Each year, SAANYS celebrates exceptional New York State administrators with a state awards program in their honor. This program was established to recognize educators who demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and have made exceptional contributions to the educational process. SAANYS is proud to highlight member accomplishments and share their successes.
For more information on the SAANYS awards program, please contact Holly Bell at email@example.com.
- Review a list of award categories and criteria here.
- Nominating is easy using this online form.
- Download the Awards Nomination brochure below.
SAANYS is the official state affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and their annual awards programs.
Richard Keeler, principal at Central Valley Academy in the Central Valley Central School District, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Secondary School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to a middle or high school principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Among his many accomplishments, Keeler has focused on fostering a supportive and empowering environment for all students, regardless of their future ambitions. In particular, he noticed the struggles that many freshmen experience during their transition to high school. Keeler established a Freshman Seminar program the purpose of which “is to help students develop a sense of belonging to the academic community and to foster the intellectual skills and self-confidence necessary for academic success through person relationships as well as self-actualization.” He also worked to increase course offerings that provided all students’ opportunities to take classes that were aligned with their future ambitions. Increasing AP and College Now offerings, adding a Health Science Pathway, a Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) program, as well as increasing opportunities for students to learn trades, are some of the ways CVA was able to accomplish this. Commented Aaron Carey, principal of Barringer Road Elementary, “Mr. Keeler is an outstanding leader who is highly respected within our school district and within the region. His dedication to the students, staff, and community are unparalleled.”
Student Emma Wheet, whose Advanced Placement Capstone project on therapy dogs was later implemented at the school, commented that, “Mr. Keeler helped me throughout my whole research project process for my AP Capstone project. He made my research paper become a reality that I never thought would take flight in our own district, but he supported me every step of the way.”
Commented teacher Jonna Costin, “Mr. Keeler promotes equity in our building by modeling equity for his students. He gives our students a voice and will always listen to concerns and then try to find solutions.”
After mourning the loss of two students to suicide in six years, Keeler realized he needed to place the mental health of students as a top priority at Central Valley Academy. He notes that “losing students to suicide makes you reevaluate and question everything you do as an administrator.” To that end, throughout the year, he has built in half days as mental health days and has worked to normalize conversations surrounding mental health. The school hosts an annual event in June known as the Mott Marathon where seniors raise money for a specific cause. In June 2022, the event was held in memory of the students lost to suicide and became a full-day event with over 25 different vendors providing mental health information to students, as well as a seminar by a teen mental health specialist. Parent Pattie Day commented, “While counselors were brought in, Mr. Keeler is the one who more students looked to for help, support, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and a hug when needed, from someone they respect, who’s heart was broken along with theirs.”
Superintendent Jeremy Rich noted that “Mr. Keeler works hard to foster a family-oriented culture in his building that is built on trust, integrity, and honesty. The culture he has created is one that certainly fosters the emotional well-being of all involved.”
Keeler received his Associate of Science from Herkimer County Community College, Bachelor of Science from Utica College of Syracuse University, and his Master of Science from the University at Albany.
As the NYS Secondary School Principal of the Year, Keeler is now a candidate for the award of National Principal of the Year, an award sponsored by NASSP.
Dr. Richard Mangeri, assistant principal at George W. Hewlett High School in the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to a middle or high school assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Known as an administrator who works tirelessly to assure that all students feel comfortable and welcomed at G.W. Hewlett HS, Mangeri has implemented several initiatives to that end. He fosters safety at the school by offering assemblies on various topics such as the dangers of vaping and cyberbullying by the Nassau County Police Department; a scientific seminar by Dr. Stephen Dewey to educate the students and parents on the dangers of vaping; and a night program for 11th and 12th graders called Arrive Alive, highlighting the dangers of texting and drunk driving.
Mangeri prides himself on leading by example and will do whatever it takes for the school to run smoothly, whether it’s mopping the floors or covering a class. He empowers the staff and students by actively creating a culture of trust by encouraging open conversation and diversity of thought. He often asks students how they could have better handled certain situations with teachers or peers. He works with students to identify the pros and cons of their decisions, which allows them to make the best choices and develop problem-solving skills. Commented student, Nathaniel Redillo, “I always had support from Dr. Mangeri. He always ensured I felt safe and that I belonged. He was always there to provide guidance and insight.”
He also promotes equity within the school by offering professional development on the topic to teachers, including a faculty meeting to discuss conversations surrounding bias and supporting students, as well as bringing in an organization called Erase Racism to discuss bias and awareness. Discussions with students center around celebrating multicultural days to highlight and strengthen understanding of behaviors and values tied to cultures. The students organize multicultural music to be played during passing times once per week.
Over the past 10 years, Mangeri has mentored several administrative candidates. The most important value he shared with his mentees was encouraging them to not be afraid to make mistakes and instead use mistakes as a learning opportunity. He also encourages the faculty to step out of their comfort zones and take a risk by trying something new in their classrooms. Commented teacher, Jared Pittelli, “Dr. Mangeri always supports his teachers and students alike to work to create an open dialogue where all parties feel respected and that they have a voice.” Bob Machado, department chairperson of business education, added, ” Dr. Mangeri has been a mentor and a colleague. He is easy to approach and his “big picture” view of education can help someone in any situation.”
Former principal of G.W. Hewlett HS, Dr. Theodore Fulton, commented that “Dr. Mangeri always makes the time to work with staff and students to identify areas of improvement within the school and empower stakeholders to actively partake in the decision-making process.”
Mangeri received his Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science, and Doctor of Education degrees from St. John’s University, and his Advanced Certification in Education Administration from The College of St. Rose.
As the NYS Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year, Mangeri is now a candidate for the award of National Assistant Principal of the Year, an award sponsored by NASSP.
Matthew Younghans, principal at Little Tor Elementary School in the Clarkstown Central School District, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Together with the PTA, Younghans spearheaded the development and implementation of many STEAM programs including a STEAM lab called the “Innovation Lab” at Little Tor Elementary School. The lab now provides a space for students to explore, develop, cultivate, and grow their 21st century learning skills. The lab is well known around the school as a fun, creative space where the students feel comfortable making choices and taking risks through learning by doing. As a result, the students have showcased their new skills and projects by participating in the Clarkstown Schools Tech Showcase, STEM Day, Hour of Code, and Computer Science Education Week. Parent and PTA President Rebecca Coatti commented, “A parent once recommended creating an Innovation Lab for STEAM activities. Dr. Younghans worked hand-in-hand with the PTA to make this happen quickly. It was our honor to present him with the National PTA Life Achievement award for his dedication.”
Teacher Jessica Kempkes notes that “he embraces innovation in every aspect of education. He leads us with support by always reassuring us that he will help us navigate any situation together.”
Believing that the goal of education is to develop the social-emotional well-being of students as well as developing students who are both educated and confident their abilities, Younghans successfully shifted Little Tor ES to a restorative practice model for discipline, rather than the traditional tiered approach. This approach focuses on assessing the social, emotional, and mental well-being of each individual student. As such, Younghans notes that, “this has created a culture of positivity and caring within the school building and an environment where students are known, accepted, and cared for deeply as individuals.”
Noted Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and Instruction Jeff Sobel, “On a day-to-day basis, Dr. Younghans utilizes excellent leadership skills, including communication, organization, and a positive manner to ensure that children are provided a caring, nurturing experience. Parents have expressed appreciation for his handling of difficult, sensitive matters.”
Commented Principal of West Nyack Elementary School Annie Streiff, “Matt has distinguished himself (for many years!) as a natural leader. He is a tremendous resource not only for his school community, but also for his district and colleagues. With a singular vision toward student success, Matt’s innovative leadership sets a very high bar for the rest of us. He leads with wisdom, practicality, a very healthy sense of humor, and most importantly, with a profound respect for each student.”
Superintendent Marc Baiocco commented, “I am impressed with Dr. Younghans’ leadership skills and the way in which he manages his building. I enjoy conversing with him and believe his problem-solving skills result in positive outcomes, in part due to his calm, poised, and confident demeanor.”
Younghans received his Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Hartford, Master of Science in Literacy from the College of New Rochelle, his Certificate of Advanced Study in School Leadership from SUNY New Paltz, and his Doctor of Education in K-12 Administration from Seton Hall University.
Each year, NAESP convenes the State Elementary Principals of the Year in Washington, D.C. to be honored as NAESP National Distinguished Principals®. Established in 1984, the program recognizes public and private school principals who make superior contributions to their schools and communities. The event provides attendees with the opportunity to network, share best practices, and learn from their peers.
Donna McGuire, assistant principal at PS/IS 18 – The Park Terrace School in the New York City Public Schools, District 6, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to an elementary or middle level administrator and member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Among her many accomplishments, McGuire serves as the chair of the Northern Manhattan’s District 6 Leadership Team (DLT), serving 22,000 students across 40 schools. She has also served as the chair and assistant chair of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA), as well as the District 6 CSA Political Liaison for twelve years. At the national level, she serves as the facilitator for the NAESP Community of Practice for Assistant Principals. She was invited to facilitate the group after her work last year as a facilitator for the NAESP Center for Women in Leadership annual book study. McGuire was also a presenter at the 2021 SAANYS Annual Conference as well as the 2022 NAESP Conference, speaking on leading her school back from the COVID-19 pandemic. Commented former colleague Stephanie Rosman, “Ms. McGuire is a dedicated leader who actively participates within many different educational communities. She truly is a special person that I feel always goes above and beyond on city, state, and national levels. This is evident as she leads professional development, champions for funding and resources, and demonstrates tireless activism in the field of education.”
Believing that everyone at PS/IS 18 – The Park School should have a voice, McGuire has promoted a culture that encourages a collaborative model with administration, staff, and students, as well as partnerships with families – always striving to foster positive relationships. The students are encouraged to be kind and the school holds special days to show appreciation with activities designed to build character. Many guests have also been invited to the school as a way for the students to meet local role models, members of the community, and create opportunities for them to interact. McGuire notes that, “While it is important that educational leaders provide a strong academic foundation for students, it is equally important to provide the resources and tools for children to grow up to be able to be resourceful, caring, and responsible citizens. We need to remember that we are shaping our future community and we need to teach and model for students how to collaborate, be thoughtful, and that everyone has something to offer society.”
Assistant Principal Patricia Gil commented, “Donna McGuire has a can-do attitude, serves with humility and grace, looks out for others, and wants to help. Donna is a true role model for everyone around her. She has been a trailblazer and a mentor to other assistant principals and staff. She knows how to connect people in-person and via technology and is happy to help other educators do the same.”
Commented NYCDOE Community Superintendent Manuel Ramirez, “Ms. McGuire is a passionate educator who thrives on being a change-agent. Ms. McGuire always works with the highest level of professionalism, and has consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic, is a valued team player, an excellent communicator and listener, and is a creative problem solver.”
McGuire received her Bachelor of Science from SUNY Oneonta, Master of Science in Education from Fordham University, Master of Science in Education from Baruch College, and has completed coursework in doctoral studies at Fordham University.
Each year, NAESP convenes the State Elementary Principals of the Year in Washington, D.C. to be honored as NAESP National Distinguished Principals®. Established in 1984, the program recognizes public and private school principals who make superior contributions to their schools and communities. The event provides attendees with the opportunity to network, share best practices, and learn from their peers.
Dr. Katie Ralston, 6-12 lead principal at Cuba-Rushford Central School District, has been selected as the 2023 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Among her many accomplishments, Ralston is a dedicated leader at the state level. She has served as the NYS Middle School Association regional director, NYS Middle-Level Liasons planning committee, NYS Rural Schools Association research partner, NYS Middle School Conference presenter, and the Sweethearts and Heroes Principal Presentation keynote speaker. At the regional level Ralston, has served as the Western NY EdChat co-founder and moderator, appeared as a guest on several educational podcasts, presented at the Catturaugus-Allegeny County BOCES, and served as the fundraising chair for the Genesis House Homeless Shelter.
She has also been honored as the recipient of multiple awards including the Genesis House of Olean Marion B. Scott Award, NYS English Council Educator of Excellence Award, and the ACCORD Partners and Collaboration Award.
Ralston is well known as a leader and has been appointed as a mentor of new administrators within the district. She meets with her mentees on a bi-weekly basis and helps the administrative team meet their goals. Ralston notes that “Cuba-Rushford Middle School is committed to a culture in which positive relationships are valued, growth of the whole child is a priority, lifelong learning and growth are cultivated and modeled, and all members are consistently challenged to achieve lifetime success.” Associate Principal Christopher Fee commented, “Dr. Ralston continues to be an innovator in education as well as someone who works hard and excels at the day-to-day tasks. She puts students first and certainly challenges her staff by not only being an example, but also someone they can talk issues through for answers.”
Commented Superintendent of Schools Carlos Gildemeister, “Her impact on teachers’ professional growth is outstanding. She has the ability to bring groups of teachers into consensus and supports each one with an individualized approach. She managed to lead the re-opening plans during the pandemic and established effective practices within the hybrid model adopted by the board of education.”
Ralston received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Gannon University, her School Building/School District Leader Certification from Canisius College, and her Doctor of Education in Learning and Leadership in Organizations from Vanderbilt University.
James Svendsen, director of curriculum and instruction for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District, has been selected as the 2023 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between school buildings and districts.
Prior to transitioning to his current role in the central office, Svendsen served as principal of the Garden City Park School. He notes that “being a principal for 15 years has been one of my most significant accomplishments. ln a K-6 school, it is amazing to watch kindergartners grow into young people when they leave at the end of 6th grade. I feel like the impact of our K-6 time with students on student learning and development is important for their entire life.”
Svendsen then took on the role of director of curriculum, instruction & technology, which then became his current position of director of curriculum and instruction. At around the same time that he moved into his new position, he says there were “four brand new principals opening up our four buildings.” Svendsen notes that he considers “working with and mentoring these new administrators as another accomplishment in my career.”
In addition, Svendsen’s leadership and support accomplishments have included co-authoring the Annual Professional Performance Review Plan, implementing a Fact Fluency Plan using FASTT Math and Fraction Nation for grades 2-6, and implementing a writing workshop for K-6 to support Common Core Learning Standards. He also coordinates all district professional development, which includes superintendent’s conference days, monthly two-hour PD sessions, new teacher orientation, Model Schools technology integration PD, and other new programs as he sees a need.
Jennifer Morrison-Raptis, Ed.D., superintendent of schools for the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Union Free School District says “Mr. Svendsen was a key leader in the reopening of schools throughout the pandemic. He helped write the Reopening Plan and contributed to and participated in administrative meetings and committees pertaining to keeping our students and staff safe. Mr. Svendsen worked with central office and building administrators to prepare for a safe school opening amidst COVID regulations.” She adds that he is “an educational leader who promotes the success of every student by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.”
Fabayo Mclntosh, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Valley Stream UFSD 13, says that Svendsen’s “skill set is impressive. Not many people are successful at both district and building leadership. The impact that his work, both directly and indirectly, will have and has had on the lives of young people is inspiring.” In addition, McIntosh says, Svendsen “has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to share resources. I am a better leader because he is my mentor.”
Kim LaRegina, New Hyde Park Road School principal, says Svendsen’s “leadership and mentorship of new teachers and administrators have been a tremendous asset to the staff and community in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District.” She adds that his “forward thinking has truly changed the landscape of the curriculum and instruction in the district.”
Svendsen has been with the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District for 22 years and has been active in education in the state of New York since 1989. He received his bachelor of arts, master of science, and an advanced certificate in School Administration and Supervision from Brooklyn College.
Laurie Guyon, coordinator for model schools for the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES, has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement.
In addition to her work with the WSWHE BOCES, Guyon is a statewide trainer and Capital Region director for the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE) and an adjunct instructor at SUNY Plattsburgh. Since March 2020, Guyon has “hosted over 400 webinars and workshops to support educators in our region with BOCES and statewide with NYSCATE.”
She notes that she has “trained over 100 educators working towards their Google and ISTE certifications.” She has “created 14 self-paced courses for NYSCATE on the Computer Science and Digital Fluency (CS/DF) standards, tech tools, coding, and SEL in 2020, and just created another 10 on implementing the CS/DF standards and on improving student motivation.” In addition, she has spoken at conferences “about supporting how computer science and digital fluency can look in our classrooms.”
Guyon’s expertise and ability to lead others has also resulted in her writing and publishing a book on technology integration, SMILE Learning: Leveraging the Power of Educational Technology, published in March 2023. She cites “Building Computational Thinking Practices into Instruction” and “Global Collaboration” as best practices that will help support student learning, particularly in the areas of cyberbullying, being safe online, ethical hacking, and being kind online, and to help students become better global citizens.
David R. Ashdown, director of technology and instructional support programs, WSWHE BOCES, says “There are really too many qualifications to list for Laurie Guyon, who has become a household name in the area of digital leadership in our state.”
“Laurie is our north star for the region with instructional technologies,” says Christine MacPherson, K-12 director of educational technology for Hudson Falls CSD. “She has elevated the conversations and implementation of #TechforGood for administrators, teachers, but most of all students!”
Guyon received an award for Best Overall Implementation of Technology from Tech and Learning-New England in 2022, the Global Impactor Award from the Digital Citizenship Institute in 2022, the President’s Volunteer Service Award from ISTE in 2020 and 2021, and the Emerging EdTech Leader award from CoSN in 2020. She was also the BOCES Spotlight Award Winner in 2020 and an NYSCATE Volunteer Hall of Fame Inductee in 2017.
Guyon has been with the WSWHE BOCES since 2018. She taught 6th grade at Schuylerville Middle School from 2008 to 2016 and was the tech integrator for Schuylerville CSD from 2016 to 2018. She received her bachelor of science, master of science, CAS-SBL, and CAS-SDL from SUNY Plattsburgh.
James Cameron, principal at Commack Road Elementary School in the Islip Union Free School District, has been selected for the 2023 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Cameron says he believes that everyone plays a role in educating students. “No role or person is superior to another. The students, parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, clerical, custodians, maintenance, food service workers, computer technicians, bus drivers, crossing guards, and administrators, must work together to create a synergistic atmosphere and environment that benefits all students and families!”
Identifying one of his best practices as addressing hierarchal cultures head on, Cameron adds that “ln order for success to be possible, we must all show up, stand up, and speak up if we want to stand out as a community. By being your best self and treating others as you would like to be treated, you will be a role model, set an example, be there for each other, and hold each other accountable to create the best environment for all!”
Cameron serves on the SAANYS Board of Directors, as advocacy chair for the Suffolk County Elementary Principals’ Association, as an officer of the lslip Association of School Administrators, and as a SAANYS representative on the NYSED Digital Learning Advisory Council.
“Mr. Cameron is kind, caring, funny and helpful, and these are just a few of the millions of words that describe Mr. Cameron.” says Elizabeth Balsamo, a former student. She adds that “Mr. Cameron makes Commack Road Elementary a home.”
Laura Rogacki, BOE Trustee, cites Cameron’s work in developing “programs and support systems to meet the diverse learning needs of all students at CRES.” She notes that she is “continually impressed by his broad knowledge and his ability to predict and respond to the needs of CRES families and students.” In a culturally diverse building, Cameron “has created an environment of understanding and inclusivity, making students, parents, and staff alike welcomed and part of the CRES Community.”
Curtis Juengerkes, Islip Middle School assistant principal, says that Cameron “exudes leadership.” He adds that Cameron “has established district practice in support of the Islip children and families. Mr. Cameron, every day and always, can be observed supporting and serving the children and families who attend his building. He is a gifted and talented leader, which the district of lslip enjoys on a daily basis.”
“Of the many educators who I have worked with across multiple districts and within leadership organizations,” Edward Kemnitzer, assistant superintendent for instruction and personnel for the East Williston Union Free School District, says, “James Cameron stands out with his transparent and collective leadership that continues to inspire teachers, students, parents, colleagues, and members of his professional learning network.”
Cameron began his career in education as a teaching assistant in 2003. He has served as principal of Commack Road Elementary School in Islip since 2017. He received his bachelor of science from Five Towns College, his master of science from the College of Mt Vincent, and a Post Master Advanced Certificate from Queens College.
Pierre A. Lehmuller, New York City Elementary School Principals Association (NYCESPA) executive director emeritus, has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a retired education leader who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of associations, education, and the greater community.
