Nominate A Colleague for a SAANYS Award!

Each year, we celebrate exceptional New York State administrators with an awards program and banquet held 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 their accomplishments and share their successes with our members and the public. For more information on the SAANYS awards program, please contact Susan Jaronski at


Learn more about our annual awards:

  • View a list of past winners below.
  • Review a list of award categories and criteria here.
  • Nominating is easy with this online form.

SAANYS is the official state affiliate to the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and their annual awards programs.

2016 Award Winners

Dr. Donald Gately - SAANYS New York State Middle School Principal of the Year and NASSP NYS Principal of the Year

Dr. Donald Gately – Principal, Jericho Middle School, Jericho School District

GatelyServing 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 - SAANYS and NAESP New York State Elementary Principal of the Year

Suzanne Gray – Principal, Old Bethpage Elementary School, Plainview-Old Bethpage CSD

Sue HeadshotAn 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 - 2016 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year (NASSP)

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 - SAANYS New York State High School Principal of the Year

Richard Loeschner, Principal at Brentwood High School

LoechenerA 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 - Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award

Orr150Joanna 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 - James E. Allen Award

Genna Suraci – Principal, Ulster County BOCES Career and Technical Center

Suraci150A 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 - T. Walsh McQuillan Award

Brian Edmister II – Genesee Valley Elementary School 

Edmister150Brian 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 - Leadership and Support Award

Kline-150Mary 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 - Friend of Education Award

Regan150Dr. 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!”

Amanda Greene - Outstanding Educator Award

Green150Amanda Greene – Assistant Principal, Red Hook High School

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.

2015 Award Winners

Charles Smilinich - New York State Elementary School Principal of the Year (NAESP)

Charles Smilinich, Colonial Village Elementary School, Niagara Wheatfield CSD

SmilinichA long time educator of a dozen years, Smilinich has served in his current position at Colonial Village Elementary School since 2011, in which time he has been credited with leading the school out of the significant challenges and troubles that were present upon his arrival at the school, which has a nearly 70 percent family poverty rate. This leader has turned the school around, creating an environment of inclusion, calm, and hope, with the goal that each student will thrive, be successful, and rise to their capabilities. To that end, Smilinich has worked diligently with the staff to implement team-based teaching, and was instrumental in receiving a district-wide counseling grant from the US Department of Education, which enabled the expansion of intervention services for the school. In order to increase morale and pride at Colonial Village, he changed the colors of the school hallways from gray to vibrant colors, encouraged teachers to post student work there, and every morning following his lively daily announcements, the kids chant the school motto “the greatest school in the universe,” which everyone continually strives to live up to.

Commented Superintendent of Schools Lynn Marie Fusco, “Through his persistence, passion, and personal commitment to the students and community, he has transformed the school into a well-managed, community oriented hub of student and family learning. He has created an environment where school pride abounds, and students and teachers feel safe, secure, and valued.”

As noted by Cynthia Broughton, a teacher at Colonial Village, “How can one man, without an assistant principal to help him, change a disillusioned, spirally downward elementary school to a school of hope and vision? His leadership is just short of a miracle. It takes a person with a focused goal who insists on input from all, someone who believes in everyone who walks through that building. Our school needed a leader who would never give up and never settle for mediocrity. We have that leader and more from Mr. Smilinich.”


Lisa Meade - New York State Middle School Principal of the Year and NASSP NYS Principal of the Year

Lisa Meade, Corinth Middle School

MeadeMeade has been a member of the Corinth Central School District educational team since 2006 and an administrator at Corinth Middle School since 2012. During this time, Meade has been described as a transformational leader, creating a revitalized educational environment emphasizing collaboration, communication, high expectations, and respect for all.

Meade is noted for leading her team through a myriad of changes and being “on the cutting edge” in using data to raise student achievement and implementing the common core. “Mrs. Meade has caused a dramatic turnaround at the Corinth Middle School,” commented special education teacher Terry Hoffman. “After experiencing Mrs. Meade’s non-stop energy and highly developed work ethic, staff members want to be a part of a team that is moving quickly in a positive direction.”

