and past), friends and members of the school community gathered at the Fox Hollow to bid him a fond farewell and wish him well on the next part of his life ... his retirement years.
The party was, in turn, lively, solemn, sad and joyous as guests spoke of Dr. Inserra's accomplishments, talents and personal qualities. Those reflecting on his seven years in Port Washington spoke of his initial trial by fire when he first took the reins of the district ... the Lopeka financial fiasco. Then they touted his amazing feat of having an adequate school facilities bond passed, despite a strongly opposed and overtaxed citizenry that challenged him every step of the way. Speakers also noted his ability to deal with some difficult people who tested the limits of his strong people skills to the max. Most agree, his seven years here could easily be termed "tumultuous."
However, in his speech, Dr. Inserra said that the thing he will remember most about Port Washington and its people, is their "caring."
When asked to comment on his years here, Dr. Inserra said that he's a different person both professionally and personally. "I have grown to be more tolerant and sensitive to a variety of issues." He added, "I feel that those things will stand me well regardless of what I do in the future." He feels good about his time spent here: "While always a challenge, I look back and think of the district and where we were when I first started. We had a million and a half dollar shortfall. Now we're in healthy financial shape."
He's also proud of the fact that the district is more inclusive educationally. "We're more responsive to all children now," he notes.
He wants to say a special thank you to all the people out there, and of course, his staff. He notes that even when people were demanding, he always knew that they wanted what was best for the school system.
Of the many glowing tributes made the night of Dr. Inserra's party, one from the members of Parents' Council spoke to Dr. Inserra both professionally and personally. Following is an unedited copy of it:
An Ode to Dr. Inserra on the Occasion of His Retirement
They told us you were leaving, and we said, "No way!"
We were so unprepared, what would we say?
We thought about all that you've done these past years,
You always did listen and you calmed our worst fears.
As parents we went to you with all of our dreams,
you brought them to that board,
But it was hard to hear over their screams.
We told you it was simple, it was all about construction.
You took that to the board too, even though they didn't always function.
But you got us a plan and a vote did take place,
And finally we're on our way to a much better place.
There were so many issues, you listened to them all.
From redistricting to Math A, you wouldn't let this district fall.
You answered our questions even if they took half the day,
We're not sure what to do, now that you're going away.
We really must thank you from the bottom of our hearts
For the devotion you've shown to our young counterparts.
You have so many talents, you always wowed the crowd.
And for all these things, we feel very proud.
Enjoy your years ahead, and we know that you will.
But please also know, you've left large shoes for us to fill.
This ode expresses the respect, affection and admiration most people feel for our departing superintendent. The Port News joins them all and wishes Dr. Inserra many wonderful, productive and fulfilling years in the future.