Lehmuller has been active in education in the state of New York since 1957. He began his career as a social studies teacher and retired as a successful elementary school principal. Since retiring, he has served the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) as conference chair and with NYCESPA as executive director. He transitioned to his current role as executive director emeritus in 2023.
Restructuring the CSA conference to “highlight its purpose as a day of professional learning, networking, and celebration of the union identity of CSA’s members” is one of his greatest accomplishments, Lehmuller notes. The recent conference was host to 1,500 attendees.
He also cites the work he has done for NYCESPA, particularly “supporting the work of eleven presidents of the New York City Elementary School Principals Association, so that the organization and its members were seen as advocates and mentors at the local, state, and national levels.” Lehmuller adds that the “building of relationships among NYCESPA, SAANYS, and the NAESP is something of which I am particularly proud.”
Mark Brodsky, director of the Retiree Chapter, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, says of Lehmuller’s work that he “has nurtured school leaders past and present and carried the banner of teaching and learning his entire career – on city, state, and federal levels.” Brodsky emphasizes that Lehmuller is “second to none in his commitment to the education of the students and teachers in New York.”
Susan Rippe Hofmann, who succeeds Lehmuller as NYCESPA executive director, says that “There are so many whose impact has been shaped by Pierre’s knowledge, counsel, and example. I count myself as one of this large and lucky group.” She adds that “I can think of no other ‘retired educator’ who has been of greater service to other school leaders than Pierre Lehmuller.”
Dr. Liza Caraballo-Suarez, Principal PS120k and president-elect, National Association of Elementary School Principals, says that “Mr. Lehmuller is an exemplary educator and role model who has dedicated his entire career advocating to improve education throughout his career as well as in his retirement.” She adds that “As a champion of children he continues to fight for equity in schools across the nation and exemplifies the best of the best within education.”
Lehmuller received his bachelor of science degree and his master of science degree, and pursued post-graduate work at Fordham University.
Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha (HBCCC) in Pittsford, represented by Carrie Green, founder president, has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Friend of Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Green feels passionately that “birthdays should be a chance for each child to feel especially loved and celebrated. But unfortunately, many children don’t experience anything special on their day.” And that’s where Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha steps in. The idea was developed in January 2017, while Green was shopping for holiday clearance toys with the intention of donating them the following season, but wished there was an easier way to get them to the children sooner. Within a few weeks the program was up and running out of Green’s basement. Commented Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES Administrator Gary Manuse, “Carrie has an extraordinary heart and is a true example of what it means to give unconditionally and portray remarkable volunteer efforts on behalf of education.”
HBCC works closely with the Rochester, Rome, and Buffalo city school districts to adopt classrooms where 90 percent of the students are living at or below the poverty line. The goal is that every single child in each classroom feels noticed and cared about on their birthday. In its first school year, HBCCC brought birthday joy to seven Rochester City School District classrooms and 129 children. In 2018, the number rose to 422 children, and in 2021 they celebrated 1,304 children in Rochester, 130 children in Rome, and opened their third chapter in Buffalo, providing for 75 children.
Janivette Torres, special education teacher at Pinnacle School #35, noted, “As a teacher who has collaborated with Carrie for the last five years, I have personally seen her care and compassion firsthand. The students truly light up when receiving the beautiful gifts that Carrie prepares with her team.”
Corey Hepburn, principal of Clara Barton School No. 02 in Rochester, commented, “Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha, Inc. is more than an agency that celebrates birthdays and provides gifts for students. It connects people to people through an intentional and precise process that delivers hope for all.”
Principal of RISE Community School #106 in Rochester, Kelly Lampman continued, “Seeing those green bags carried out to the bus loop by a student with a grin from ear to ear is remarkable. All students know what that green bag means and who it is from. Other students are now wishing that child a happy birthday! Again, allowing for that child to be special! The amount they have given to the RISE family is more than I could have ever hoped for.”
Mark Erlenwein, principal at Staten Island Technical High School, has been selected as the New York State Secondary School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to recognize an outstanding principal who has succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
Erlenwein will also represent New York State as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS’ national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). NASSP will select a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists.
Erlenwein has instilled a culture among the Staten Island Technical High School (SITHS) community that fosters the development of kind, intellectual, and creative lifelong learners. The school’s collective spirit enables their scholars to come together as passionate, talented, multi-skilled, and resilient global citizens supported through rigorous academics, balanced with mental and physical health and wellness practices, grounded in a desire and love for learning.
The SITHS approach cultivates curiosity, capacity, the courage to try, and the validation of “failure.” At SITHS, student efforts are applauded as they FAIL (First-Attempt-In-Learning), SAIL (Second-Attempt-in-Learning) and TAIL (Third-Attempt-in-Learning) success. Students are nurtured towards a gracious knowledge that learning and true development comes from the journey, which was, in fact, always the goal. This approach, says Erlenwein, is critical to prepare students for the challenges of the real world.
SITHS Teacher and WBL Coordinator Jennifer Fitzpatrick commented, “Mr. Erlenwein empowers members of the SITHS community with leadership opportunities that support their learning, growing, and thriving. Mr. Erlenwein often reflects on our school’s collective work, experience, and journey, speaking openly and honestly about his approach, and gives all members the opportunity to share their assessments/feedback and impact future decisions.”
School Administrator Joseph Manzo notes that “The SITHS community is led by a principal who is the embodiment of a great leader, who puts the well-being of the people in our SITHS community at the forefront of all decisions. He is a principal who remembers that there is more to education than just grades. Our school’s culture/tone is reflective of Mr. Erlenwein’s amazing spirit.” Manzo adds that “Respect, empathy, character, service, practice, fun are centerpieces for Mark’s recipe for successful learning. He has become a ‘go-to’ resource for our community partners, other schools in our District, and across New York City.”
Erlenwein has been the principal at Staten Island Technical High School for the past 9 years and has been in school administration for a total of 16 years. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in English Rhetoric from CUNY-The College of Staten Island and his Administrator’s Certificate from the College of St. Rose.
Diane Fox, assistant principal at Hampton Bays Middle School in the Hampton Bays Union Free School District, has been selected as the 2022 New York State Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to a middle or high school assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Known as an administrator who works tirelessly to assure that all students feel comfortable and welcomed at Hampton Bays Middle School, Fox has implemented several initiatives to that end. The school has a 26% English language learner population and as a bilingual administrator, Fox takes pride in the responsibility of reaching out and communicating with the Latino families within the district. She notes that “Each new parent that I meet with will hear the same message from me, ‘I am here for you and your family. I will always be here to help you with whatever your child needs.’ Students especially know that I will drop whatever I am working on if a student needs to see me.” One of her welcoming initiatives is the “It Starts With Hello” program developed at Sandy Hook to combat bullying and school shootings. Parent Debra Williams commented, “She used it to welcome students back after the summer to begin on a positive note and even arranged for some students to stand at the entrance smiling and waving, greeting their classmates. It was beautiful; and when I told her how glad I was that the program was being introduced, she said, ‘We hope to work with our kids so that they always feel connected to the school and greater community. It’s so important that they know that each of them matters and are cared about.'” Another initiative is the creation of a student council supported by the NASSP Raising Student Voice & Participation (RSVP) program. Its goal is to design a student council that is focused on student voice and doesn’t limit participation to the few students who may not represent all of the student body.
Commented Principal Dennis Schug, Jr., “As a Spanish-speaking school leader, she plays a vital role in sustaining a positive school-home partnership, working in close coordination with parents who are English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and bilingual. Mrs. Fox models what relationships-matter leadership looks, sounds, and feels like, for students, families, and staff alike.”
Fox has also led several new initiatives that focus on 21st century learning. This past school year, Hampton Bays Public Schools was selected as a Lighthouse District by Stony Brook University for implementing a news literacy curriculum. Under Fox’s leadership, her school has also incorporated the Amazon Future Engineers Program to revamp its STEM curriculum. Commented teacher Scott Garofola, “Mrs. Fox embodies the idea that leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders. She has been a constant supporter of those looking to try new ideas and initiatives, and in turn become leaders themselves.”
Commented Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen, “The Hampton Bays Public Schools is so proud of our own Mrs. Diane Fox as the New York State Assistant Principal of the Year. As an educational leader, she prioritizes building positive relationships with students and families and supporting teachers in the hard work of reaching and teaching every one of our students. In Hampton Bays, we recognize real impact as being #HBStrong. Mrs. Fox is #HBStrong and we congratulate her on this tremendous honor.”
Fox received her BA in History from St. Joseph’s College and her MA in Public Policy and Advanced Graduate Certificate in School District and Building Leadership from Stony Brook University.
As the NYS Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year, Fox is now a candidate for the award of National Assistant Principal of the Year, an award sponsored by NASSP.
David Wright, assistant principal at Cornwall Central Middle School in the Cornwall Central School District, has been selected as the SAANYS and NAESP New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals), promoting educational excellence for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade (PreK-8) schooling and calling attention to the fundamental importance of the assistant principal.
Among Wright’s many notable accomplishments has been the establishment of Google University for his staff. The district has a goal of being 1:1 with technology by the end of 2022, which means that every student will have their own computer. Wright realized that many of his staff members were not comfortable using the Google platform and that the school needed a long-term goal to help everyone grow as they moved toward that goal.
Wright established Google University, relying on his own expertise as a Google Level 1 and Level 2 certified teacher, as a way to help his staff grow. The course syllabus for each level of learning outlined what would be taught so teachers could participate in the appropriate level for what they needed. Those teachers who mastered the highest level then became “professors” and taught the course to others. Wright notes that through this process of professional development, the district will be a 1:1 district by the end of the school year and the teachers at Cornwall Central Middle School will all be prepared for the initiative.
During the early months of the pandemic, when many schools were concerned about starting the year on time, Wright says he “looked at this as the greatest opportunity and challenge I may ever get to face in my career, with a goal of not only making sure my school opened on time but helping to make sure that a schedule would not impact any school in our district.” To prepare for the August 2020 opening, and to ensure that all students would remain safe and socially distant, Wright input all the student information into an Excel spreadsheet and laid out plans for students to remain six feet apart and to open on time in a safe environment.
Assistant Principal Maria Azzone notes that under Wright’s leadership, “our school has become transformative. He is a learner alongside his staff, always providing feedback and support. He is passionate about teaching and learning and shows great commitment towards all students’ success. He is regularly visible to the entire school community and actively listens and communicates effectively. Overall, Mr. Wright’s exceptional leadership qualities and abilities have helped foster a positive and motivating school culture.”
Cornwall Central Middle School Principal Kathryn Polumbo says that Wright’s daily focus “is on our students and learning. He is approachable, friendly, bright, caring, and empathetic. His main goal, every day, is to make sure our students have the best possible learning environment and school experience. He uses every opportunity to learn about each one of our 1000 students.”
Wright received his Master of Science in Education Educational Leadership and his Master of Science in Teacher, Adolescent Education, from St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York, and his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Nicole Ey, principal at Ellenville Elementary School in the Ellenville Central School District, has been selected as the 2022 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Ey has made mental health a priority in her school. To meet her students’ health and educational needs, she established a CORE team consisting of a behavior analyst, two school psychologists, two social workers, two guidance counselors, and building administrators. The team’s daily task is to make sure students’ basic needs are met, particularly access to food and social and emotional support, which are key for their health, education, and well-being. She and her team are all on call to compassionately address student social and emotional learning and discipline.
Leaning on the collective wisdom of her staff, Ey worked to make the district’s response plan to the pandemic organized and understandable. Communication was already strong within the school and with students and parents. With the onset of the pandemic, the team moved to daily communications with every family to deal with the tension and alarm. Ey says her goal was to strengthen relationships with families so they would feel safe and engaged as everyone reshaped education in a digital mode.
Ey empowers her teachers and strives for a strong sense of community and resilience, which has been especially important throughout the past two years. As a result of her work, Ellenville Elementary was the first school in the district to open for in-person learning.
A new literacy program, a curriculum review process for math, and professional development for teachers in technology are all accomplishments benefited by staff and students at Ellenville Elementary under Ey’s leadership. She has also implemented a shift to small group, personalized learning that has been critical in addressing academic needs resulting from instructional challenges during the pandemic.
Jessica Mataraza, director of special education for the Ellenville Central School District, says Ey “goes above and beyond on a daily basis to ensure that the needs of each individual student in her building are taken into consideration. She works diligently, long after the school day has come to a close, to plan, reflect, and prepare for whatever may be ahead.” Mataraza adds that Ey’s “ continuous generosity, through ongoing displays, emails, weekly newsletters, and more, demonstrates her appreciation for the school community well beyond anything I have ever experienced before.”
Meredith Smith, Ellenville Elementary School’s Assistant Principal, refers to Ey as “principal extraordinaire.” Smith says that Ey “leads by example, exuding passion for excellence and learning, creativity that sparks imaginations, our very own cheerleader who always lifts us up.” Smith adds, “Mrs. Ey’s tireless energy and abiding dedication to everyone at Ellenville Elementary is the driving force of our lifeblood here and has deeply impacted staff, students, and families.”
Ey received an Advanced Certificate from LIU Post in Middletown, NY, her master of science in education from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY, and her bachelor of science in education from Oswego State in Oswego, NY.
Sarah Trunfio, Supervisor of lnstructional Support Services & Mentoring for the Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES, has been selected as the 2022 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between school buildings and districts.
Trunfio has been instrumental in impacting teacher retention, student literacy rates, and helping staff build better relationships with students while addressing social, emotional, and mental health. She created a BOCES-specific mentoring induction model, developed from research and best practices in mentoring, that has had a positive impact on teacher retention. The three-year induction model places an emphasis on teaching best practices and social and emotional learning wellness.
Trunfio is also facilitating a culture and climate K-12 district-wide initiative developed from needs-based planning sessions with district leadership. Staff and leadership, including the district’s superintendent, are involved in this initiative. The professional development content is grounded in the work of Brené Brown and her book Daring Leadership.
The Science of Reading is another of Trunfio’s significant initiatives in the district. The program involves training on foundations and research behind teaching students to read. Her team is also working with the alternative high school to discover the root causes of reading barriers and to implement a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model to resolve them.
Rene M. Wilson, Ph.D., director of special education and elementary principal with Richfield Springs CSD, comments that “Sarah is a wealth of knowledge on so many topics pertinent to educational leadership, student learning, the art and science of teaching, and social-emotional learning. She always shows up as a student, teacher, or leader as her authentic self. She creates safe learning spaces where I can actually attach to the joy and struggle and messiness of growth because she is always professional, always kind, always empathetic, and brilliant.”
Dr. Wilson adds that “My school improvement plan has her mark all over it, and she is a steady presence in my building monthly, if not more. We engage in exploratory dialogue and she is a resource I always turn to, and if she doesn’t have the answer she researches and helps with solution-focused planning.”
Trunfio has been with Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES for nine years and has worked as a special education teacher as well as a mentoring coordinator there. She received her School Building Leader (SBL) and School District Leader (SDL) certifications from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, her master’s from SUNY Cortland, and her bachelor’s from Illinois College.
Gary Lambert, Director of 21st Century Learning for the Beekmantown Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement.
Lambert has not only been instrumental in moving the district forward in digital technology but has also had a significant impact on other districts across the state and across the country. He says that “being able to serve as a resource for others confirms my long-held belief that a rising tide lifts all ships.” He adds that he decided “that it was not enough to just put BCSD on the map, but also I wanted BCSD to become the map for others.”
The technology team, under Lambert’s direction, supports 2,400 users including students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Their work supports over 2,500 computers and mobile devices including Windows desktops and laptops, Chromebooks, and Chromebits.
Beekmantown Central School District Superintendent of School Daniel Mannix reflects that “Mr. Lambert has been there every step of the way for Beekmantown CSD’s transformation from digital scavenger to a truly outstanding leader in 21st Century Teaching and Learning. Our innovative digital practices are second to none in large part (due) to the work and leadership of Director Lambert.”
Mannix adds that Lambert ensures “that our administrative team leads by example. He trains and demonstrates how new administrators will use the same digital tools we expect our teachers and students to use. This alignment is critical in communicating to others how much we value this continuity in digital programming.”
Champlain Valley Educational Services Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Amy Campbell notes that Lambert “truly exemplifies the characteristics of the SAANYS Leader in Digital Education Award.” She says, “While Gary has been instrumental in moving staff and students forward in digital education, his greatest contribution has been his willingness to share the lessons learned on the journey with other educators. From the beginning, Gary has spent countless hours sharing what he knows with educators from around the state, the country and even globally.”
Of Lambert’s work beyond the district, Campbell says, “Gary has presented at national conferences, including the Future Educators of Technology Conference, to support schools in developing a student run help desk. This part of digital education provides students with real life work experience while supporting the use of devices in classrooms. It is this willingness to share what he has learned with others in the field that truly makes Gary deserving of an award targeted for leaders in digital education.”
Willsboro Central School District Superintendent of Schools Justin Gardner comments, “I consider Mr. Lambert an expert both locally and nationally in the field of instructional technology integration and digital leadership. He has presented at national conferences on the initiatives he has so successfully implemented for the students and staff of his district. He also plans and develops high quality professional development activities through a variety of methods to ensure that his staff are well prepared for the needs of students in a 21st Century classroom.”
Lambert has been with the Beekmantown Central School District for 29 years. He received his master’s and his bachelor’s from Union College, Schenectady, NY.
Rae Lynn Helman, director of pupil personnel Services at Letchworth Central School, has been selected for the 2022 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Helman notes that one of her most significant accomplishments has been watching students whom “others may have doubted, walk across the stage to receive a diploma.” She has worked with both general teachers and special educators on professional development and creative thinking that has increased their ability to support each student. Her efforts have resulted in an increased graduation rate for students with disabilities.
The parent of an autistic child herself, Helman says that, as an educator, “It is imperative to build trusting relationships with all parents and guardians to ensure that we are working together to meet the often complex needs of children with disabilities. This begins by having open and honest communication and listening to what may be behind the sometimes emotional exchanges.”
Helman has spent the past 30 years working with and for children with disabilities. She has participated in the special education legislative summit in Washington, DC and is actively involved in statewide advocacy organizations. She notes that “my lifelong goal is to ensure positive outcomes for each child under my watch, and I work very hard to do that.”
Letchworth School Business Administrator John Novak comments that “Since coming to Letchworth, Mrs. Helman has developed and implemented multiple new programs to better serve the students of our District including a Preschool Evaluation Team, Special Class in Integrated Settings classrooms for both three and four year olds (the only programs in our county serving these children), and extended school year programs.”
Novak adds that “Mrs. Helman also provides professional service in a variety of roles including serving as the Children’s Advocacy Network Representative for the New York Council for Exceptional Children and Facilitator for the regional Special Education Administrators Group providing needed support, professional development, and sharing of resources through technology for administrators through the challenging times of the pandemic.”
Helman has been in her current role for seven years. She received her bachelor’s in Psychology from the University at Buffalo, her master’s in Reading and Special Education from SUNY Geneseo, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration from SUNY Brockport. She holds certifications in Special Education N-12, Reading N-12, Elementary Education N-6, and School District Administrator. She is currently a EdD candidate at the University of Buffalo.
Douglas Regan, EdD, retired administrator from the Starpoint Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of 2022 Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
Regan has been active in education in the state of New York since 1972, including serving as a building leader/principal for almost 25 years. During his time as a building leader, Regan’s focus was always on the people, especially the students, rather than the “administrivia.” He stayed true to a set of best practices that included gaining respect, not popularity; setting clear goals; being a good listener; being a role model; being direct and constructive with feedback; not hesitating to delegate; and having meetings that count. Regan notes that by following these best practices, he and his staff “bought into what WE had established for our school and then … did it!”
Currently an instructor in the Educational Leadership Program at Buffalo State College and an adjunct professor of education at Niagara County Community College, Regan notes that he also inculcates a set of best practices for teaching his “Supervision of Teaching” graduate class. Those best practices include: establishing clear goals and expectations; making resources available for students to achieve these goals; developing a coherent instructional framework and regularly monitoring and evaluating it carefully; collecting evidence of students’ learning and learning needs with a balance of theory and practice; and creating an orderly, safe, and positive environment for learning to thrive.