Part of the revitalized environment at Corinth comes from Meade’s steadfast dedication to teachers and professional learning and development. Faculty meetings are no longer staff meetings, but mini learning sessions where teachers are expected to share and learn from one another. Always learning herself, Meade has also brought the growing national trend of maker spaces to Corinth – a place for students to get hands on with STEM concepts and experiments.

Meade is committed to enhancing learning opportunities beyond the school walls as well. An advocate for leadership development and collegial sharing, Meade has lead popular book studies for her colleagues and has published and presented on the successes that Corinth has experienced with its Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program. In addition, she is a regular columnist for SAANYS’ Vanguard magazine and worked with colleagues to bring EdCampUNY to upstate New York educators.

Said Corinth Superintendent of Schools Daniel Starr, “I am blessed to have her in this district, but the community is even more so.”

Meade has also been chosen as the New York State representative for the National Principal of the Year Award sponsored by 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. The Institute not only salutes the principalship but also provides a forum for honorees to advocate for education and share best practices and expertise.

Barry Davis - K-12 Building Principal of the Year

Barry Davis, Lyme Central School

Barry DavisDavis, who has been an educator at this small rural K-12 school of 365 students for the past 30 years, has been its leader for the last eight years. He is known for his dedication and community relationship building within the local area. Commented Pat Gibbons, director of pupil services, “He is a champion for all students and has a deep concern for his ‘school family’… Mr. Davis is a strong advocate for our music, art, and theater departments. His personal love for the arts drives his desire to expose our students to opportunities they would not otherwise have.”

 In conjunction with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Davis recently wrote and received a grant to build a high tunnel greenhouse at the school. Not only are the students able to engage in science experiments and participate in growing their own food for use in the cafeteria, but the school was able to donate more than six hundred pounds of produce to the local community food pantry.

Cammy Morrison, interim superintendent of schools, stated “Mr. Davis continues to strive toward his goal of ensuring student, faculty, and district success as a building level administrator. He has a wealth of valuable experiences in the field of education and I believe is most sincere regarding his desire to continuously improve and build upon his aptitude as an educational leader. He genuinely cares for our stakeholders at Lyme, our students, their families, and our staff.”

Diane E. Lang - Leadership and Support Award

Lang-150x150Diane E. Lang, Orange-Ulster BOCES

Lang is a long time educator of nearly 30 years and has been a leader in the Orange-Ulster BOCES administrative team serving eighteen school districts for the past three. Lang “has created and developed an instructional support services division that is not only highly effective, but also admired and recognized around New York State,” commented Theresa Reynolds, assistant superintendent for instruction. A well published and prolific writer, as well as a sought after presenter, Lang has written and secured numerous large scale grants and has lead several initiatives including the design and implementation of a Mandarin Chinese distant learning program that is continually growing and currently has nine school districts and 319 students participating. 

Lang is also well known as a mentor among colleagues. Carol Bartik, principal of Greenwood Lake Elementary School noted, “As I transitioned from my position as an assistant principal to principal, Diane supported me. She coached and nourished me with professional ideas and strategies as well as emotional support.” Added Theresa Reynolds, “A great leader is interested in and focused on developing the skills and knowledge of every person involved in the educational endeavor. Dr. Lang not only has this sweeping and genuine philosophy, but she also has the ability to develop and nurture relationships with fellow administrators in order to help them promote the highest level of student and educator learning and achievement.”

Jennifer Drautz - New York State Assistant Principal of the Year (NASSP)

Drautz-150x150Jennifer Drautz, Maple Avenue Middle School

Nominated by a team of teachers at Maple Avenue, Drautz is recognized for her “impeccable” work ethic, deep connection and working relationship with teachers, and an unwavering commitment to students. Commented Maple Avenue Teacher Tom Reilly: “Because there is a high level of mutual respect between this administrator and her teachers, a climate for growth exists. Ms. Drautz always says, ‘Schools were built for students, the reason why we are all here is to help them grow.’ This simple advice has a way of reminding us all of who we serve every day and why we are teachers.”

