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Chatting With New Schreiber High School Principal Ira Pernick

Recently, Port News sat down with the new principal of Schreiber High School, Ira Pernick, who has been meeting with many members of the community in order to get to know everyone. In meeting with the local newspaper, Mr. Pernick offered information on what he believes his role is as school principal at Schreiber.

Mr. Pernick made it clear that he wants to be accessible to people, and that transparency in school issues is also important. “I really believe in open access. I know it is a big place and I know that people are demanding, but that’s okay – I have their children here,” Mr. Pernick said. In describing his strong feelings on access to the community, he further explained that he enjoys the public part of his position as principal and that he would not want to be someone who never leaves the office.

One of the ways that he is trying to encourage an open dialogue with parents and staff is through “Morning Coffee” meetings, something he began in September, which will continue once a month throughout the school year. Mr. Pernick explained that these meetings provide an opportunity for everyone to see each other and have open discussions in a collegial, friendly environment. In addition, he hopes that these meetings will allow parents to have a greater connection to the school. Mr. Pernick said that he is also looking into arranging meetings with an evening time for parents who are not available in the morning.

By encouraging an open dialogue, Mr. Pernick hopes that people who have issues that need to be resolved or questions that need to be answered will come to him first. “Sometimes it’s okay for me to be the first stop, and then I can reroute if I have to or I can just get you an answer,” he said, adding that in some cases, he might be able to get an answer faster than others. He added that the answer he can provide might not always be one that people like, but at least they will receive an honest response.

Mr. Pernick admitted that coming to the principal first is not the typical pattern for a school the size of Schreiber, but it makes sense for him based on his previous experience over the last 10 years as principal of a small high school in Queens. He explained that in the model of a small school environment, the principal has to be accessible since there is not a “system of buffers” in place. “It is really more powerful if the community can connect with the school leaders. When we make it too hard to connect with the leaders, I feel that it creates some distrust – it’s not welcoming, and that’s not what I want to project at all,” he said.

In speaking about the students at Schreiber, Mr. Pernick stated that they want what everyone else wants: access to information. “They’re members of the community, too,” he said, adding that to do this job, you have to be passionate about kids and creating a healthy environment for them. Explaining his philosophy, he described that for all tough issues, groups have representatives. “I am the president of the kid union,” he said. “My job is to do what is in the best interest for them all the time, and I can’t do that unless I know what it is that they need.”

Mr. Pernick noted that he has already observed the active community involvement of Port Washington. He said, “This community has a really powerful, rich connection to advocacy that I haven’t seen in other places – it is very unique. They advocate for themselves in ways that others don’t, but they take up the cause for others, as well.” On that note, he said that many kids in Port Washington donate their time and energy to worthy causes. “What they do in their spare time to help other causes is unbelievable, and this is one of those things that we need to file and refer to when we hear non-teenagers complain about this generation,” he said

Explaining how this new generation is different, Mr. Pernick said that new technology allows them to be more connected to information. He also noted that things such as social networking are built into teens today, which makes them uniquely suited for what is going to happen in the next 20 years when they join the working world. Mr. Pernick added that he is very excited about this generation and the new career paths that will be created, and he is aware that educators need to find ways to expose students to these new majors in colleges and the new job opportunities that are now developing.

From meeting with many people in the community, Mr. Pernick has already learned a lot about Port Washington, but he admitted that there is still more to discover. Focusing on open communication, he said that he will post a letter to the community every month on the school website http://www.portnet.k12.ny.us. Monthly “Morning Coffee” meetings will also be posted to the website once the date is announced.