Regan adds that Irving Schwartz “made such significant contributions to the welfare of SAANYS, to public education, and to his greater community. I can only hope someday to accomplish a fraction of what this amazing educator did!”
Williamsville Central School Administrator John E. McKenna, Ed.D. notes that “Dr. Regan is the quintessential educator with in-depth knowledge of current educational practices, stellar character, and an extraordinary ability to motivate others. He is a caring, dedicated leader who is a true asset to SAANYS and the entire education profession. There is no one who is more deserving of the Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award than Dr. Douglas J. Regan.”
Thomas McCully, EdD, with Buffalo State College says that, in retirement, Dr. Regan has become “more involved in activities that continue to support a variety of efforts to ensure that young people receive the best education possible. He has also continued to serve fellow retirees through his leadership in SAANYS. Dr. Regan has made the local SAANYS region a wonderful resource for retirees by hosting informative luncheon meetings as well as a variety of events that bring retired administrators together to enjoy each other as well as to keep current on the latest issues that might impact them or the schools they once served.”
Regan received his bachelor of science and master of science degrees from the State University College at Buffalo, and his doctorate in education from SUNY Buffalo.
Equitable Advisors, has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Friend of Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Equitable Advisors is a community-oriented company, priding itself on its educational charitable giving, while at the same time, assisting educators in achieving their personal financial goals. A long-standing partner with SAANYS, for several years at the SAANYS Annual Conference, Equitable has worn yellow sneakers to show its commitment to fighting childhood cancer. Their offices donate a substantial amount each year to childhood cancer on behalf of each organization they work with. Equitable also provides ongoing professional learning events free of charge for SAANYS members and recently made charitable donations on behalf of the women of SAANYS to two Girls Inc. branches on International Women’s Day. Additionally, Equitable has provided substantial funds for student scholarships through its Equitable Excellence Scholarship for graduating high school seniors. This year, Equitable will award $750,000 in college scholarships to up to 200 remarkable young people throughout the nation representing all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.
“The Equitable organization demonstrates its commitment to students and educators in everything it does,” commented SAANYS Executive Director Kevin Casey. “SAANYS is proud to showcase Equitable’s contributions as a model of how big business can make a big difference for the communities they serve.”
Dr. Daniel Walh, principal at Transit Middle School in the Williamsville Central School District, has been has been selected as the 2021 New York State Secondary School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS to recognize outstanding principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
Walh will also represent New York as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS’ national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). NASSP will select a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists.
Serving as principal of Transit Middle School for ten years, Walh has been noted for leading many initiatives that together have resulted in Transit Middle School having been recognized as the top performing middle school in Western New York for well over a decade (Business First of Buffalo, 2010-2020). Prioritizing time for teacher collaboration and learning; enhancing staff and student connections; understanding the importance of positive behavior supports and meeting individual student needs; and leading high-quality instruction and creating opportunities for all students are all hallmarks of Walh’s leadership.
Commented Charles Smilinich, principal of Dodge Elementary School, “Through his persistence, passion, and personal commitment to the students and the community, he has continued the tradition of keeping Transit Middle School as a high functioning, community orientated, hub of student and family learning. He has created an environment where school pride abounds and students and teachers feel safe, secure, valued, and destined for greatness.” Student Colby Yu noted, “Middle school was a wonderful time. During my time there, I can definitely say it helped with broadening my creativity along with networking and working well with others. Dr. Walh showed me the importance of leadership directly and indirectly, and I surely appreciated his guidance.”
Walh also established a Transit Shared Decision Making Team (SDM) consisting of administrators, teachers, and parents at the school. This collaborative team explored the issue of equity at the school and implemented many initiatives to add voice to individuals and honor their unique differences. One of the initiatives was an equity survey of the 8th grade students. After learning from the results of a survey that only 40 percent felt their identity was being valued at school, the SDM team created a schoolwide activity inviting students to share their ancestry, country of origin, languages spoken, and states and countries they have lived in. This resulted in a vast amount of data that was used to create three floor-to-ceiling displays in the main foyer in which every student’s ancestry was represented with flags from that country, and “welcome” was written in each of the 33 languages spoken by the school community. During after-school events, visitors to the school have often commented how welcoming it is to see their family’s heritage honored and valued.
Commented teacher Katie Neff, “Through these challenging unprecedented times, Dr. Walh takes time to email the teachers and thank them for what they are doing. He reminds them that they are appreciated and valued. These small gestures mean so much.”
Walh received his bachelor of science in elementary education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, master of science in education administration from University of Phoenix-Denver, and doctor of philosophy in education administration and leadership from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Kate Polumbo, principal at Cornwall Central Middle School in the Cornwall Central School District, has been selected as the 2021 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
A long-time educator since 2002, Polumbo has served as principal at Cornwall Central MS for nine years. During her tenure there, she has been instrumental in establishing a successful middle school transition program where students and families take part in a multi-stage program that culminates with students getting the chance to come into the building for a full day of fun. The students learn about middle school expectations, programs, activities, and what to expect, which reduces anxiety about moving up into middle school for fifth grade. As a result, both parents and students have reported that they feel more comfortable in school and teachers have reported that entering students are more confident, comfortable, and ready to learn.
Polumbo has also worked to increase parent support and involvement as well as making the middle school an open and friendly place to learn and grow. She initiated a No Place for Hate initiative at the school that provides an innovative model for the students by creating a more inclusive environment. This initiative was led by a committee of students, staff, and community members, in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to make sure the school is an example of acceptance. As a result of her leadership, the ADL named the Cornwall Central Middle School a gold star school in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Commented parent Frank Hessari, “Early on, I realized how genuine and dedicated Mrs. Polumbo is as a person and middle school principal. I always have been very impressed with her leadership and communication skills dealing with so many different children from different backgrounds.”
She has also implemented staff team building and recognition events, as well as cross grade level and department workshops for professional development. Commented Assistant Principal David Wright, “Every day at work, I have a coach and mentor in her. She is someone I go to for advice and to help me hone my craft. Day after day, I have someone, which despite all of her other responsibilities, is always there for me and someone who has always taken the time to help me grow.”
Commented Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Megan Argenio, “ln times of crisis, Kate can be counted on and presents a confidence that reassures everyone around her. She has led her school community through tragedies dealing with the loss of staff, a student, parent members, and most recently dealing with the daily turmoil of running a building during COVID. Kate continues to meet each day and each challenge with a positive can-do mindset.”
Polumbo received her bachelor of science in education (physical education) from SUNY Cortland, her master of science in education (school administration), and her certificate of advanced study in school leadership from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Anthony Lazzaro, assistant principal at Port Jervis Middle School in the Port Jervis City School District, has been selected as the 2021 New York State Secondary School Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to a middle or high school assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Lazzaro has been serving as assistant principal of Port Jervis Middle School for the last seven years. He began his tenure as assistant principal with the belief that developing relationships is the foundation of community building. To that end, he implemented an open-door policy extended to the entire learning community – including students, parents, faculty, and staff. He can often be found working on his laptop in the cafeteria during lunch times in order to encourage interaction with students. Commented Matt Curreri, detective in charge of the Juvenile Aid Bureau, “I observed his overwhelming passion and concern for each and every student. Anthony always makes sure the safety of the staff and students is a top priority. Anthony is a wonderful man with high moral, ethical, and family values. This translates to his students, which in turn defines all of his decisions within the school.”
In 2015, Lazzaro developed a character education program – Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe – as the core behavioral focus at the middle school. This effort has been supported by the district Character Education Program that encourages student engagement by providing weekly instruction on themes such as perseverance, responsibility, and compassion. Lazzaro helped to organize after school events celebrating student effort, participation, and citizenship. As a result, there has been a 34 percent decrease in referrals and a notable decrease in classroom disruptions. Commented teacher Joseph Becker, “Lazzaro created a culture where any staff member could lean on him for advice. The amount of time he takes to get to know the students and staff is something that we, Port Jervis School District, are extremely fortunate for. Anthony acts as a role model and communicates with everyone on a day-to-day basis, making sure everyone has the tools and resources needed to be productive in the day-to-day learning process.”
Principal Jean Lain noted, “Mr. Lazzaro is an exemplar of life-long learning. He attends the teachers’ professional learning sessions, offers books and articles to support instruction and student needs, and is an active participant in all meetings, calls, and professional learning events. Mr. Lazzaro remains keenly aware of the world outside our walls and often provides suggestions, information, and creative options that spark curiosity in our students. His conversations with students, whether in his office, outside on the fields, or in the cafeteria often include engaging questions which allow for students to verbalize their hopes for the future and the plans s/he has and steps needed to attain their goals.”
Lazzaro received a master’s degree in British and American Literature from New York University and a Certificate of Educational Leadership from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Eva Williams, principal of Van Duyn Elementary School (VDES) in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), has been selected as the 2021 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
During her eight-year tenure at Van Duyn Elementary School, Williams implemented a multitude of initiatives designed to increase student achievement and decrease referrals. Some of these included, frequent two-way communication with parents, culture and climate practices including restorative circles, check in/check out partners, providing parents with opportunities to learn strategies for helping their student at home, and CHAMPS (courageous, hardworking, achievers, motivated, persistent, scholarly) incentives for both individuals and whole classrooms. Her efforts have resulted in increased student achievement and a NYS school designation from priority status to a school in good standing within just five years. She was also recognized for making the highest increase of all schools in the district in ELA and math scores on the NYS assessments for two years in a row. Additionally, chronic and referable behaviors decreased from over 300 in 2012-13 to zero since 2016. And that accomplishment was highlighted in videos and newsletters shared by the PAXIS lnstitute and NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS). Commented Executive Director of Elementary Schools Melissa Evans, “Her strong leadership skills, including her ability to create a positive climate for teaching and learning, focus on high expectations with attention on cultural responsiveness, and building a solid knowledge of academic skills with her staff makes her school a model for excellence in the SCSD and New York State.”
Believing that leadership requires a balance hinged on trust, mutual regard, and shared decision making to ensure that all stakeholders’ needs are understood and met, Williams has worked to empower parents and community members to freely advocate for the needs of students. She also believes that school must include fun in learning. To that end, VDES has hosted more than 80 monthly Family Fun in Learning Nights (FFLN). Pre-COVID, these evening events provided dinner, schoolwide data information, and an engaging activity that allows staff to engage with families. Commented parent Serena Harris, “She has been very supportive to parents like myself in the school setting as well as in the community. She has an excellent relationship with the parents and takes an interest in the educational needs and progression of each student. My children have been able to perform very well in their studies since she’s very attentive to every student.”
Commented colleague, Valerie Reese, ” Eva has been out front, not only in the way she led her own family engagement program at Van Duyn but publicly for the rest of us in the profession. She personifies all that is right about staying intentionally connected to an institution that helped to shape her life’s path.”
Commented Superintendent Jaime Alicea, “We are exceptionally proud of Van Duyn Elementary School Principal Eva Williams for being named the 2021 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year. Eva has long been committed to bridging the gap between home and school, creating connections between school staff, families and community organizations to ensure that the needs of each student are met. Her passion for supporting her students, families and staff is unparalleled. Eva is an example of the excellence we are striving for in the Syracuse City School District, and she is most deserving of this honor.”
Williams received her bachelor of arts in African-American Studies and bachelor of science in psychology from SUNY Binghamton, her master of science in counselor education from Syracuse University, and her certificate in advanced studies from SUNY Oswego.
Joseph Owens, Supervisor of Fine and Performing Arts at Mineola Public Schools, has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between school buildings and districts.
Owens was nominated for this award for his outstanding contributions to visual and performing arts education and commitment to equitable access for all students, not only in his home district of Mineola UFSD, but throughout Nassau County and New York State.
Perhaps the best example of this commitment is the years of work and collaboration by Owens to develop a BOCES service that allows districts countywide, and soon statewide, to more readily and affordably offer quality musical instruments & education to students with the assistance of state aid. The service has been described as a game changer in closing the equity gap, providing needed assistance to districts that may not otherwise have the resources for instrumental music education for all students. “Joe’s work and advocacy transcend the district,” noted Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler. He continued, “There were many obstacles in actualizing this [BOCES] CoSer and Joe’s determination made it a reality. This commitment to equity and the importance of educating the whole child has created a community passion for the arts.”
Continuing his passion for quality arts education in New York State, Owens has also taken on a leadership role in the Balanced Mind Conference, which provides meaningful professional learning to more than 700 arts educators. He also holds leadership roles with the Nassau Music Educators Association, the New York State Council of Administrators of Music Education, and the New York State School Music Association, which recently recognized Mineola with its Presidential Citation.
Back in his home district, Owens continues to lead and innovate. The Mineola Summer Arts Institute is one program in particular that Owens is extremely proud of. The Institute began as a small, 9-day summer instrumental program, and under Owens’ leadership it has flourished into a month-long, robust summer session offering courses in art, music, dance, drama, coding, digital animation, and more.
Fellow arts administrator Kathryn Behr from neighboring Jericho Union Free School District had this to say about her colleague: “Mr. Owens is a once in a generation leader who strives to improve education for all students and has the skills to actually make it happen.”
Owens received his B.Mus. in Music Education from SUNY Potsdam, an M.A. in Music and Music Education from Teachers College at Columbia University, and an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Technology from Adelphi University. In the spring of 2021 Dr. Owens earned his Ed.D. in Music and Music Education from Teachers College at Columbia University.
Nickolas Scholz, vice principal in the Syracuse City School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement. The candidate will have demonstrated excellent organizational and communication skills in supporting and promoting such innovative digital practices for his/her learning community.
Scholz has successfully integrated technology to enhance his instructional leadership practices as well as student opportunities. Embracing today’s digital tools, he has developed better systems for teacher feedback and development, rich digital content in classrooms, and true data-driven decision making. To this end, Scholz and his team hold regular instructional data meetings to analyze the data in meaningful ways for the betterment of both teacher and student growth.
During this unprecedented year, Scholz successfully used his digital know-how to lead the school in the implementation of remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a master schedule that could be adapted to work in full remote, hybrid, and full in-person settings. He ensured that ten grade levels had the appropriate educational diet, enrichment and expressive academic periods, professional learning communities, and remote learning support blocks. ln addition, he ensured that all staff felt comfortable with the online learning platforms while also supporting the alignment and consistency of grade-level pages, which was critical to enable parents to be able to understand the school’s expectations each week. Commented Academic Intervention Teacher Katie Cramer, “Providing teachers technology in the classroom was important, but more importantly was ensuring the technology and digital programs being used were appropriate and supporting student achievement.”
Commented Principal Theresa Haley, “Given the situation we are in with remote learning and hybrid schooling, Mr, Scholz has literally worked 24 hours a day to fully understand each and every platform available. Whether he is trying to determine how one system talks to another for data sharing or how to utilize a platform for improved family communication, Mr. Scholz will not stop learning until he feels he can implement the program to the fullest.”
“We are so proud of HW Smith Vice Principal Nick Scholz for being selected as the winner of the SAANYS 2021 Leader in Digital Education Award,” Syracuse City School District Superintendent Jaime Alicea said. “Mr. Scholz’s colleagues have spoken highly of his exceptional leadership and the ways he has used technology to help HW Smith students succeed. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused new challenges when it comes to students and staff learning new platforms and accessing new technologies. Mr. Scholz has been a go-to within his building to ensure that technology enhances – not hinders – his students’ and colleagues’ success during this challenging time. His collaborative leadership is what we strive for within the Syracuse City School District, and I commend Mr. Scholz on this well-deserved recognition!”
Scholz received his bachelor of science in mathematics from Oregon State University, his master of science in mathematics education from Syracuse University, and his certificate in advanced studies from SUNY Oswego.
LeAnna Watt, special programs assistant principal at Fairport Senior High School in the Fairport Central School District, has been selected for the 2021 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Known as a leader with an innate ability to read a room, Watt believes that responsiveness is one of the most important elements of being a successful school leader and strives to build trust with all members of the school community. When staff, students, and parents know that the school will show up for them in authentic ways, they will develop a reciprocal relationship with all, which makes everyone greater. Especially when making difficult decisions, Watt believes that consistently acting with the student’s best interest in mind will always lead to the best outcome for all. Commented Special Education Teacher Jennifer Whalen, “She does not allow one student in our building to go forgotten. She personally advocates for every struggling student in a building of 1,400. Somehow LeAnna manages to hold students to a high standard, yet give them the unconditional love and support so many of them need. Oftentimes during extremely difficult meetings I find myself looking at LeAnna with admiration and amazement.”
Commented Business Education Teacher David Domenico, “LeAnna Watt has a passion and genuine concern for the students at Fairport High School. She makes it a point to get to know the students, not just by name, but by interest, needs, and concerns they may have. She has been a forward thinker and will do whatever she can to improve the academic, emotional, and overall well-being of every student, and is a constant presence in the community.”
Commented Principal Robert Clark, “Advocacy, empathy, and compassion are all at the forefront of her decisions and interactions with students, families, and staff. Add to this an incredible knowledge base of the continuum of services, graduation requirements, and community resources and you have a powerful force for change.”
Commented Superintendent Brett Provenzano, “LeAnna Watt intuitively develops meaningful connections and then places herself in positions to add value. She sets the pace for her colleagues and models exemplary leadership. Above all, she is a caring leader and a reassuring presence, one who her students, families, and colleagues view as being invaluable to their school experience. LeAnna is guided by the principles that can best be described as dedicated to serve others, passionate about making a difference, and committed to student success.”
Watt received her bachelor of arts, master of arts, and certification in literacy education from Nazareth College, and her NYS building and district certificate in educational leadership from the University of Rochester.
Kevin Mulligan, retired school administrator from the Chazy Central Rural School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
Having served in North Country schools for more than 30 years, it was during Mulligan’s tenure in the Chazy Central Rural SD, that the district was recognized for its high academic achievement. Mulligan was known as an educator who took exception to the concept of teaching for the test and instead embraced the practice of inspiring students to learn and engage in skills of analysis and writing, as well as spoken expression. Commented retired principal Thomas Tregan, “During his career, he effectively and expertly impacted education, culminating as superintendent of schools. Due to his work, dedication, and vision we were recognized as a US Department of Education High performing Blue Ribbon School. Though the actual recognition occurred after his retirement, his support, skillful hiring, development of programs and school systems were instrumental in the recognition.” Tregan continues, noting that ” Kevin’s contributions did not end with retirement. He remains a steadfast advocate for children, schools, and administrators, and the values that we hold high in education.”
Since retiring, Mulligan has served as a SAANYS Region 7 labor relations specialist as well as currently serving as president of the board of directors for the Retired Educators of NY (RENY), formerly NYS Retired Teachers’ Association (NYSRTA). Commented RENY Executive Office Manager Mary Kathleen Bassett, “He has worked tirelessly to help move the Association forward. Kevin has been instrumental, in fact, he has been the driving force, behind reidentifying and marketing RENY to attract new members.” Commented SAANYS member Joanna Valenti Orr, “Kevin works for all retired educators in New York State. He is especially interested in the issues surrounding health insurance. He works hard for SAANYS members and other educators too. Kevin’s sense of humor and keen insight have gotten us through tough times. I rely on him for advice on many issues.”
Mulligan received his bachelor of arts, master of arts, and certificate of advanced studies from SUNY Plattsburgh.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, represented by Sheriff Todd Baxter, has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Friend of Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has implemented numerous programs designed to better serve the community, including participating in the DARE program in 17 different school districts, Teen Police Academy, Sheriff’s Summer Camp, Fatality Awareness and Crash Training program for high school students, the Cadet/Explorer program for ninth grade students, Operation Safe Child ID card program, and supplying crime prevention and school resources officers to several school districts. Commented Wheatland-Chili CSD Secondary School Principal Eric Windover, “Members of the Sheriff’s Office will often check-in to say ‘hello’ and work hard to be a visible presence within our school community. Deputies greet our students with a smile and are available to answer the impromptu questions that always seem to arise. Our local deputies take the time to show that they are invested in our schools and I know that I speak for my colleagues in stating that their presence and positive involvement is appreciated.”
Commented Northside School Principal Erin Moretter, “Northside School has been a partner with the MCSO through the DARE Program for well over twenty years. We have enjoyed the friendship of Deputy Donald Green and Sergeant Matthew Bottone over the past years. Their enthusiasm for working with our students to help them develop positive, healthy lifelong habits is remarkable. Our students’ school experience has been enhanced through these connections and I can share that our fifth-grade students look forward to DARE each week.”