During a time of new and multiple state reform initiatives, Drautz has been credited for leading her team through the transitions smoothly and effectively. She is fully engaged in the school’s efforts to shift the curriculum to incorporate further student-centered and hands-on learning, as well as a renewed focus on curriculum mapping and data analysis. During the implementation of the new evaluation system, Drautz again demonstrated her professionalism and commitment to teacher development by sitting with each teacher to explain the framework, its true purpose, and ways that it could be used for growth. ”We soon realized that the framework could become a strong ally to help teachers improve instruction,” commented a teacher.

Kimberly Beukema - New York State High School Principal of the Year

Beukema-150x150Kimberly Beukema, Johnson City High School

Despite a steady increase in the community’s poverty rate, graduation rates continue to rise due to the dedication of the high school team led by Beukema, who has been principal at the high school for the past four years. Beukema leads her school in the targeted use of data to drive student growth at multiple levels. Data is valued and analyzed to identify and assist students at-risk, to develop action plans for Regents-level success, and to direct professional learning for teachers.

Commented Superintendent of Schools Mary Kay Frys, “With 67 percent of our students receiving free and reduced lunch, it would be easy for staff to believe that a high school diploma or educational excellence would be out of reach for many. However, this belief is non-negotiable for Ms. Beukema…Each year, she ramps up her targets for graduation and closely monitors her students’ progress. This year, Kim has set 90 percent as her target graduation rate. Is it ambitious? Yes. Do I believe she can do it? Absolutely.”

Student success also flourishes due in no small part to this leaders’ commitment to every student. An example of this is the “Just Take One” program Beukema implemented at the high school. Beukema asks that each teacher commit to following one student’s academic progress in all courses. This mentoring includes working with guidance counselors on attendance, discipline, accountability, and other factors that contribute to overall success. And the teaching staff is happy to follow Beukema’s lead. Commented teacher Joanne Matias, “Her love for the students is reflected by her ability to never stop believing in their ability. Once you work with her you can’t help but carry on her mission for every student to become a successful learner.”

Kimberly Beukema fights for her kids. She has been known to pick students up for school and find others clothing and housing – supporting students and families in many ways so that all students have a chance at success. Noted colleague Robert Fauver, “When Ms. Beukema learned of the financial needs of our students … she arranged for staff outings where the proceeds would benefit students. Fundraisers have been used to buy mattresses for students who slept on the floor and to pay down the dorm payment fee prior to the students receiving their financial aid awards. Ms. Beukema’s stubbornness is driven by her passion for each student to succeed.”

Anedda Trautman - James E. Allen Award

Trautman-150x150Anedda Trautman, Niagara Career and Technical Education Center

A long time educator, Trautman has been affiliated with the Niagara Career and Technical Education Center since 2001, first as an instructor, then as assistant principal, and ultimately as principal since 2011. Well known as an innovative and forward thinking leader, Trautman has worked diligently to bring new ideas and initiatives to the school, increasing academic rigor and career readiness. In particular she has developed partnerships and collaborations with local industry leaders through the Tech Centers that Work program, the Craft Advisory Committee, as well as an annual “bug out” contest where automotive students work to debug a car within a certain time frame, this is held in conjunction with the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association at the Buffalo Auto Show. Additionally, she has hosted a “thank you reception” at the school for industry advisory committee members, showcasing the students’ work and providing an opportunity for students to receive internships and summer employment opportunities.

As noted by colleague, Jennifer Braun, “Mrs. Trautman’s vision for the future of our school is limitless. She has introduced and brought to fruition new ideas and programs for our students and the 13 component districts that we serve… Her student-centered approach to learning and insistence upon academic rigor are just two of the many components contributing to the success at NCTEC. She includes students, parents/guardians, faculty, constituent school districts, and industry into her vision for NCTEC, which are critical to the creation of a true 21st century learning community.”