Commented Monroe 1 BOCES Director of Safety and Security James Colt, “The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has become a part of our community. Even beyond the school resource officer program, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has been a highly valued partner with Monroe 1 BOCES. They have always been very responsive to calls for service, and willing to work with the schools to make and support decisions that are the best interests of students. We are very thankful for the services of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.”
Felicia Thomas-Williams, principal at West Middle School in the Brentwood Union Free School District, has been selected as the 2020 New York State Secondary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS to recognize outstanding principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
Thomas-Williams will also represent New York as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS’ national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In addition to selecting a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists, NASSP honors all state principals of the year at the Principal’s Institute held each year in Washington, DC.
A long-time educator since 1993, Thomas-Williams joined the Brentwood UFSD in 1996, becoming an administrator in 2005, and serving as principal of West Middle School since 2013. West MS is a very diverse community of almost 1,000 students stemming from more than 50 countries, with many of the students experiencing early childhood trauma as a result of their immigration journey. As such, parents are often unsure of the best way to interact with the school, believing that the language and cultural barriers are insurmountable. An empathetic leader, Thomas-Williams takes on this challenge and has implemented many inclusive and innovative programs, strengthening the home-school relationship and developing a truly welcoming culture at the school. A turning point in her understanding came after she had the opportunity to attend a session at the SAANYS 2017 Annual Conference on Adverse Childhood Experiences. She later shared her insights with the school’s faculty and staff and arranged for embedded workshops with agencies to come work with the students. The impact of learning about and responding to these students’ experiences resulted in significant social-emotional gains at West Middle School. Commented PTA board member and parent Maria Heuskin, “As the parent of an academically and emotionally challenged child, I have witnessed first-hand her caring and compassionate nature. She has stood strong with my child, letting him know that throughout his challenges he had a safe place and someone to always turn to.” Commented Assistant Superintendent Monique Darrisaw-Akil, “At Mrs. Thomas-Williams’ school, differences are celebrated and students are encouraged to showcase their cultural heritage. She uses her creativity to develop programs that engage students and parents.”
Thomas-Williams is also active in her community, working with organizations such as the Special Olympics, the Parent Academy to foster positive relationships with parents, serving as community co-chair of My Brother’s Keeper, and serving as an executive board member of the Brentwood Principals and Supervisors Organization. She is also a member of the board of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a former member of the board of directors for the Wheatly Heights Mother’s Club, a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, as well as being active in the Long Island Association for Curriculum and Development, the Long Island Black Educators, and more. Commented Brentwood South Middle School Principal Bergre Escorbores, “In addition to the myriad of daily mandates a principal must complete, she has gone above and beyond with several endeavors. She is a founding member of the Harvard Instructional Rounds protocol in the district and she pioneered efforts to initiate the My Brother’s Keeper program for Brentwood.”
Commented NYS Senator Monica Martinez, “Felicia Thomas-Williams is an individual I hold in the highest regard. She is a loyal, dedicated, and hard-working individual. Her talents and abilities prove her capacity to bolster the success of anything she does.”
Dr. Alison Clark, principal of Stratford Road Elementary School in the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District, has been selected as the 2020 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Known as a principal who believes in strengthening school culture to build a positive environment, Clark feels strongly that “The learning we foster is about supporting and being kind to others. Our belief is one that supports and initiates growth of the whole child, academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.” Stratford Road ES is not only the largest elementary school in the district, but also home to the largest English Language Learner (ELL) and Supplemental Educational Services (SES) populations, as well as the district’s Autism Program. Commented Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lorna Lewis, “The success of this special population is due in no small part to the energy and support Dr. Clark gives to the program. Students and parents leave her building valuing the lessons of patience, charity, and kindness demonstrated there.” The school hosts many events fostering inclusivity throughout the year, such as the annual circus, pay it forward, game days, gym helpers, peer buddies, and the kickoff welcome back assembly. In addition, students take part in community services projects by donating “Birthday Boxes” to Birthday Wishes, a local non-profit that provides birthday parties to children living in local homeless shelters. Over the years, more than 120 Birthday Boxes and over 400 gifts have been donated. Amanda Bodeker, grade 5, summed it up perfectly, “Dr. Clark puts kids before herself.”
Considering herself the school’s lead learner having earned her PhD while leading Stratford Road ES, she is also known as a mentor who cultivates leadership in others. She is an adjunct professor at SUNY Old Westbury, works with doctoral students on their dissertations at Concordia University, and has published numerous articles in educational journals. Commented Michael Rodgers, POB director of music and performing arts, “She has a disposition where she welcomes all and offers herself completely to help, listen, or support someone. She is a remarkable colleague who understands careers, trajectories, and believes in her team.”
Kristen Lennon-McMahan, assistant principal at Shenendehowa High School West in the Shenendehowa Central School District, has been selected as the 2020 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to a middle or high school assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Lennon-McMahan has been an educator in the Shenendehowa school district since 2005, with the last eight years serving as assistant principal of Shenendehowa High School West. She is known as an administrator who is passionate about helping her students grow into empathetic young adults. To that end, Lennon-McMahan developed a school-wide event known as “Day of Acceptance” where students, staff, and faculty participate in three hour-long programs. She notes that “the goal behind each day was for students to recognize and respect differences. We really aimed to include every child and adult in our building to make it an inclusive activity.” Commented student, Nuyanha Owens, “She is always there when I need her to be. That is one thing that is absolutely wonderful about her. That also applies to my fellow students as well.”
Lennon-McMahan has also worked to provide cultural responsiveness training called, “The Art of Understanding Our Students” for staff and faculty, which has recently been implemented district-wide. Over the course of two years, close to 70 faculty and staff have been trained to become facilitators for the program. Commented Principal Ron Agostinoni, “Kristen understands the value and necessity of a positive culture where all stakeholders have opportunities for input. Her focus is not only to provide input, but to also empower those around her to make sustainable and systematic positive changes.” Associate Principal Michael Gutchell notes, “I whole heartedly cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this honor as she possesses a great deal of pedagogical and adolescent social-emotional knowledge, along with a tireless work ethic.”
Mark Warford, assistant principal at Bethlehem Central Middle School in the Bethlehem Central School District, has been selected as a 2020 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP, promoting educational excellence for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade (PreK-8) schooling and calling attention to the fundamental importance of the assistant principal.
A long-time educator since 1995, Warford has served in his current position at Bethlehem Central Middle School since 2008. A significant accomplishment that began early in his educational career while an educator at Farnsworth MS in the Guilderland CSD, was the creation of an academic assistance program for at-risk students called GROW (goal setting, responsibility, organization, work ethic). This program, which he also later implemented in East Greenbush and Bethlehem, has been highly successful in giving these students the ability to achieve in school, while working on foundational skills and habits needed to reach that goal. Because of the success of the program, several other local school districts have since established their own GROW program. At Bethlehem Central MS, the GROW program has doubled in size over the last two years, paving the way for these students to have successful high school experiences. The program has accomplished so much that the district is considering implementing a model that can be used in the high school as well. Commented Mike Klugman, principal of Bethlehem Central MS, “He maintains the highest expectations of all students, and works tirelessly alongside teachers to demonstrate to students what their potential is and how they can reach it.” And parent Beth Kellerman noted, “He promotes a positive school climate and is approachable and attentive to students; his ‘Let’s have a great day!’ signature sign-off during the morning announcements captures his enthusiasm, which spreads throughout the school.”
Warford has also been instrumental in leading Bethlehem CSD toward achieving a goal of environmental sustainability. To that end, he founded a district-wide committee called the Green Team, the mission of which is to change the district’s infrastructure and policies in order to model what true sustainability looks like. The middle school initially served as a pilot for all the environmental initiatives now implemented across the district. Not only does the middle school house a small farm, producing thousands of pounds of produce annually (served in district cafeterias and a local restaurant, sold at the Delmar Farmers Market, and donated to the Town of Bethlehem food pantry), but the district has also eliminated disposable trays, plastic utensils, styrofoam containers, single use plastic straws, and implemented the recycling of paper, glass, plastic, metal, batteries, used electronics, markers, highlighters, and plastic writing utensils. The boldest initiatives have been to implement food composting across the district and the installation of a 2.1 megawatt solar array that now provides over 80 percent of the district’s electricity. In 2012, Bethlehem MS was one of the first three public schools in New York to be given the National Green Ribbon award, and was again recognized in 2017 with the governor’s award for environmental stewardship. On speaking about these accomplishments, Principal Klugman noted, “Mark is one of the most powerful role models in our community. He is esteemed and admired as much for his leadership as for his ethics and I have never worked with an assistant principal whose impact was so widely distributed throughout all schools in his district and throughout his community.”
Commented Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven, “I have worked with Mark over many years, both as a parent and as the Bethlehem town supervisor. In all circumstances, I have found him to be one of those rare individuals who is not only actively changing the world to be a better place, but is teaching and inspiring our children to do the same.”
Jonathan Slaybaugh, principal at the Birchwood School in the Clarkstown Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 K-12 Building Principal Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The K-12 Building Principal Award was created to recognize the unique characteristics of a K-12 building and the related demands, expectations, and challenges of a principal in this multi-level environment. It is given annually to a SAANYS member who is a successful K-12 principal, a recognized educational leader, and who demonstrates leadership in establishing the pace, character, and mission of the building and demonstrates creativity and resourcefulness in providing comprehensive programs and services for all levels and grades.
The Birchwood School is a therapeutic day school serving students requiring an intensive multidisciplinary team approach to learning. Recognizing the dramatic increase in students diagnosed with autism entering the school over the past ten years, Slaybaugh has been instrumental in designing and implementing changes to the physical structure and building utilization. He created a sensory room to meet the unique sensory needs of ASD students and created a sensory hallway where students are encouraged to hop, skip, touch, and feel the walls as they move from class to class, in contrast to the earlier practices requiring students to walk single file down the hallways without touching the walls or floors. Now, students are encouraged to experience opportunities for movement and to touch things that provide them comfort. During his tenure at the school, Slaybaugh has made it a priority to co-facilitate workshops to provide necessary training for staff to effectively and safely de-escalate situations. Staff members also receive additional training in non-violent crisis intervention through the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). A testament to this new approach can be seen by the number of students who graduated years ago who still visit the school to touch base and demonstrate and share their successes with their former teachers.
Commented Harry Leonardatos, principal of Clarkstown HS North, “Jon is a devoted and hard-working building leader who guides students with a variety of needs and learning abilities. As such, he is patient, flexible, easy-going, and adaptable. He is well-respected by both staff and students. Ultimately, Jon is able to engage each student in his school to perform the best according to their ability. He always recognizes and celebrates the successes of both his students and staff, and truly treats his role of principal as more of a mission than a job.”
Ricky Frazier, volunteer coordinator for the Rochester City School District, has been selected as the 2020 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between buildings and districts.
Since joining the Rochester City SD in 2014, Frazier has been instrumental in the recruitment of more than 500 volunteers serving in various capacities throughout the district. A few of the projects he has implemented include a program where students of color from the University of Rochester serve as mentors to young males of color; recruiting an organization to bring therapy dogs into the schools for reading supports as well as social, emotional needs; working with Kodak for a donation of school supplies; and working with individual community members to donate gloves and hats. For the past several years, he has also served on the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) College Tour Committee, which distributed more than 3.5 million dollars in scholarships. Frazier organized a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Art) Day for students in which more than 30 companies and organizations participated. Commented Director of Strategic Community Partnerships Nydia Padilla-Rodriguez, “Due to his exceptional work with volunteers in the community, he was honored by an alum who donated funds to purchase books for high school students. His commitment to students, parents, and community go beyond the call of duty, ensuring that educational programs and community resources are made available to our district and student population. His exemplary leadership skills are admirable.”
Frazier is also responsible for working with alumni groups visiting the district and is in the process of relaunching the RCSD alumni website that will highlight ways in which alumni can support the district. Frazier often suggests a community service project in conjunction with an alumni reunion event. In particular, the class of 1968 reunion had participants working on a service project planting blubs on campus. Commented participant Susan Blake Gabay, “Mr. Frazier was informative, friendly, and truly appeared to enjoy spending his Saturday morning with us. That morning, he even uncovered a plaque in front of the tree in the center of the courtyard that had one of our classmates honored for his ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War, among several on the plaque. One of our local classmates is thus planning to plant some more bulbs in front of the plaque. The amount of good will fostered in the community throughout the excellent work performance of Mr. Frazier cannot be measured.”
Commented Early Childhood School of Rochester No. 57 Principal Eva J. Thomas, “Frazier continues to put the needs of others in the forefront. Not only is he an advocate for our students, but he never hesitates to offer his assistance to anyone in need. This has caused many school communities in our district to thrive and persevere because of his commitment to meeting the needs of children and families in the Rochester community.”
Richard (RJ) DeLisle, director of technology in the Baldwinsville Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement. The candidate will have demonstrated excellent organizational and communication skills in supporting and promoting such innovative digital practices for his/her learning community.
In his role as director of technology, DeLisle is often seen walking the halls of any one of the district’s eight buildings to visit classrooms and test the technology, interact with teachers and students, and always asking himself the question, “What value does this add?” This hands-on approach has given him unique insight as to how best to integrate new and innovative technology needs into each classroom. Principal Alex Ewing commented on DeLisle’s classroom visits, “As staff share openly their instructional needs, Mr. DeLisle not only offers words of encouragement and praise for implementing instructional creativity, but is right there in the trenches when necessary to troubleshoot and provide assistance to ensure positive experiences for teachers and students in the classroom.”
During his tenure in the district, DeLisle has also been instrumental in reimagining the district’s libraries into comprehensive learning centers. Seizing upon the vision of the Library Media Specialists, he facilitated the creation Learning Pods in some buildings where students and teachers can work collaboratively in a Google-like setting. Each library has been transformed by installing mobile furniture and technology, along with makerspaces, collaboration stations, Oculus Quest Virtual Reality headsets, esports, green screens, recording studios, 3D printing, and more. Commented Durgee Jr. High School Librarian Lindsay Cesari, “RJ demonstrates that great leaders are also great listeners. If you’re an educator that likes to dream big and try new things, RJ is the perfect person to have in your corner. He’s always been a vocal and persistent advocate for our library programs, allowing us, as educators, to innovate.”
Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Tony Cardamone commented, “RJ seeks not only to get the latest and greatest technology for students and teachers, he seeks to find technology to support learning and teaching. At his core, RJ is a teacher. His first love and passion is instruction.”
Commented Deputy Superintendent Joseph M. DeBarbieri, “RJ demonstrates quality leadership and ongoing professional learning as he works to engage and cultivate the professional growth of teachers and leaders alike. He is hardworking and a team player. He is committed to working with others for the good of all students, which is necessary for success in any leadership role.”
Ginger Vail, assistant principal at Saugerties Junior High School in the Saugerties Central School District, has been selected for the 2020 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Known as a leader who truly understands the social-emotional needs of middle school students, Vail prides herself on knowing each of her student’s personal stories. She spearheaded the implementation of the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) initiative, which has since been introduced at the high school level as well. One important component of this initiative has been to solidify the role of the “Redirect Center,” a non-punitive space where students can get assistance from a social worker or guidance counselor to address their social-emotional needs. A testament to her leadership, students know her office is also a safe space and regularly seek her out for help and to share successes. Commented Director of Human Resources Daniel Erceg, “She knows every person in the building from student to staff member. She knows when something seems a little off. She knows when someone may have had a bad night at home. Mrs. Vail immediately reaches out to their teachers to make them aware and get their input.”
Vail is also active in the community, serving as the softball league coordinator and on the board of the Saugerties Little League. As such, she spearheaded the league’s “Light it Up” committee in 2016, an effort to upgrade the girls’ facilities to include the installation of lights for evening play. After three years of effort, the lights will be turned on this season. Commented Saugerties Little League Vice President Gregory DeCelle, “She has put in countless hours chairing events and fundraisers as well as working with the business community to help fund the efforts to put lights on our primary softball field. This has been an effort of epic proportions as the cost for the job exceeded $115K. I am proud to serve on our league board with Mrs. Vail and have tremendous respect for her efforts on behalf of the children in our community.”
Commented teacher Caren Duke, “Ginger is a natural visionary. She thinks big! From her positive behavioral interventions and supports initiative in the junior high school and her ‘Know More’ healthy alternatives initiative, to her school and community sports fundraisers, Ginger has an innate ability to bring people together, connecting students, teachers, and community members of all interests.”
Commented Jr./Sr. High School Principal Thomas Averill, “She understands what motivates students, and the needs of parents as their children transition from four elementary schools into one Jr./Sr. high school. Finding ways to create an environment conducive to their age and maturity level has been the hallmark of her administrative leadership.”
Michael Dawkins, Ed.D., retired principal from the Rensselaer City School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
During his tenure in the Rensselaer City SD, Dawkins was known as a mentor to all with a goal of paying it forward. He states that he “worked with teachers to assist them in developing their goals and how those goals would impact student and organizational structure. They were able to see the value of sharing their experiences and expertise, many became mentors to their colleagues, which helped to enhance the value of ongoing professional development and organizational success.” While speaking with a colleague about Dawkin’s impact as a leader, Jennifer Drautz recalled, “She went on for a while to talk about him as a principal, along with what she still remembered and admired about his leadership. Six years into his retirement, and this new future administrator continues to have Mike as her model of school leadership, that’s nice evidence of a long-term impact.”
In addition to his mentorship of colleagues, Dawkins has continued to serve his profession in a variety of roles. He has served as a SAANYS Regional Representative, APPR specialist, labor relations specialist and negotiator, and often assists in recruiting units to join SAANYS. He has also presented a variety of workshops at state-wide conferences, and was instrumental in the launching of the SAANYS Mentor Coaching service. In addition, he’s worked as a college supervisor of student teachers for SUNY Oneonta and Siena College.
Food For Kids in Washingtonville, represented by Barbara Quinn, president of the Food For Kids board of directors, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Friend of Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Food For Kids, a non-profit, all volunteer organization, was founded in May of 2015 by LouAnne Blanchard and Lois Dunikowsi, mission ministry leaders at the First Presbyterian Church of Washingtonville, after learning about another school district’s Backpacks for Food program providing food-insecure students non-perishable and easy-to-prepare foods for the weekend. They recognized the need in their own community and arranged to meet with the Superintendent and other concerned individuals and organizations. In the fall of 2015 Taft Elementary School was chosen to be the first school in the program. In subsequent school years, the program expanded its operation to include all three of the elementary schools as well as the middle school. From its inception, Food For Kids has operated as a multi-organization collaboration, working with Catholic Daughters of the Americas (Court St. Ann, Mother of Mary #2419), St. Mary’s Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church of Washingtonville, Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, Taft School community and PTA, Little Britain School community, Round Hill School community, Washingtonville Middle School, Country Kids Food Pantry, Grace Community Church, Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Lourdes Council #5890, The Country Store Thrift Shop, as well as countless individual community volunteers.
Every Friday during the school year, students who qualify and opt into the program are able to take home a backpack filled with non-perishable and easy-to-prepare foods. Special pack offs are done for long weekends and school holiday breaks. During the summer months, Food For Kids distributes daily lunches from several locations in the school district. The summer food program served more than 8,000 lunches in the summer of 2019 and is additionally supported by many Washingtonville restaurants and businesses, as well as the United Way of Dutchess and Orange Counties, the WEL Foundation, and donations from caring individuals in the community. Food donations may be dropped off in collection bins at all schools being served by the program, at St. Mary’s Church outside of St. Joseph’s Room, at Stop & Shop in Washingtonville, and at Grace Community Church’s lobby area (except Fridays).
Timothy Jenny, principal at James A. Green High School in the Dolgeville Central School District, has been selected as the 2019 New York State High School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS to recognize outstanding principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
Jenny will also represent New York as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS’ national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In addition to selecting a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists, NASSP honors all state principals of the year at the Principal’s Institute held each year in Washington, DC.
A dedicated leader in the district, Jenny is known as a principal who truly cares about all students. Every morning before school starts, he makes a point of greeting each student, often commenting on their individual successes, as they make their way into the school. On the last day of school before the holiday winter break, Jenny hands out hot chocolate to everyone as they enter school. He notes, “As a principal, I am always looking for ways to let students and staff know that we genuinely care about them, that we are a family, and that we will do what it takes to help everyone succeed.” Jenny created a group to represent the student body known as the Principal’s President Cabinet. Student presidents of each class, National Honor Society, and Student Council, along with the student board member, meet at least once a month in “cabinet” meetings with Jenny to share exciting ideas and to ensure that they have a voice in their school. In addition, Jenny, along with the school counselor, set up individual meetings with every freshman to get to know them and their needs, challenges, goals, and accomplishments. Seniors also participate in exit interviews to reflect on their time at the school and to share their thoughts on how the school can improve to better serve the students. Commented student Sandra Gonyea, “We are very lucky that we are able to connect so well with all of the adults who work in our school system. Mr. Jenny and many of the other staff are often found wandering the halls or attending sporting events after hours. They go above and beyond to show us that they care even outside of the classroom.”
Inspired by his passion of flying airplanes, Jenny created the school motto “Soar to Success” and arranged for one of the art teachers to paint a mural of an airplane skywriting the motto while flying over the Adirondacks at the entrance of the school. This message has become so popular that it has even appeared in some senior’s graduation speeches. Commented recently retired Superintendent Christine Reynolds, “Mr. Jenny models integrity, compassion, and kindness, and expects the same from all students and adults at the school… He knows every student in the high school by name and asks them if they are having any difficulties and how he can help them to be more successful as students and as people.” Commented parent Jennifer Winkler, “Mr. Jenny promotes success for all students. His vision of ‘Soar to Success’ is beautifully painted in the high school lobby where you enter the school and is visually achieved through his evident love and passion for all students and teachers. Mr. Jenny leads by example in his philosophy of our students are priority 1.”
William Bohen, assistant principal at Transit Middle School in the Williamsville Central School District, has been selected as the 2019 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to an assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Since joining Transit Middle School in 2011, Bohen has become known as an open and approachable leader who has the best interests of all students at heart. Commented student Patrick Frank, after Bohen encouraged him to pursue a special school library project, “Dr. Bohen is the kind of vice principal who looks out for all the talents in students, not just the obvious.” He continued, “His openness and casual interactions with students make him easily approachable.” Commented parent Mary Beth Scumaci, “Dr. Bohen is an educator my children speak fondly of at the dinner table. They were always impressed when he was aware of accomplishments, especially when they weren’t aware he was watching. Dr. Bohen is a pillar of the school, devoted to educating children.”
During his time at the school he has also reduced disciplinary referrals by 52 percent by introducing several positive recognition initiatives focusing on rewarding behavior consistent with school expectations “Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe.” These initiatives include a quarterly “Pancakes with Principals” breakfast, mentoring programs, a community service day, and monthly “Kudos” awards for students demonstrating these positive behaviors. In conjunction with these fun activities for the students, Bohen has implemented an informal mentoring program, established a service learning initiative for at risk students, and spearheaded a school-wide curriculum mapping initiative. Commented Principal Daniel Wahl, “Bill hosts a morning meeting with the building PPS team four days per week to review, discuss, and act proactively on behalf of our students. This information helps to inform large scale decisions around programming, wellness initiatives, capacity building for the staff, and procedures for how students access programs such as advanced classes, intervention services, and student leadership opportunities.” Commented teacher Kathryn Neff, “Dr. Bohen is an extremely hard worker. He is passionate about his profession, which is evident in his relationships with students, colleagues, and faculty. He brings thoughtful, innovative ideas to our school community. We are beyond lucky to have him as our assistant principal.”
Doreen McSain, principal at Glenwood Elementary School in the Vestal Central School District, has been selected as the 2019 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
Since joining the leadership at Glenwood Elementary School almost ten years ago, McSain’s priority has been to create a school environment where she would want her own children to attend, “a place where the adults and students value each other and where acts of kindness and consideration run rampant.” To that end, her nomination by a large team of faculty, staff, parents, and students embodies her mission as an exceptional and compassionate leader. Noted fourth grade teacher Jessica Mirtallo, “Doreen makes parental and community involvement in the school a focus at Glenwood Elementary. Both families and students often comment on how wonderful it is to have these positive experiences at school.” Commented parent Sanjiv Patel, “Principal McSain has created a culture of development, friendship, and dedication. You can see these and other core values all over the Glenwood campus. She has truly been an inspiration to the teachers and parents.” One of the students described her this way, “You might think that Mrs. McSain is a special person, that is true. Believe me, she is.”
McSain considers herself the school’s lead learner and is also known as a mentor who cultivates leadership in others. She and her teaching team have implemented several innovative programs such as a “Learning Through Play” program where students use an imaginative play space in order to practice social skills in a supervised setting; a “One Book, One School” initiative where the entire school reads the same book at the same time as a way to build community; and a dedicated “Maker Space” where all the children have the opportunity to engage in hands on STEAM time. Commented Glenwood School Counselor Stephanie Mitsakos, “Doreen is the heart of our building. Keeping open and honest lines of communication with her staff is a continuous priority. She has helped create and foster programs that have seen tremendous success.” Noted Reading Specialist Tammy Wanck, “We teachers take pride in our accomplishments at Glenwood Elementary School because we have the support and understanding that, although our work is not easy, together we can make great things happen. This is all due to a great leader who is dedicated and passionate about providing a place we are all proud to call our school.”
Commented Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Laura Lamash, “I have often said that I cannot ‘do it’ without Doreen McSain. In her you find an educator who has committed her life to enriching the lives of students and teachers through creating a school where learning is joyful and friendships abound.”
Samantha Buchholz, assistant principal at Cornwall Central Middle School in the Cornwall Central School District, has been selected as the 2019 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP, promoting educational excellence for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade (PreK-8) schooling and calling attention to the fundamental importance of the assistant principal.
An administrator who always makes the students her top priority, Buchholz values the importance of ongoing home/school communication, creating a positive school culture. Rather than only contacting parents with disciplinary matters, she prides herself on taking the time to make the “good calls” or to send a “good news” note home in order to recognize the student being a good citizen within the school. She also maintains an open door policy and is often found participating in school activities both during and after school hours. Parents Irene and Ray Meyer whose son is on the autism spectrum noted that, “Mrs. Buchholz took the time to understand our son, his interests, disability, and struggles. She has shown great patience in understanding each situation. She has always done what is in the best interest for him. He understands that even now that he is a freshman at the high school that Mrs. Buchholz is on his side and is always available to him if he feels a need to talk to her.” Commented School Counselor Jeanne Kendrick, “Every day Samantha shows commitment and dedication to her staff. She always communicates with parents in a compassionate and positive manner. Because of her kind and caring approach, she has an incredible rapport with the students in our school. Many times, students will stop in the main office and ask to talk with her.”
Gina Dinnocenzio, one of several teachers who nominated Buchholz, commented, “Mrs. Buchholz is a true leader who leads by example. She began her education career as a teacher, and although now an administrator, she continues to teach the students, parents, teachers, and the community. She enjoys her job, and as a result of that, we all benefit.” Teacher Janine Lazos added, “Samantha is loved not only by all of her colleagues, but also by the student population. Cornwall CSD is incredibly lucky to have someone like Samantha Buchholz as an administrator. She is a remarkable person with a lot to offer.”
Commented Principal Kate Pulumbo, “Every day Samatha brings fresh ideas, boundless energy, humility, kindness, and compassion when working with students, faculty, and families. She takes the time to establish a personal connection and forge a relationship in order to maintain a lasting positive rapport.”
David Dunn, principal at Martha Brown Middle School in the Fairport Central School District, has been selected as the 2019 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who is clearly committed to excellence, has programs designed to meet the academic and social needs of all students, and has firm ties to parents and the community.
A lifelong resident of Fairport, Dunn has the distinction of not only serving as principal for 24 years and as a math teacher for the previous 18 years, but also of having attended Martha Brown Middle School as a student and having raised his three children in the district as well. This is a role he relishes, noting that all of his interactions within the school community have given him a “unique perspective of the strengths and areas of growth for the school.” One of his most rewarding accomplishments has been working with a leadership team that resulted in Martha Brown Middle School being named a New York State School to Watch over the course of several years, receiving the designation in 2012, 2015, and 2018. Commented Superintendent of Schools Brett Provenzano, “Our students ultimately benefit from the School to Watch process; it positions the school community on a trajectory of reflection and continuous improvement. It is also symbolic of Principal Dunn’s leadership and commitment to his students, staff, parents, and our community.”
Known also as a leader who consistently goes above and beyond, Dunn can be found early in the morning greeting students as they enter the building, participating in many after school extracurricular activities, as well as initiating community service projects for students outside of school such as helping with fall cleanup for area veterans. He notes, “I willingly accept my 24/7 role as the principal of MBMS. I love the natural visibility that I have outside the work day to be available and accessible to my students and their families.” A testament to his commitment can be seen in the loyalty returning students have to their home district. Parent Deborah Vangellow commented, “Our high school students – some graduates, and even alumni who are now parents themselves – love to come back to say ‘hi’ to Dave, give him an update on life, and just check in with ‘their’ middle school principal.” Commented sixth grade lead teacher Scott Parker, “During my 28 years of teaching, I have taught in five different schools, three different school districts, in two different states, and I have never worked for a better human being than Dave Dunn. Dave cares for his family, his students, his teachers, and his community. He embodies dedication as a leader.”
Gregory Cuthbertson, principal at Poland School in the Poland Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 K-12 Building Principal Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The K-12 Building Principal Award was created to recognize the unique characteristics of a K-12 building and the related demands, expectations, and challenges of a principal in this multi-level environment. It is given annually to a SAANYS member who is a successful K-12 principal, a recognized educational leader, and who demonstrates leadership in establishing the pace, character, and mission of the building and demonstrates creativity and resourcefulness in providing comprehensive programs and services for all levels and grades.
After having served only a few years as the 6-12 principal, Cuthbertson was honored to be approached by the superintendent to become the K-12 building principal for the district. Shortly thereafter, he received the New York State Council on Leadership and Student Activities Administrator of the Year award which recognizes an administrator for outstanding dedication to the field of student leadership development and support of student activities in New York State.
During his tenure as K-12 building principal, Cuthbertson has overseen the planning and implementation of the OLWEUS anti-bullying initiative districtwide, where all students were required to participate in educational class meetings designed to promote and build a positive school climate. As a result of the initiative, bullying incidents decreased in the district by 70 percent. Another initiative Cuthbertson is spearheading is the establishment of a middle school concept within the K-12 building.
Commented colleague and Director of Pupil Personnel/School Safety Brian Coleman, “Greg has developed a phenomenal program at Poland as he was instrumental in the conversion to a K-12 building. He serves on many committees and most recently the SAANYS Region 8 executive committee, and attends all events to enhance his skills and bring a better education to the Poland community.”
Teresa Calabrese-Gray, assistant superintendent for instruction and 21st century learning at Champlain Valley Educational Services (CVES) BOCES, has been selected for the 2019 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Known as a collaborative leader, Calabrese-Gray has instituted a model for shared leadership and district-wide decision-making teams to guide the work across the 17 districts under CVES/BOCES. As a way to encourage a chain reaction of positive change, Calabrese-Gray encourages administrators to “find their sparkplugs,” empowering others to provide all stakeholders with the appropriate tools to implement desired change. She notes that “Everyone needs to work together to build a common vision and promote collaboration at all levels.” Commented Peru Central School Board of Education President Bonnie L. Berry, “Teri is an articulate leader and able to communicate her ideas to others, energizing her audience be it students, teachers, or colleagues with her positivity and enthusiasm.”
In 2018, Calabrese-Gray spearheaded an initiative by partnering BOCES S/CDN with SED to develop and deliver statewide training on the Next Generation Math Learning Standards to more than 2,000 educators. And she is currently collaborating with leaders within the Teacher Education Program at SUNY Plattsburgh to develop a pipeline for future teachers within local education agencies. Commented SUNY Plattsburgh Interim Dean Dr. Denise Simard, “Teri has used her distributive leadership skills in building bridges between the P-12 and higher education communities. She and her team have worked tirelessly to develop a cohort of school building and school district leaders. This effort focuses on developing a solid succession plan for the leadership of local education agencies. Teri’s insights and knowledge encourage those around her to push the limits of their abilities.”
Commented District Superintendent Mark Davey, “She is an invaluable member of the district superintendent’s cabinet, that is crucial in helping to advise me on all recommendations to the BOCES Board, and she is essential in helping to make the daily operational and strategic leadership decisions for our BOCES. She has also been a visionary leader in her support and implementation of CVES’s strategic plan, now in our fifth year. Throughout Teri’s many and varied CVES responsibilities, she is known and respected as a collaborative, high-quality instructional leader who is always a consummate professional.” Continued Davey, “She is an outstanding educator who demonstrates collaborative and synergy-promoting leadership abilities in all her undertakings.”
Dr. Gregory Brown, regional coordinator of social studies and blended learning at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement. The candidate will have demonstrated excellent organizational and communication skills in supporting and promoting such innovative digital practices for his/her learning community.
Recognized as a statewide leader with excellent collaborative skills, Brown has worked tirelessly to bring blended and digital learning through the Online Courses for the 21st Century (OC21) consortium and the Integrated Social Studies/ELA Curriculum to schools across the state. Through his efforts and collaborative skills, he has formed partnerships with 13 other regional BOCES and more than 230 school districts. Colleague Diane Cunningham noted, “Not only does he coordinate a complex, blended high school with teachers and students from multiple districts, his leadership focuses on best practices for learning, including project-based learning opportunities, authentic field experiences, feedback for learning, student-centered instruction, and standards based grading. He also provides supportive and honest feedback to faculty to help them adjust to the demands of blended teaching and uses their feedback to adjust and make improvements to the schools’ practices.”
Commented Ardsley UFSD Assistant Superintendent Layne Hughes, “Dr. Brown’s capacity to innovate is demonstrated in a variety of ways. The reach of OC21 ensures a diversity of learners that is not always present in small districts like ours. One of our teachers remarked that the range of lived experiences that her students brought to her ‘classroom’ created a vibrancy that she had not experienced before.” Commented PNW BOCES Educational Technology Coordinator Jennifer Harriton-Wilson, “The most significant accomplishment I have observed is Greg’s ability to shift the culture of those with which he works. He is able to show teachers and students the potential of how the use of technology can impact an individual’s ability to further pedagogical practices and provide additional avenues for learning.” PNW BOCES colleague Renee Gargano noted, “Beyond Dr. Brown’s outstanding achievements in digital practices, I would describe him as a bright, thoughtful, knowledgeable, and compassionate school leader who continues to garner the admiration of those who are most fortunate to work with him.”
Yorktown CSD Superintendent of Schools Ronald Hattar commented, “From my perspective, I never had any question as to whether the SS/ELA initiative would be successful. Aside from being confident in our wonderful faculty and students, I knew that with Dr. Brown assisting us in implementing the program, our district would be successful. As every great leader knows, teaching and learning is about people, not programs. For me, the deciding factor in adopting the OC21 and SS/ELA programs was about Dr. Brown overseeing the programs.”
Mark Bordeau, senior food service director at Broome Tioga BOCES, has been selected as the 2019 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between buildings and districts.
Recognized as a visionary promoting nutrition and healthier meals, Bordeau has been the food service director at BT BOCES for 20 years. Under his leadership, BT BOCES expanded from serving two districts to now operating in 15 districts. One of his team’s greatest accomplishments has been the creation of the nationally recognized marketing brand “Rock on Café,” the purpose of which is to promote school meals serving more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and low-fat/fat-free milk. His innovative approach has been featured in the Society for Public Health Education’s nationally acclaimed research periodical, Journal of Health Promotion Practice.
Bordeau has been at the forefront of the movement to buy local New York State produce and products for use in school meals. He spearheaded an incentive whereby schools would receive an additional reimbursement from the state for school meals in exchange for using local products. Since 2014, he worked tirelessly in conjunction with the New York School Nutrition Association to bring this program to statewide implementation. As a result of his efforts, New York now has one of the most robust farm to school initiatives in the nation.
Working in an area where 62 percent of students experience some form of food insecurity, Bordeau has been instrumental in implementing several community-wide nutrition programs. Together with his team, he was a co-coordinator through 2013 of a community dinner at one of the local high schools that now routinely serves more than 3,000 meals at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner. He also worked with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to bring a backpack program to his districts as a means of filling the gap for kids who do not have access to meals when school is not in session. The backpack program now fills approximately 2,000 backpacks per week. Under his leadership, the Breakfast After the Bell program has grown from no participation to now serving more than 12,000 breakfasts per day and four of his districts have been recognized by Hunger Solutions NY as having the largest increase for breakfast in the state. Additionally, through his efforts, more than $57K was raised through the Wendy’s Walk for Kids for the Southern Tier Food Bank.
Noted Jennifer Martin, executive director of the New York State School Nutrition Association, “Mark has had a tremendous impact on children and families in his community. He truly leads by example, a sign of a great leader. He is honest, ethical, and always conducts himself with the highest level of professionalism.”
Darlene Browell, owner of Darlene’s Kitchen in Chittenango, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Friend of Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Believing that there’s nothing more important than giving back and paying it forward, Browell has long been an active supporter of Chittenango schools. In addition to hosting many varsity sports dinners at Darlene’s Kitchen and giving all students a 10 percent discount at the restaurant, she also employs a BOCES culinary arts student on an annual basis for a six week internship, giving them the opportunity to gain real world experience and learn first hand how to run a restaurant business. Browell also supports Bolivar Road Elementary School’s “Read to Them One School, One Book” initiative. Darlene’s Kitchen hosted a weekend long event where Browell was given the opportunity to be a guest reader for one of the book chapters, hosted a two-day One School, One Book breakfast with themed breakfast choices from the book, and passed out raffle tickets and candy corn to celebrate the event.
Students and community members alike know that they will always be greeted with a friendly smile by Browell at Darlene’s Kitchen. Browell notes that she and the staff enjoy talking with the students about their upcoming games and extra curricular activities when the students visit the diner. Commented Bolivar Road Elementary School Principal Renee Burgess, “As you walk through the doors of Darlene’s Kitchen, you are pleasantly greeted with a warm smile from Darlene or one of her dedicated waitresses. You feel welcome and right at home. She is always eager to lend a helping hand or participate in school initiatives.”
Continued Burgess, “Darlene from Darlene’s Kitchen has been an influential partner not only to Bolivar Road Elementary School, but to all Chittenango schools. Her efforts have impacted our school community in a powerful way.”
Dennis Priore, retired principal from the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
A retired principal having served 36 years in public education, Priore considers retirement a golden opportunity to embrace his passion for volunteering. As he notes, “Volunteering has been tremendously rewarding, not only because of the satisfaction of giving back and making a difference, but also because of the numerous friends I’ve been fortunate to make.” In addition to serving on many educational organizations, Priore is proud to be among the group of volunteers that worked tirelessly to bring back a local chapter of the Honor Flight to the area. Honor Flight flies World War II, Korean War, and any veteran with a serious illness to Washington, D.C. where they have the opportunity to visit Arlington National Cemetery and the national monuments. He commented, “To see the enthusiasm of the men and women who served in World War II is awe inspiring. Many of the volunteers, like I do, serve in gratitude of our late fathers.” Another group that he actively volunteers with is The Teacher’s Desk, an organization that distributes $1,000 of new school supplies to every teacher whose school has a 70 percent or greater poverty level. These supplies have been delivered to almost 5,000 teachers in 180 schools within the seven Western New York counties.
Commented colleague Douglas Regan, “Dennis’ community and volunteer work transcends most. He’s a member of the Western Zone of the New York State Retired Teachers’ Association, former president of the Kenmore Retired Educators’ Association, the Western New York Middle School Principals’ Association, and the Western New York Technology Education Association. He is a volunteer lector at St. Mary’s Church in Swornsville, on the Erie County Association of School Boards, on the Clarence Central School Board of Education, the Clarence Youth Board, Clarence High School PTO, and also a board member on the Buffalo Niagara Honor Flight as their public relations chairperson.”
Theresa Adamec, assistant principal at Lancaster High School in the Lancaster Central School District, has been selected as the 2018 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to an assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
A long time educator and administrator in the district where both she and her children attended, Adamec is known by all as a leader who passionately believes in empowering students to be the very best they can be. Many of the school’s more than 60 clubs and many events are student led. Students also routinely serve as contributing members on administrative committees helping to make decisions that create a climate where students feel valued and at home. Adamec is instrumental in facilitating these activities, serving as a mentor for the students. Noted Mark Skowron, a teacher at the high school, “Terry actively works and continuously demonstrates an elevated faith and trust in the abilities of our students to think, discuss, and analyze in a mature manner. Her genuine belief in our students and their ability to work with our adult leaders often times rewards our building with complete, well thought out plans, and creative solutions. The students recognize Mrs. Adamec’s respect for them and in turn show her an elevated reverence afforded to only the most respected adults within our building.”
Adamec was an integral member of a team who created a program to identify and support the needs of a sub-group at the high school that were considered at-risk for leaving school. Utilizing research-based practices such as credit recovery programs, support services both before and after school, as well as the development of an evening program known as LEAP (Lancaster’s Evening Alternative Program), her team was able to successfully reach these students resulting in a graduation rate of 98 percent for the district. Commented Principal Cesar Marchioli, “She has the creativity and knowledge to motivate some of our most challenging students. Many have recognized her as an inspiration, coming back years after graduation to thank her for not giving up on them. The students of Lancaster are her major concern and all her decisions are student focused.” Noted Assistant Superintendent Dr. Marie Perini, “Perhaps her greatest gift is that of caring and passion for students, and she readily collaborates with teachers in the development of curriculum and instruction that is student-sensitive, fair, achievable, and challenging. This is not always an easy task, but she is able to nuance conflicting views and find compromises that are good for the kids.”
The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) has selected Kevin Strahley, principal at Windsor Central Middle School in the Windsor Central School District, as a 2018 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year and the NASSP New York State Principal of the Year. This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to recognize outstanding principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession.
An administrator in a school with a 51 percent poverty rate, Strahley consistently leads with a “whatever it takes” approach, and continually promotes a positive culture of continuous improvement towards meeting the needs of all learners. To that end he has implemented several innovative programs. Each morning, all students meet in small advisory groups to eat breakfast and participate in discussions, competitions, and community service projects. Additionally, rather than including a study hall in the students’ schedules during the day, all students are offered a chance to attend a class period at the end of the day known as Mod 11. During Mod 11, students are able to participate in enrichment classes, clubs, as well as have the opportunity to attend learning centers for extra academic help, hosted by a team of teachers. Commented teacher, Stefanie Olbrys, “All of our Mod 11 activities connect to the curriculum as either a support for students in finding success, or an enrichment opportunity.”
The success of all these programs and more are evident by the fact that Windsor Central MS has been honored for the past six years as a Model School by “All Things PLC” and was one of ten National Model Middle Schools to present at the 25th Annual Model School Conference. Commented Associate Principal Toby Youngs, “Kevin’s attention to detail helps to ensure that students’ needs are being met on a daily basis. His drive to not only meet the needs of students but also to meet the needs of teachers is clearly a priority for him. His ability to push teachers to expand their thinking and to motivate them to pursue continuous improvement has enabled the building to reach new heights in student performance and overall achievement.”
Commented Superintendent of Schools Jason Andrews, “Kevin is an exceptionally genuine, honest, and ethical leader who is very warm, friendly, and sensitive. He cares deeply about the students and staff for whom he is responsible.”
Noted 8th grade student Ava Sacco, “There are so many things we appreciate about Mr. Strahley. He never fails to make us smile throughout the day because his bright, happy attitude towards our school and life is contagious.”
Jerrod Roberts, assistant principal at A.D. Oliver Middle School in the Brockport Central School District, has been selected as a 2018 New York State Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
A longtime educator, Roberts has served as assistant principal at A.D. Oliver Middle School for the past four years, during which time he initially assisted and now leads the implementation of the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) systems and structures at the school centered around three essentials: be respectful, be responsible, and be a learner. This has resulted in a more than 40 percent decrease in disciplinary referrals and increased student achievement as well as a positive turnaround of the culture at the middle school. Based on the success of the program, PBIS has since been implemented districtwide as well as regionally, and Roberts, along with his team, also had the opportunity to present their success at the 14th International PBIS Conference in Denver, Colorado. Commented science teacher Amy Phillips, “Jerrod has truly been a leader of the PBIS movement. From planning booster sessions, incentives, and teacher trainings, Jerrod has really become the ambassador for PBIS at AD Oliver. Due to his passion and work ethic, our staff is motivated to implement a PBIS approach.” While describing Robert’s work with PBIS, teacher Jessica Barton noted, “His positive outlook and willingness to work through any challenges helps make Brockport a wonderful place to be, either as a student or staff.”
A testament to his standing within the district at large, Principal Melody Martinez-Davis commented, “First and foremost, Mr. Roberts is highly respected among staff, students, parents, and the greater community… When entering any space, Mr. Roberts carries a sense of optimism, tenacity, and passion that is unwavering. He is a role model for all educators and students and a valuable partner to parents and our administration team. Students report that Mr. Roberts cares about them as a person and he truly listens to them.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lesli C. Myers noted, “Jerrod’s positive influence has been felt district-wide, specifically with his significant contributions to the Oliver Middle School and district-level strategic plans. He is adept at using and evaluating strategic processes and structures to promote continuous and sustainable improvement, within and beyond his area of responsibility as an assistant principal. Further, he has been instrumental in contributing to a positive middle school climate.”
Joanna Kletter, principal at South Oceanside Road School #4 in the Oceanside School District, has been selected as the 2018 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Known as a passionate leader who considers all stakeholders, Kletter has implemented several innovative programs benefitting students, staff, parents, as well as the greater Long Island community. Commented School Psychologist Lori Borelli, “Joanna demonstrates a passion for leadership that has earned her the respect of students, parents, teachers, and peers.” She spearheaded the transformation of the staff’s Superintendent’s Conference Day into an Unconference Day designed for participant-driven professional learning. Participants overwhelmingly reported that they felt valued and were full of ideas for future collaborations following the event. Commented Principal Julie McGahan of the district Kindergarten Center, “Mrs. Kletter redefined the way we deliver professional development in Oceanside, providing teachers with an experience that was 100 percent tailored to their interests, passions, and unique professional goals. The success of her vision for our Unconference Day was highly regarded and has inspired administrators from around Long Island to participate in and learn from our model with the intention to bring it back to their district.”
Understanding that children cannot learn when “their emotions are hijacking their brains,” Kletter integrated Marc Brackett’s RULER approach (Recognize Understand Label Express Regulate) to social and emotional literacy by teaching the students about feelings and their role in living a successful life. Parents are also invited to become active participants in their child’s education through the Parents as Learning Partners program. Parents are given many opportunities to connect home and school life by attending events such the Healthy Bus Ride (Walk to School Initiative), Owl Pellet Dissection, participating in learning field trips, as well as following school events via regular Twitter posts (@OSchool4). Commented Oceanside Board of Education Vice President Sandie Schoell, “For ten years she has employed her passion and creativity to shape an environment where everyone – students, teachers, and families – learns and grows together with a sense of purpose and joy.”
Commented Superintendent of Schools Phyllis Harrington, “Upon first getting to know Ms. Kletter, one is struck by her tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to her work. She is consistently thinking outside the box and is incredibly innovative as she looks to perform her role as building principal.”
Charles Tadduni, principal at Rondout Valley Junior High School in the Rondout Valley Central School District, has been selected as the 2018 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to the students, families, and staff in their learning communities and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Nominated by a large team of faculty, staff, parents, and students, Tadduni is known throughout the district as an exceptional visionary and compassionate leader. Noted senior crisis counselor David Mahoskey, Jr., “Charlie’s caring nature towards everything work related, and his goal of having Rondout Valley become recognized as a higher achieving school, is evident by the positive environment that he has created.” Commented teaching assistant Marcelle Dugan-Hasenflue, “Sometimes words are not enough. How do you explain compassion, kindness, awesomeness, dedication, strength, and understanding all in one word?” A student described Tadduni this way, “Mr. Tadduni helped me to learn that you get what you give. It feels like he really sees me when I’m with him.”
Tadduni is tireless in his support of all students, said special education teacher Ashley Woodill, “He proves time after time, that he believes in providing all students on all levels with the opportunity to access and excel in public education.” And when special education students compete in the Special Olympics, he has been known to spend hours working the grill to help feed the families during the all day games. He embodies the school’s mission and is appreciated by even the youngest students, one of whom commented, “He makes me laugh and cooked breakfast for us.”
As an administrator in a school where rising poverty levels have raised the number of students receiving free and reduced lunch from 20 percent to almost 50 percent in less than five years, Tadduni has implemented several innovative programs. He facilitated a book study on “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” for the teaching staff to develop a greater understanding of the challenges that living in poverty has on the students in the district. Realizing that healthy nutrition is key to learning, he wrote a grant to become a “Farm to School” building where they partner with local growers to utilize locally grown produce. The school also houses several gardens and a greenhouse and serves more whole foods in the cafeteria. In an effort to help support students in managing stress, Tadduni has implemented mindfulness trainings as well as a yoga club after school and during recess. Two sensory rooms support students with varying disabilities, and finally, he will soon be initiating a Restorative Justice program at the school as well.
Commented Speech/Language Pathologist, Judy Traficanti, “It is such a pleasure working with Mr. Tadduni. The positive atmosphere he sets in our middle school makes me love going to work every day.” Parent Pamela Jones noted, “My son and daughter had the honor of going to a school lead by Mr. Tadduni and I thank him for helping them to be better people and leaders.”
The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) has selected Michael Dardaris, principal of Hamilton Fulton Montgomery Pathways in Technology Early College High School (PTECH) at HFM BOCES, as the New York State High School Principal of the Year. This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
As the principal of this innovative high school, Dardaris’ leadership goal has been to completely redefine not only what leadership looks like, but what learning looks like in the public school. Recognizing that vision alone cannot cultivate innovation and school change, Dardaris and his team worked collaboratively to completely transform the traditional educational system through teacher leadership and student empowerment. “As the school’s leader, Michael encourages teachers and students to take risks, and in doing so has fostered a student-driven culture in which teachers function more like coaches and students take ownership of their education,” HFM BOCES Superintendent Dr. Patrick Michel said.
The PTECH program targets students who might not otherwise consider a college pathway and centers around a project-based curriculum focusing on professional skills in four career pathways: business management and administration, advanced manufacturing, information and technology, and health sciences. Students entering the program work simultaneously towards a Regents high school diploma and an associate’s degree in applied science from Fulton-Montgomery Community College. There is no cost to the student’s family. Commented student Natalie May, “One of the main things that I appreciate most about Mr. Dardaris is his ability to go with the flow. His willingness to take opinions and put them into action is something we appreciate most.”
Now in its fourth year, HFM PTECH will have its first graduates this year. Among these graduates, 10 to 15 students are expected to graduate with both their high school diploma and associate’s degree. PTECH has been recognized as one of 25 national models of Innovative Successful Practices by the American Association of School Administrators and The Successful Practices Network. Commented Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, “Students and educators from the HFM BOCES made a powerful presentation to the Board of Regents at our meeting earlier in March. It’s very easy to understand why their PTECH model is being hailed as a national model to be emulated by others. These students are also inspiring us with their service projects that benefit both the local community and the wider world around them.”
Commented Coordinator for the NYS P-TECH Program at NYSED Amy Cox, “Mr. Dardaris, as the principal of a NYS P-TECH school has taken this model and run with it, specifically seeking out those students whose needs, be they academic or socio-emotional, etc. are the highest. It is because of the leadership of Mr. Dardaris and his staff that these students, who once felt like outsiders themselves, are now empowered to be leaders at their college and community. Their success is a shared success that continues with each new class at HFM PTECH under the amazing leadership of Mike Dardaris.”
Annmarie Lehner, chief information officer for the Rochester City School District has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement. The candidate will have demonstrated excellent organizational and communication skills in supporting and promoting such innovative digital practices for his/her learning community.
A nationally recognized leader, Lehner has been actively involved in the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS) for many years, and has given several invited talks to the national organization. CGCS is a membership organization comprised of 70 of the nation’s large urban school districts. Commented Robert Carlson, director of management services for the CGCS, “My work with the CGCS, as well as my previous work as a senior executive in a major urban school district has provided me with the opportunity to interact with some of the best, brightest, and hardest working professionals in the business. Annmarie Lehner is without a doubt at the very top of this group.”
Commented Superintendent of Schools Barbara Deane-Williams, “As a recognized national leader in the field, she is a dynamic communicator and team builder with the ability to cultivate and manage high-quality strategic partnerships with business and educational leaders.” Deane-Williams continued, “She has constantly demonstrated exceptional and creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement within the Rochester City School District.”
Lehner has implemented several innovative programs in the Rochester City School District, not the least of which is her mission to provide cost-free home internet access to low income families in the City of Rochester. Her tireless work in this area has since expanded beyond her initial focus, bringing together all the large urban districts across New York State, forming the Coalition for Upstate Broadband (CURB). Commented Principal Jennifer Gkourlias, “Annmarie Lehner is a visionary, steadfast leader whose actions have singlehandedly transformed our Rochester City School District. Her vision, articulation thereof, and stewardship of the digital transformation project has been inspirational. She is truly among the best in her field and we would not be where we are as an educational system without this competent and forthright leader.”
Commented Glen Van Derwater, executive director of instructional technology, “Annmarie’s popularity among the staff with whom she works and the professionals she supports is testament to her interpersonal skills, dedication to education, and loyalty to the Rochester City School District.”
Lehner is also praised fro her focus on professional development for both teachers and administrators amid the district’s “digital transformation” – meeting educators “where they are” in their use of instructional technology.
Peter Kruszynski, principal of Lancaster Middle School in the Lancaster Central School District, has been selected for the 2018 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
A longtime educator, Kruszynski has served the Lancaster CSD for 24 years, and has been in his current position since 2000. During that time he has mentored nine assistant principals, five of whom have since moved on to become principals of their own buildings, and one who is currently in the district office. Noted Kruszynski, “My approach has been to involve and divide the responsibilities so the assistant principal is immersed in the daily routines we work in. As a two-person administrative office, we work in close proximity and make the building decisions in concert for the betterment of the school. I am very proud to support new aspiring administrators and give them the training to be successful.” Commented Andrew Kufel, director of secondary education, “Mr. Kruszynski’s biggest strength is his sincere care for the welfare and betterment of his faculty, staff, students, and those with whom he works with at the school and district. Mr. Kruszynski sets the bar high for himself and expects those around him to do the same. He understands, as the principal of LMS, he is the face of LMS.”
Kruszynski is also known as an administrator who consistently puts his students first. Under his leadership the number of students enrolled in accelerated studies have increased steadily, reaching an all time high this past year. More than 60 percent of the student body participates in extra curricular musical instruction, and there are over 30 different clubs and activities available for participation. Students who are at risk or high needs are supported via a core team that meets weekly to assure that those students reach their ultimate potential. Additionally, Kruszynski reorganized the building so that departmental courses are in proximity to each other and teachers have been given common planning times, which has enabled them to align curriculum and create common formative assessments for the school.
In addition to his work within the district, Kruszynski has also made significant contributions to the profession of school administration through extensive association leadership. He has been an active member of the School Administrators Association of New York State since 2000, serving in many positions ranging from regional president, to the state level board of directors, and finally serving as state president in 2009. He also previously served as the SAANYS state representative to the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and is currently a member of the NASSP board of directors. Commented Andrew Kufel regarding Kruszynski’s professional service, “This combination of experience and leadership has provided him with a unique global perspective that allows him to keenly understand education in a changing society.”
Andy Scott, data management specialist for the Rochester City School District, has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between buildings and districts.
A dedicated administrator in a large school district serving almost 30,000 students, Scott’s role in the (External School Operations) Office of Accountability is to identify processes to improve the quality of data and to communicate these results on a daily basis to end users. He is known as a mentor to all, a person who always takes the time to help teachers and staff to empower them to perform each technical task with accuracy and confidence. Commented Bettyjean Callon, senior information services business analyst, “Andy is a consensus builder who looks at the big picture in addition to the details. He is always available to answer questions or volunteer for a project that needs additional help.” Noted Karl J. Kania, director, external school operations, “No matter the task or request, Andy’s friendly demeanor and patience with even the most novice data manager/input person makes what he does extra special.”
Commented Assistant Principal Kwame Donko-Hanson, “He mines school data reports and shares out trends and notifies schools and administrators of certain anomalies and suggests ways to fix them. When I have questions about the information management systems of the district, Andy is always a phone call away to explain things so that I can understand it to aide me in performing my job responsibilities better.”
Scott serves on the Executive Council and Professional Development Committee for the Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester (ASAR) and was elected to the position of treasurer in 2017. As a part of that work, he focuses on how ASAR members can work together to move the Rochester City School District forward as a quality institution. As a parent to two children in the district, Scott is also a strong supporter of the district’s fatherhood initiative campaign “Men of Action Network,” whose mission is to develop, implement, and sustain fatherhood groups in the schools. Scott also serves as an Eagle Scout advisor for the Genesee Crossroads District sharing his expertise with those in the pursuit of becoming Eagle Scouts.
Commented John Rowe, first vice president of ASAR, “Mr. Scott is an exemplar leader. He leads with his heart, maintaining a clear focus on department/student achievement and their daily needs. He is a role model and has always been the consummate professional.”
Tony Martinez, franchise owner of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Deer Park has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Friend of Education award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Noting his personal commitment to community involvement, Martinez describes himself as a “yes man” who will always find a way to make things happen if the community has a need. At almost every event in the area, one can usually find Martinez in attendance. If it’s not possible for him to attend personally, he will always send a representative from the Texas Roadhouse in his stead. Commented Susan Bonner, principal of Deer Park UFSD, “Tony is a force to be reckoned with. He has supported the Deer Park school district and individual schools in the district in so many amazing ways.”
Not only has he provided hundreds of hours and countless donations of food to fundraisers and events within the district, he has also participated as a business partner, providing a work site for special needs students to practice and reinforce their life skills, as well as providing other employment opportunities to countless high school students. Additionally, he regularly allows the schools to use his venue for fundraising functions. As a direct result, the district has been able to purchase much needed playground and physical education equipment, a mobile school store, and has been able to offer a variety of assemblies and programs for students. In honor of everything he has done for the district, Martinez was made Grand Marshall of the district’s homecoming parade in 2017.
Martinez and the Texas Roadhouse of Deer Park have received numerous community service awards. In 2016, he was the recipient of the SCOPE Education Services Community Service Award, and was recently honored as a Hispanic leader in the community by Senator Boyle with the Hispanic Heritage Award. Martinez is also a member of the Deer Park Community Association, and served as the president of the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce from 2014-2017.
Eugene (Gene) Gordon, retired principal from the Schalmont Central School District, has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
Embracing retirement as an opportunity for continued community service, Gordon has worked tirelessly to serve SAANYS and numerous other community organizations. A longtime member of SAANYS since 1986, Gordon has served both on the regional executive committee as well as regional representative. He noted, “As a regional representative in SAANYS, I had the opportunity to assist members on a wide variety of issues from negotiations to professional relationships with colleagues, teachers, superintendents, and school board members.” Commented colleague Tom Sands, “Gene has been a key individual for years working for the region’s Day at the Races and Support a Scholar Golf Tournament. He has also assisted in the Recognition Dinner and has been on the selection committee for our student scholarships. SAANYS has been very fortunate to have benefitted from Gene Gordon’s outstanding efforts over the years.”
Continued Sands, “Recently, Gene has worked diligently to rejuvenate the Retirees Group and through his leadership planned the well-received Lessons Learned professional development program.” Gordon, worked with SAANYS in the development of Lessons Learned, a professional development program that brings together veteran administrators, most of whom are retirees, and newer administrators in their first 3-4 years of service, for conversations on the most challenging aspects of school administration. Plans are underway to launch this program statewide.
Gordon received his bachelor of arts in sociology, master of science in education, and master of science in educational administration from the University at Albany.
Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
2017 Award Winners
Michael Sylofski, managing program coordinator — e-learning services for the Capital Region BOCES Northeastern Regional Information Center (NERIC), has been selected as the first recipient of the 2017 Leader in Digital Education Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award recognizes a SAANYS member who has demonstrated exceptional, creative leadership in harnessing the potential of technology to further teaching and student achievement. The candidate will have demonstrated excellent organizational and communication skills in supporting and promoting such innovative digital practices for his/her learning community.
Known as a leader in implementing e-learning opportunities, Sylofski and his team developed a successful regional interactive video distance learning program for high school students. This program has grown into its own virtual “mini-high school” and serves more than 2,500 participating students from 69 organizations with 150 daily courses. The program is considered a national model and was highlighted by Cisco Systems in 2014 as a case study for its Education Industry Solutions YouTube channel. Commented NERIC Director Dale Breault, “Mike’s leadership has led to the creation of a system where any student, no matter where they go to school, can have access to a diverse and high quality curriculum taught by our region’s best teachers.”
Sylofski and his team were also instrumental in the growth of the Model Schools program, which now includes 44 districts across ten counties in northeastern New York. Noted Sylofski, “This program is geared towards helping teachers integrate the use of technology tools and resources to impact student learning.” He continued, “and is having a meaningful impact in participating schools by supporting technology integration professional development, assisting districts with local technology planning, creating a regional community to share best practices in technology integration, and introducing new technology resources into schools including robotics, coding, makerspaces, and virtual learning environments.”
In addition to these programs, Sylofski also serves on the board for the New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education (NYSCATE), currently as president-elect; and was a member of the NYS Education Department’s Instructional Technology Plan Work Group. Commented NYSCATE CEO and Executive Director Dr. Amy Perry-DelCorvo, “I hold Mike in the highest regard as his professionalism and commitment extends well beyond our board room. Mike is a thought leader who knows how to ask the right question, in the right tone, at the right time. His role as a leader in the state with distance learning has allowed thousands of students and teachers to engage in classes and professional development that would not have been possible without his leadership and guidance.”
Nicole Ey, assistant principal at Anna S. Kuhl (ASK) Elementary School in the Port Jervis City School District, has been selected as the 2017 New York State Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
An administrator in a school facing challenges due to a merger within the district, as well as frequent staff turnover, Ey is credited with leading the effort to turn around the morale at the school by strengthening communication among all stakeholders and implementing a positivity and character program called “Doing Things the Right Way.” Ey noted, “Since its implementation in 2012, close to 7,000 certificates have been presented to students earning ‘Doing Things the Right Way’ awards. Staff recognized my commitment to improving important components of school life and discipline referrals fell from 1,011 in 2013-14, to 652 in 2015-16.” Attendance at the school has also improved, currently standing at more than 96 percent. Commented parent Tanya Duryea, “The climate of ASK and the sense of community was indeed healthy and allowed my girls to thrive. I know the sense of community, trust, and excitement was a direct result of [Ey’s] positive strategies and the countless hours she stayed at the school. She certainly made an extraordinary difference in the lives of so many children in Port Jervis.”
Needing to address overcrowding at the school, Ey also spearheaded the revitalization of a little used (and often neglected) courtyard space into a vibrant outdoor learning classroom. She secured a grant from Lowes, and spent a summer organizing community volunteers and other donations. The space has become a popular venue for regular instruction and special events. The district high school has since created their own outdoor space, modeled after this one, and a neighboring district is considering replicating the idea as well. Commented colleague Andrea Rearer, “One of her most amazing endeavors is the outdoor classroom. She won her grant proposal and months of organization and tireless hours of work have resulted in a fabulous space for staff and students to embrace learning in a place that is inviting and peaceful. Her generous and kind nature inspires staff and community members to collaborate as a team to achieve goals. This is true leadership.”
Superintendent of Schools Thomas Bongiovi remarked, “I have been in education for 29 years and have had the honor of working and collaborating with some of the finest professionals in New York State. I can say without hesitation that Nicole Ey is one of the top educators that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”
Jeremy Rich, principal at Barringer Road Elementary School in the Central Valley Central School District, has been selected as the 2017 New York State Elementary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
An educator for many years, Rich has served the Central Valley CSD as a teacher or principal for more than two decades. Former principal of the now closed Remington Elementary School, Rich helped facilitate the successful merger of the Mohawk and Ilion school districts. Rich then became principal of the Barringer Road Elementary School, which was originally set up as a pre-k through 4 building. Just a few years after that change, it is now serving grades 2 through 4 for the entire district. Throughout this time of uncertainty for the school, Rich was known as a leader who created a culture of “encouragement, modeling, being involved, staying positive, finding solutions, being creative, working hard, and persevering when life gets tough, which then translates to profoundly impacting students to have the ambition, know how, and drive to create a better tomorrow.” First grade teacher Stephanie Szratter commented, “As a staff member, Jeremy has been able to create a feeling of ‘family’ within our building. It is a place that staff look forward to entering each day.”
Commented Director of Elementary Education and Human Resources Frances LaPaglia, “Jeremy has successfully shaped the culture of every building he has lead. He successfully transitioned to Barringer Road Elementary and immediately earned the admiration and respect of the Barringer Road teachers. I can attest to this personally, as I was the former Barringer Road principal.”
As part of his efforts for advancing a positive climate in the building, Rich, teachers, and the PTO implemented a character education program for the students called “Barringer Road Shining Stars,” as well as a “Buddy Bench” on the playground, so that no student need feel alone. Any staff member may nominate a student seen demonstrating good character. In addition to recognizing students, Rich shares a daily story centered around a positive character trait, and ends each morning announcement with “make it a great day.” The staff also looks forward to his daily “Inspiration Morning Coffee” email, which has now grown to a district-wide distribution. As noted in the numerous letters of support while speaking about the students and the character program, a colleague wrote, “Transforming them into people with empathy, generosity, patience, kindness, respect, responsibility, and all around integrity could not happen without the leadership of a man who also displays these character traits on a daily basis.”
Believing that “Awards are a collection of efforts,” Rich noted that, “The Barringer Road staff is an amazing, thoughtful, hardworking, committed, and caring group of teachers that have dedicated their lives to the teaching profession and the many hats that we all wear to help students find success. I am part of that team.”
Mary Beth Fierro, principal at Oswego Middle School in the Oswego City School District, has been selected as the 2017 New York State Middle School Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) and the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP). This award is given annually to a member of SAANYS and NAESP who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the children in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to the students, families, and staffs in their learning communities and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
A long-time educator of more than 30 years, Fierro has served in her current position as principal of Oswego Middle School for the last 6 years. During that time, she has worked diligently to lift up the school from SINI (School in Need of Improvement) status from the State Education Department to a flourishing school with a shared vision for all students and staff. One notable accomplishment is the 64 percent reduction of disciplinary referrals over the last five years, a direct result of a careful review of discipline data, and pro-actively implementing measures such as faculty and staff professional development on working with at-risk students, and introducing a strong character program within the school. Commented Superintendent of Schools Dean Goewey, “Although I have known Mrs. Fierro for over 40 years, my observations of her as our middle school principal have distinguished her in my mind as an agent of change for her school. She took the reins of a school in accountability status and has brought it to a high performing school. Her commitment to excellence for all students is evident in her leadership and love of her school.”
Well known as a mentor to fellow teachers and administrators in the district, Fierro has also implemented several mentor programs for students at the middle school. In her first year there, she introduced the Mentor-Scholar program where at-risk students are paired with a mentor from the SUNY Oswego School of Education working one-on-one with their mentee twice per week after school. This program has grown to include more than 75 students this year. For two years, the school was also able to offer a Mentor STEM program centered on forensics and robotics, which provided supplemental programming to highly interested students. Additionally, in an effort to reach students struggling with learning in a traditional classroom setting, Fierro implemented a PLATO (Standards Based Online Learning Program) Learning Lab, which enables students to work at their own pace all while benefitting from personalized instruction from a dedicated classroom teacher. Nominated by a team of teachers, they noted, “These are only a small portion of Mary Beth’s actions as a leader that have made her school a great place to work and educate students.” Parent Julie Chetney added, “I speak on behalf of so many parents in saying because of Principal Fierro, OMS is a place where parents feel welcomed and students feel at home.”
Commented Minetto Elementary School Principal Julie Kimmel-Gorman, “I am always amazed by the devotion Mary Beth has to the Oswego Middle School and the surrounding community. She treats every student like they were her own. She honestly wants what is best for each and every one of them. The best part is, she will go the extra mile to make it happen.”
The School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS) has selected Dr. Thomas Hall, principal at Brighton High School, as the New York State High School Principal of the Year. The award is given annually to a member of SAANYS who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Hall will also represent New York as the NASSP NYS Principal of the Year as sponsored by SAANYS’ national affiliate, the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). In addition to selecting a National Principal of the Year from all the state finalists, NASSP honors all state principals of the year at the Principal’s Institute held each year in Washington, DC.
Hall’s nomination was supported by teachers, students, community members, and fellow administrators, all noting his commitment to school climate, student supports, and teacher growth. In the past four years under Dr. Hall’s leadership June graduation rates have increased from 86.4 percent to 96 percent and notably, June graduation rates for special education students rose to 88 percent, the highest special education graduation rate in Monroe County. This is not by happenstance, but rather a result of Hall’s creation of support and monitoring teams put in place to offer targeted interventions to students. “He never loses sigh of the individual child,” commented fellow administrator Robert Thomas.
“When a school is lucky enough to have a principal with Dr. Hall’s passion, ingenuity, intelligence, and genuine kindness, its students are prepared to achieve greatness,” said student leaders Ally Thayer and Matthew Lipschitz. “Dr. Hall feels as though he succeeds when his students succeed; however, we feel it is time for him to receive recognition solely as a reflection of him.”
“Never can I recall feeling as though an honor was more deservedly or accurately being awarded,” said Brighton Superintendent Dr. Kevin McGowan. “Dr. Tom Hall is an outstanding leader. He is an even better person.”
William Davern, director of fine arts for the West Genesee Central School District, has been selected for the 2017 Outstanding Educator Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually to a SAANYS member who has made outstanding contributions in New York State schools through public education, professional organizations, or research and/or writing in the field of education.
Well known as an energetic and passionate leader for the arts, Davern led the curriculum redesign and growth of the music, visual arts, and dance programs for West Genesee’s 3,500 fine arts students. Specifically, Davern worked tirelessly to revitalize the West Genesee music program that had been experiencing declining enrollment. Through his efforts, the program has since rebounded and now serves 30 percent more students within the district. A testament to his passion, this past spring he had the privilege to lead a 630 member alumni marching band in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade, for which many past students traveled from across the country to participate! Commented Camillus Middle School Principal Beth Anne Lozier, “The pure force of his nature and energy for his work are just that visible to all of us who have the privilege to work with him. Bill’s outstanding leadership is rooted in his passion for excellence, razor-like focus on our district’s vision, combined with a collaborative approach.”
Under his direction, the Wildcat Marching Band captured an unprecedented twelve consecutive NYS Field Band Conference National Class State Championship titles, were three-time Grand National Finalists, as well as the 1990 Class AA National Champions. Additionally, many of the district’s ensembles have received numerous Gold and Gold with Distinction ratings from the NYS School Music Association.
Davern is recognized as a leader among his peers, taking numerous leadership roles within the West Genesee Administrators Association. Davern was also recognized as Citizen of the Year by the local Camillus Chamber of Commerce, was the first recipient of the Syracuse Area Music Awards for Lifetime Achievement in Music Education, and was inducted into the NY Field Band Conference Hall of Fame. Commented West Genesee High School Principal Barry Copeland, “Bill’s leadership has resulted in numerous and highest level of local, state, and national accolades reflective of distinguished achievement in music and all the arts. I would rank Bill in the top one percent of all educators and administrators I have ever worked with regarding talent, knowledge, service, integrity, and dedication.”
Dr. Christopher McGinley, instructional specialist for k-12 mathematics at Williamsville Central School District, has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Leadership and Support Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
The SAANYS Leadership and Support Award was established to recognize the outstanding leadership efforts of those members whose responsibilities require leadership through support services to educators and students across and between buildings and districts.
A dedicated educational administrator in a large school district serving almost 10,000 students in thirteen schools and one alternative education center, McGinley is known as a trusted leader in the community and a tireless advocate for students, supportive of parents, and a promoter of professional development for teachers and other administrators. Believing that “communities are the backbones of our society and that our educational community is not just comprised of the one in which we work,” he routinely invites educators from local colleges and from outside the district to professional development opportunities. Some of these have included regional math conferences; Common Core math institutes; a support group centered around implementation of standards, best practices, and assessment; as well as recurring parent math nights to which an estimated 700 parents have attended over the last two years. Dodge Elementary School Principal Charles Smilinich commented, “Dr. McGinley is one of those rare educational leaders who truly understands the holistic nature of the k-12 educational system and how to support fellow administrators – both within and among school districts.”
McGinley was also recognized by the United States Congress in 2006 for outstanding and invaluable service to education, advises the New York State Education Department in the area of mathematics, curriculum, and assessment by serving on the commissioner’s Content Advisory Panels, and has formed his own advisory group in Western NY. Commented colleague Eileen K. Ryan, “Dr. McGinley is highly regarded as a steadfast advocate for educators, providing them with every possible valuable resource to improve student learning. It is little wonder that literally hundreds of teachers volunteer to work on teams and committees led by Dr. McGinley.”
Noted in a joint letter by Superintendent of Schools Anthony J. Panella and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology Ryan Schoenfeld from the neighboring Amherst Central School District that “the handful of examples shared in [their] letter only scratches the surface of the contributions that Dr. McGinley has made to the field of education. He has touched many educators’ lives, who in turn shape the trajectory of our learners.”
Sheelarani Webster, kindergarten-12 principal of the World of Inquiry School #58 in the Rochester City School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 K-12 Building Principal Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
The K-12 Building Principal Award was created to recognize the unique characteristics of a K-12 building and the related demands, expectations, and challenges of a principal in this multi-level environment. It is given annually to a SAANYS member who is a successful K-12 principal, a recognized educational leader, and who demonstrates leadership in establishing the pace, character, and mission of the building and demonstrates creativity and resourcefulness in providing comprehensive programs and services for all levels and grades.
Webster has been the principal at the World of Inquiry School since 2010 but has deep roots in its unique learning environment, starting there as a teacher over 20 years ago. The school began as a K-6 school and has grown out into a K-12 using the EL Education approach since 2002. The growth was purposeful, using EL to “put the inquiry back into World of Inquiry.” The school is focused on the values of tenacity, inquiry, compassion, self-discipline, and integrity and Webster is known for her empowerment of teacher leadership and trust to make this vision a reality for the entire school community.
“We have a school work plan that outlines what a rigorous approach for education looks like at our school and Sheela is tenacious about analyzing data that provide evidence as to whether or not the plan is being implemented with fidelity,” commented teachers in a letter of support. “The fact that we have almost 100 percent retention… and a graduation rate of 90 percent in a district where the graduation rate averages [46 percent] is strong evidence that her approach is working.” The school also boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its graduates.
Webster has won the hearts of her students along the way. “Mrs. Webster is making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream come true because she is loving, caring, and respectful,” said a student. “She never gives up on us and she believes in all of us and our school.”
Thomas Kachadurian, an associate principal at Colonie Central High School in the South Colonie Central School District, has been selected as the 2017 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to an assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Nominated by a team of teachers, students, and parents from Colonie Central HS, Kachadurian is known as a dedicated leader with limitless energy, empowering both students and staff to embody a culture of caring and commitment to the greater school community. Parent and PTSA president Stephanie Cogan noted, “He constantly brims with ideas/solutions/innovations. He thinks and plans big, and is absolutely positive that plans (and dreams) will come true.” Along those lines, Kachadurian embarked on an effort to return the high school culture to a place of “Raider pride” where all students and staff share ownership and responsibility for their shared community.
To that end, Kachadurian created Raiderfest, an all day event focused on celebrating community and raising charitable funds; and developed the iCARE program at the high school. iCARE is a unique character education program standing for integrity, community, accountability, respect, and empathy. Kachadurian notes that iCARE was designed to “give voice to the voiceless, and empower the marginalized and disenfranchised.” A hallmark of this program is allowing the students to lead. As noted by elementary principal, Jill Penn “Each step of the way, Tom Kachadurian was there, a silent leader and tireless champion of what it means to be a person of character who never stopped encouraging the students to try and take their vision of iCARE to the next level.” Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Timothy Backus commented, “He is thoughtful and inclusive in his organization of these events, but also tenacious in securing resources and looking for the hook that will bring more people together. He is one of the finest administrators and overall individuals that I have worked with in my educational career.”
The success of this program can be gauged by the following comments from students: “Mr. Kachadurian often offers kids who get into trouble a chance to make good rather to face detention. These kids come into iCARE and immediately gain a sense of belonging and welcome. To give someone a sense of belonging is to give them hope, is to give them purpose.” And, “In reflecting upon my own experience, I can say that it is exhilarating to see ideas become reality. My own experiences with iCARE helped me develop self confidence as well as communication and leadership skills.” And finally, “I went from being someone who didn’t really fit in anywhere at our high school, to being one of the co-presidents of iCARE. He not only helped me to find a place where I could belong and make a difference, but also provided me with skills that I will need and use for the rest of my life.”
Kim McCluski has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Friend of Education award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
A highly respected supporter of public education through her long-standing membership on the Pittsford Board of Education, McCluski has also served as president on the Monroe County School Boards Association and the Nazareth College Board. Honored with the PTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 by the Pittsford District PTSA for her leadership and the many program improvements she instituted at the district level since joining the organization in 1988, PTSA Co-President Elizabeth Norten noted, “Kim is an innovative thinker, always looking for creative ways to solve the complex issues facing school districts today.” She cares deeply about the district and it is reflected in her willingness to serve on committees, the way she gets to know the students and staff, her support at athletic events, musical performances, awards ceremonies, and more. Commented Pittsford Mendon High School Principal Karl Thielking, “Upon my arriving in Pittsford sixteen years ago as a high school principal, I immediately became aware of the deep and broad esteem in which she is held. More importantly, I quickly understood that that respect was due to her absolute focus on the importance of public education and her own infinitely deep respect for the work and abilities of school administrators and teachers.”
Together with the Pasley family, who had originally established the event, and honoring the memories of her son, Ryan and the Pasley’s daughter, Katie, McCluski helps facilitate the annual Rainbow Classic Basketball Games between the district’s two high schools for both varsity boys and girls. This event raises money for Golisano Children’s Hospital where Katie and Ryan were treated. She noted that the two families “combined our efforts to help bring something good out of something so tragic for our families. The game does many things on many different fronts and sells out in one day.” Over the past 16 years, they have donated close to $500,000 in Pittsford School’s name, all while teaching the students there the importance of volunteering, giving back to the community, community service, and compassion. She continued, “It has been a wonderful way for me to use my grief towards uniting our schools and community with the hospital.”
Thomas Long, retired high school principal from the Cazenovia Central School District, has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
Embracing retirement as an opportunity for continued community service, Long has worked tirelessly to serve SAANYS and numerous other community organizations, all with an eye toward benefitting education. Commented colleague Frederick Kirsch, “Tom Long is a distinguished educator and effective SAANYS leader. Respected by teachers, parents, and students, Tom was an impeccable instructional leader. In retirement, Tom spent many years advocating for SAANYS members.”
He is active as a board member for the Cazenovia Area Community Development Association, and successfully lobbied to add a high school representative to the board of directors, becoming “an impactful program for both the participating students and for the development of our board” as noted by Executive Director Lauren Lines. Long is also an active member of the Cazenovia Lions Club. Having previously served as its president, he currently leads numerous committees including the student scholarship and the student of the month committees. He is also a current member of the Lions Club Foundation, which has helped to raise nearly $10,000 to help the Cazenovia CSD implement an anti-bullying campaign known nationally as Rachel’s Challenge. Commented fellow member of the Lions Club Nick Kagey, “For all Tom does for his community, the one characteristic that stands out to me most of all is that he serves with great humility. Others are drawn to service because of the humility that is omnipresent in everything he does. Tom leads by example.” In addition to these community service efforts, he is also a long standing board member of the Cazenovia Methodist Church and volunteers as a driver for the Cazenovia Area Transportation Service.
Commented Cazenovia CSD Superintendent Matthew Reilly, “Tom Long has given me the model for my eventual retirement. He has continued to help students and others in his community. He selflessly shares his time and wisdom with others as he relentlessly strives to make the world a better place.”
2016 Award Winners
Dr. Donald Gately – Principal, Jericho Middle School, Jericho School District
Serving as a school administrator since 1996, Gately has been in his current position at Jericho Middle School for the last 10 years. Known for his sensitivity to the unique emotional and developmental needs of early adolescents, he is always available and works diligently to create a safe and welcoming community for everyone. Gately implemented the Olweus Bully Prevention Program resulting in a substantial decrease in incidents of bullying. The school is a member of the Nassau County Anti-Bias Consortium and hosts an annual Diversity Day, as well as being one of the few middle schools to offer a Gay Straight Alliance Club. As noted by student Nuzhat Tarafder, “JMS offers a safe space for all its students. I am a Bengali Muslim student who is a strong ally for the LGBTQ community. I am proud to say in the brief three years at the school, I have heard no homophobic remarks or witnessed homophobic activity.” Tarafder continued, “Diversity Day has offered me a place to talk about Islamaphobia. I finally was able to face my demons after years. The students were attentive and the staff very comforting.”
Considering himself lead learner, Gately is equally passionate about professional growth and community development. Commented the team of teachers that nominated him for this award, “His work ethic is infectious. It trickles down to his staff and ultimately to the students of JMS, providing a shared vision for every member of the JMS community. Dr. Gately refuses to accept anything less than his own personal best and this permeates throughout Jericho Middle School.” Under his leadership, Jericho Middle School has been selected as a National School to Watch in 2009, 2012, and 2015 and hosts visiting teams from throughout the state. He is also the co-founder of EdCamp Long Island, which recently hosted over 275 educators; serves on the planning teams for nErDcampLI and EdCampLeaderNY; and consults with several districts to help organize their staff development activities. Noted colleague Tony Sinanis, “Don is a true lead learner in that he is always modeling what he expects of others, which is evidenced by the fact that he leads voluntary PD sessions during lunch for his staff, consistently engages with students in an effort to amplify their voices, and shares his beliefs with the world in the form of a blog. He also always maintains an incredibly positive attitude that he shares with everyone around him! He is an example for all those around us!”
Gately received his bachelor of arts degree from Marist College, his master of arts in literature degree and professional diploma in supervision and administration from Queens College-CUNY, and doctorate of educational leadership from Concordia University.
Suzanne Gray – Principal, Old Bethpage Elementary School, Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD
An experienced educator, Gray has served in her current position at Old Bethpage Elementary School for the last seven years where she believes that it is just as important to teach kindness and empathy, as to teach math and science. To that end, every student at the school learns to embrace the “bucket filling philosophy” of author Carol McCloud. Each month is centered around a social-emotional learning goal such as citizenship, dignity, acceptance, and integrity, for example, and a monthly charity is identified to align with that goal. As noted by parent and president of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education, Gary Beton, “At Old Bethpage, the students don’t just learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, they learn about the world and the impact they have on it. Developing global citizens who care for each other, the environment, and the world we live in has become the culture of Old Bethpage Elementary School under Suzanne Gray’s leadership and I could not be prouder.”
Gray has also worked diligently with staff to maintain a culture of continuous learning, all the while keeping the focus on “what’s good for the kids?” – a concept she is passionate about. As noted in the numerous letters of support from colleagues, including Old Bethpage Elementary School Special Education Teacher Nancy Klein, “Suzanne Gray is an instructional leader who understands the importance of positive culture in a teaching and learning environment. By establishing a culture of trust, collaboration, respect, and support, Mrs. Gray has helped develop a learning atmosphere centered on a love of learning.”
Recently, she implemented a “Share and Steal” program open to colleagues in the surrounding area. Building leaders from neighboring districts meet for a morning of collaboration and conversation, to share great practices that others can steal, or request guidance and feedback on an issue. Subsequent meetings are scheduled in different school districts, giving everyone an opportunity to show innovations within their own buildings.
Commented Superintendent of Schools Lorna Lewis, “Ms. Gray embodies passion for students, instruction, collegiality, and life-long learning. Her capacity to engage and build leadership skills is exceptional, because she leads by example. She represents what we hope all educators will become: a fierce advocate for children and strong role model for setting and achieving excellence in education.”
Gray received her bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the College at New Paltz, her master of science in elementary and special education from Touro College, and her advanced certification from Baruch College.
Matthew Younghans, Clarkstown High School South, Clarkstown CSD
Matthew Younghans, assistant principal at Clarkstown High School South in the Clarkstown Central School District, has been selected as the 2016 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given annually by SAANYS and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) to an assistant principal who has set the pace, character, and quality of education for the students in his or her school. Nominees are administrators who are committed to students, parents, and the community and have shown exceptional contributions to the educational process.
Hired as assistant principal of the high school from within the district, Younghans has strived to continue his approachable and consistent leadership style, while maintaining and expanding relationships first developed at the middle school with the students now at the high school. Often visible in the hallways and at extra curricular activities, he has fostered a climate of openness at the school. As noted by Debra Tarantino, principal of Clarkstown HS South, “Mr. Younghans is an approachable, talented, intelligent, and well-rounded assistant principal whose empathy towards all stakeholders allows him to be able to handle even the most delicate and difficult situations with professionalism and respect.”
Known as a lifelong learner, Younghans has offered many professional development opportunities to teachers including “Viking Institutes,” which offer workshops on Common Core, Google Classroom, the teacher evaluation process, and adapting modules to meet the needs of instruction. Several teachers have now become Google certified and are able to offer ongoing support for building teachers to incorporate Google within their classrooms. Additionally, he is recognized as a mentor to the new teachers at the school. A colleague commented, “He takes the role of being a mentor seriously and goes to great lengths to include the interns in all aspects of school building leadership.” Special education teacher, Jacqueline Hurley noted, “Matt has not only taught me to grow as a teacher, but how to be an effective building leader. Matthew Younghans truly fits the description of an outstanding leader.”
When students approached Younghans to be the staff advisor of the Youth United Way Club, he immediately jumped in to raise awareness of local poverty and to meet the needs of less fortunate students within the community. Of obtaining and distributing formal dresses and suits for underprivileged students to use at school events, one of the students in the club stated, “Mr. Younghans is up for anything including dresses. This selfless act taught me to never underestimate people’s willingness to give.” Under Younghans’ guidance, the student leaders in the club have received county recognition from the United Way of Rockland County.
Younghans received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Hartford, his master of science in education from the College of New Rochelle, and his certificate of advanced study in school leadership from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Richard Loeschner, Principal at Brentwood High School
A school administrator for sixteen years, Loeschner has served as principal of Brentwood High School for the last seven years, in which time he has been credited with leading the school out of significant challenges and turning the school culture around. Under his guidance, the graduation rate has increased by 17 percent with about 85 percent of the graduating class attending two or four year colleges, and through Loeschner’s leadership, school suspensions have been reduced by an astounding 65 percent. Commented fellow administrator and former Superintendent of the Brentwood School District Joseph Bond, “Rich is the best principal I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Rich’s values, beliefs, attitude, and vision have been apparent to all stakeholders at BWHS. Mr. Loeschner’s passion, ideas, and leadership style have had a major impact on BWHS.”
A strong believer in a trustful, happy, and loving learning environment, Loeschner makes it a point to be visible all day, every day, greeting every student as they pass, and attending as many extra curricular and special events as possible. Commented former student Sapna Rampersaud, “Mr. Loeschner was always available and, most importantly, genuinely interested. There isn’t anyone that I knew who was more devoted to seeing Brentwood HS prosper than Mr. Loeschner. I was always so inspired by his eloquence when he spoke at every school event, the way that he managed to succeed both in doing his administrative work and building relationships with students, and the way that he was committed to leading each student toward their success.”
Brentwood High School is a unique school in that it has one of the largest English Language Learner populations in New York, as well as a large population of Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). The student population represents more than 50 nationalities and a significant portion will be the first in their families to graduate from high school and have the possibility to attend college. In order to reach these families and students, teams meet with the students monthly to monitor their progress and give them strategies to help them acclimate to their brand new environment. The school also hosts five Bilingual Parent Informational Nights throughout the school year. Noted parent Judy Crawford, “He was proud to be a principal in such a diverse school community. Mr. Loeschner would give the shirt off his back if it meant providing a student with the opportunity to complete high school and further a career, whether it be in college, the military, or the world of work. He is a dedicated, caring, hardworking man who always seems to place the needs of others before him. He truly has been an inspiration to the Brentwood school district and community.”
Loeschner received his bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees from Stony Brook University and his professional diploma from Dowling College.
Joanna Valente-Orr, retired elementary principal from the Northeastern Clinton School District, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
Valente-Orr has dedicated her professional life to public education and educational leadership. She has been a member of SAANYS since 1984, serving not only on the board of directors and executive committee from 1995 until her retirement in 2006, but still currently active as the SAANYS Region 7 representative. Valente-Orr remarked, “Being the local ‘face of SAANYS’ has been a privilege.” She continued, “SAANYS gave me an incredible opportunity in the fall of 2009. I was asked to represent SAANYS on the statewide committee that was formed to write the New York State Teaching Standards. The opportunity to work with educators from all over our state was a privilege and a professional learning experience for me.”
Embracing retirement as an opportunity for continued community service, Valente-Orr serves numerous local organizations, including the New York State Retired Teachers Association, where she served as membership co-chair and program chair; Champlain Valley Educational Services and their Career Connect Project; the CVES/BOCES Advisory Committee for the Health Insurance Consortium; and the North Country Teacher Resource Center as part of the Community Action Poverty Simulation. She is also on the board of directors for the Clinton County ARC where she serves on the personnel and guardianship committees.
Considering herself a life-long learner and equally committed to all aspects of education and believing that she was a better principal because she taught, and a better teacher because she was a principal, Valente-Orr has been an adjunct professor at SUNY Plattsburgh since 1988, a position she still holds. Noted Dr. Peggy Snowden, chair peer review group, “Students derive great benefit from having Ms. Orr as their instructor. She serves as a role model both for faculty as well as students as she models lifelong learning and continued professional growth.” Commented an adjunct faculty colleague, “Joanna has been such an inspiration and support for me since I first met her three years ago. She has always offered honest feedback and encouragement. She has helped me look at teaching, and myself, with a clear head and positive perspective.”
Irving Schwartz was a founding member of SAANYS. This award is given annually to a retired SAANYS member who, in retirement, has made significant contributions to the welfare of the association, education, and the greater community.
Genna Suraci – Principal, Ulster County BOCES Career and Technical Center
A long time school administrator, Suraci has been principal of Ulster County BOCES Career and Technical Center for the last 21 years. She is known as a leader who believes in her staff and students, noting that “If the teaching staff has an idea for student improvement or curriculum change, I will explore, plan, and implement it with them. If it is successful, then it is their success. If it fails, then it was our failure.” Commented teacher Gen Rochetti, “She truly believes that all students can succeed and her passion for education is apparent in her interactions with staff and students. Her love of education permeates the building and creates a ripple effect that can be found in every program.”
A testament to her leadership and her extraordinary and accepting staff, the school has become a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ students. Suraci works diligently to ensure that the Career and Technical Center is also a welcoming and safe place for all students. She’s a very visible administrator and greets the buses every day, giving her the opportunity to look for potential problems and talk with students about their issues or concerns. Noted student Annonda Williams, “I really like that Ms. Suraci and her staff wait outside by the buses or inside by the door. They do it to get a feel for how kids are feeling that day. I’ve seen them stop kids if they saw that they were having a problem. I love the fact that she sees past the issue and tries to get to the root of the problem.”
Commented administrator Amy Storenski, “Ms. Suraci promotes social justice. Often, students who have experienced failure in traditional schools come to the Center and make great gains because they have discovered a love for learning and a passion. It is rewarding to witness such student transformations. I have seen first hand many lives transformed at the Career and Technical Center under Ms. Suraci’s leadership, my own included.”
Suraci received her master of science in educational administration from City College of New York.
Brian Edmister II – Genesee Valley Elementary School
Brian Edmister II, principal of Genesee Valley Elementary School in the Genesee Valley Central School District, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the T. Walsh McQuillan Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS).
Walsh McQuillan served the children and educational leaders of New York State throughout his life. He was the fist person to serve in joint capacity as executive secretary to the predecessors of SAANYS and was an outstanding contributor to elementary education throughout his career. This award is given annually to a SAANYS member and administrator who has strong leadership skills and has made exceptional contributions to elementary education.
A long time educator, Edmister has served as principal of Genesee Valley Elementary School since 2006, in which time he is credited with turning the school culture to one of collaboration and trust. Commented Director of Curriculum, Instructional, and Pupil Personnel Services Carol McCarville, “When I reflect on Brian’s leadership style, I always think of him as more of a ‘leadership coach.’ Through his constant stream of support, encouragement and ‘yes we can’ attitude, Brian has earned the respect and following of his faculty. Brian has developed a culture of risk-takers where teachers view failure as a learning experience and feel free to implement new ideas.” One such new idea was the result of a collaborative effort among Edmister and the teaching staff, a unique STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) program, the goal being full-integration of all curriculum and incorporating movement activities into every lesson. On speaking about the STEAM program, first grade teacher Nichole Wesche noted, “This is allowing our students to enter into a hands-on world that is benefiting them in more than one way in their education. He listens to his staff and works alongside them, not powering them from the top. This is what a true leader does.”
Another innovative change implemented by Edmister, was moving from percentage-based grading to a standards-based grading systems based on best practices. This new grading system has allowed teachers to make classwork more intentional and integrate their lessons more fully. As a direct result, developing skills has become more important than a percentage grade of an individual assignment.
Also a leader within his community, Edmister and his family were active in the renovation of a local building along the Genesee River, which opened as a non-profit called “Healing Waters.” Healing Waters houses a community center, a teen recreation area, as well as renting kayaks for use along the river. He also founded a youth swimming club, which has now grown to more than 70 swimmers. Commented Superintendent Brian Schmitt, “Mr. Edmister cares deeply for children. He serves as the instructional leader and cheerleader-in-chief of the Genesee Valley Elementary School. Brian is personable, approachable, and engaged with all stakeholders in the district. He distinguishes himself through his dedication and commitment to the community. He organizes fundraisers for families who face hard times and gives personal time generously to support community endeavors. Brian coaches swimming, wears costumes to promote reading, and sits in a dunking booth to fundraise for student activities. He has a laser-like focus on creating and supporting instructional and enrichment activities that benefit students.”
Edmister received his bachelors degree from Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, his masters degree from Empire State College, and his certificate of advanced studies from SUNY Brockport.
Mary K. Kline, Director of Adult, Early Childhood, and Outreach Education, Herkimer- Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES
A dedicated educational administrator at BOCES since 1982, Kline has implemented countless new initiatives and educational programs for the school and community. These services are wide ranging and include prekindergarten programs, migrant education services, services for homeless students, adult continuing education, as well as a nursing program offering both day and evening options. The prekindergarten programs are located in eight buildings and migrant education services span 143 school districts across 14 counties in central and eastern New York state. Commented colleague David Dudgeon, “While the list of accomplishments is grand, I am most impressed with her ability to balance this wide range of programs, find resources to fund all of them, and deal cooperatively with clients, parents, students, administrators, funding sources, and her staff. Mrs. Kline seems always present, always involved, always leading, always innovative, and always in the center of planning for yet another service to meet the needs of students, parents, staff, and the community.”
Known as a cooperative and collaborative leader whose door is always open, and with an unfaltering commitment to students and families, Migrant Educator Kathleen Smith noted, “Across the various programs in Mary’s supervision, I daresay that no needy family goes unnoticed. Her office is a veritable Santa’s workshop as Christmas nears. In addition, no member of Mary’s staff suffers a loss or problem alone.” Continued Smith, “Mary has built trust among and with her staff. She does so by example, as her staff members quickly recognize Mary as a steadfast professional.” Noted LPN Coordinator Sara Nicolette, “When I am dealing with my adult students, she gives me sound advice and has the ability to defuse any situation. Her door is always open and her advice is always welcome.”
Commented District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua, “She has a quiet and unassuming manner which puts people at ease while steadfastly advocating for the most vulnerable among our children and adults. Parents will rightly think of certain principals or superintendents when identifying effective educational leaders. When those same administrators, as well as business and industry leaders in and around Herkimer County identify exceptional educational leadership, they think of Mary Kline.”
Kline received her bachelor of science from Nazareth College, and her master of science and certificate of advanced study from SUNY Cortland.
Dr. Douglas Regan has been selected as the recipient of the 2016 Friend of Education award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). This award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has consistently contributed to the support and advancement of outstanding public education and the students of New York State.
Dr. Regan has truly dedicated his professional life to the service of education and the children of western New York. Spending 39 of his 40 years as an educator in the Starpoint Central School District, Regan was the longest serving principal in Starpoint history. Honoring his commitment and service to the district, the intermediate school was officially renamed the Dr. Douglas J. Regan Intermediate School on his retirement in 2011. Commented Superintendent of Schools C. Douglas Whelan, “Dr. Regan is a respected member of the Starpoint community and is known to all of us as a person of very high moral character and ethical standards. Throughout his career, he was an excellent role model for students, staff, and his administrative colleagues. His guidance and advice on instructional matters was invaluable to me as a new superintendent and I valued his commitment and expertise during the 13 years we worked together.”
Continuing his dedication to education and community in retirement, Regan is currently the education chairman of the Niagara Region PTA, which serves more than 30 school districts across western New York. Honored by the PTA, he has been the recipient of their Special Service Award, as well as the NYS PTA Life Membership Award. Regan also served as the first executive director of the Partnership for Smarter Schools. Additionally, he served as the SAANYS region 12 retiree representative; serves on the board of directors for his alma mater, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute; the board of directors at St. Amelia’s Elementary School; and volunteers at the Nativity Miguel Middle School in the City of Buffalo. He is also presently an adjunct professor of education at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn, NY. In 2012 he received the Adjunct Teacher of the Year Award from the college.
Commented colleague and SAANYS President John McKenna, “Dr. Regan embodies excellence and exemplifies every positive quality a person can possess: dedication, passion, integrity, honesty, and professionalism are only a few of the words people routinely use to describe Doug. Most of all, he has been dedicated to helping children learn and may be the most compassionate person in the world!”
Embracing the school philosophy that every student be challenged to reach his or her greatest potential, regardless of their circumstance, Greene works diligently to guarantee that every student be given every chance for success. Considering herself lead learner, she noted, “Continuing to grow in my practice as an educational leader is the greatest service I can give to the learning community. There is always more to learn, always people who know more than I do and endless collaborative learning opportunities to take advantage of.” Under her leadership, the school implemented a “course recommendation change contract” that outlines a path for students with big dreams, who may not have been recommended for a higher-level class, the ability to pursue those dreams. These contracts have had a 22 out of 23 success rate, proving that academic excellence is possible if you have someone who believes in your potential.
Additionally, she coordinated a free after school tutoring program in math, science, English, and social studies; and organized summer global history and ELA bootcamps for struggling students. These courses resulted in a 92 percent pass rate for those New York State regents exams. Commented Roy Paisley, Red Hook HS principal, “I believe it is Mrs. Greene’s efforts that have enabled Red Hook HS to achieve ‘NYS Reward School’ status through her work with students who are at-risk for failure, for whatever reason. We are a high preforming school with extensive international baccalaureate and advanced placement programs. It is Mrs. Greene who insures that we don’t lose sight of those who have the greatest academic difficulties.”
Also known as an administrator who is always available for her students, parents, teachers, and community, Greene supports a collaborative and positive culture in her building. Following the suicide of a sophomore student, Greene led the way in providing appropriate services for students and families by collaborating with district and county mental health colleagues, as well as working to implement suicide prevention programming at the school.
Commented student Isabel Vasquez, “She has taught me much about maintaining personal dignity and humility in the face of stress or contention. She is always willing to take time to listen to students. She will always greet you when she sees you, ask about your life, support you in making things happen, and most importantly, make you feel capable and valued as a student. She has remained one of the greatest influences in my school career.”
Greene received her bachelors degree from SUNY Geneseo, and her masters in secondary education, masters in educational leadership, and her advanced certificate in school district leadership from Queens Graduate College.