Commented Dr. Clark J. Godshall, district superintendent, “Her efforts have contributed to this BOCES’ career and technical education programs and our enrollment being the third largest amongst the other 37 BOCES in New York State. Her tireless efforts and positive role modeling have strengthened our relationship with the 13 component districts and continue to distinguish her leadership locally and across New York State.”

Michael Plotkin - New York State Assistant Principal of the Year (NAESP)

plotkinMichael Plotkin, Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School

Plotkin has served as an educator since 1993 and has been in his current position at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School since 2007. Recognizing the unique social needs of middle school students, during his first year, Plotkin established a very successful three-pronged approach to changing the culture of the school. He implemented the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Positive Behavior Intervention Supports, and a middle school advisory program, for which he wrote the curriculum. Commented Carrie Beja, school counselor at Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School, “His innate understanding of the students’ need for belonging and emotional closeness with both their peers and the adults around them has undoubtedly helped fuel this highly successful program. By also understanding that no child can ever learn unless they feel safe – physically, socially, and emotionally – he has created an environment where all students can flourish and take risks.”

Plotkin is known as a committed and compassionate leader within his school. Commented Principal Barbara Ulm, “Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School is truly a different place today because of the tireless and ongoing work of Michael Plotkin. Thanks to the leadership of Michael Plotkin, the school is a safe and welcoming place where students grow and thrive.”

Noted Superintendent of Schools Edward Fuhrman, “Michael represents the best in our profession. He is a true educational leader who always keeps what’s best for children at the center of his work. Michael is a compassionate leader, a great teammate, and a consummate professional.”

Plotkin received his bachelors and masters degrees in history from the City University of New York at Brooklyn College, and his advanced certification in school leadership from the Teachers College of Columbia University.

Plotkin will be honored for his accomplishments at an awards ceremony on May 8 at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany, New York. As the New York State Assistant Principal of the Year for NAESP, Plotkin will be celebrated as a National Outstanding Assistant Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals at a recognition program sponsored by NAESP and VOYA Financial in Washington, DC.

Dr. John Cassese - Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award

CasseseCassese has dedicated his professional life to public education and educational leadership. His steadfast commitment to the profession and this association is legendary among colleagues and the greater educational community on Long Island.

 Cassese first served SAANYS as a member of its board of directors representing Long Island. After his retirement from Sachem he served as the association’s deputy executive director for a number of years. Since retirement, he continues his work as a regional representative for SAANYS and a mentor to all. Commented colleague Susan Goltz, “John is the quintessential mentor. There is little he does not know, but in the rare instance he doesn’t, he will find the information for you. It will be at your doorstep before you can reflect that you had asked him for it in the first place. It matters little that you are a student or parent, a teacher or a fellow administrator. He is a wonderfully generous fellow, who inspires us to educate, exemplifies the word “service,” and continues to be one of the most ardent teachers.”

Cassese has embraced his retirement years as enthusiastically as he approached his earlier career days. He has held many interim administrator assignments, including working as an assistant principal and summer school principal at Westhampton Beach Learning Center, a Western Suffolk BOCES school facility serving severely handicapped students. He has also formed the company Legacy Plus – its divisions involve everything from the development of teacher in-service programs for Dowling College to managing theatrical services for performance artists. A musical artist himself, Cassese performs weekly at Casa Basso in Westhampton. He is also a board member for the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts.

“John has demonstrated throughout his career a remarkable ability to build relationships, to touch people personally, to inspire, and to lead,” said Thomas Payton, principal of Roanoke Elementary School. “I can think of no individual more deserving of the SAANYS Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award than Dr. John Casesse.” 

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.

John Singleton - T. Walsh McQuillan Award

Singleton-150x150John Singleton, Clear Stream Avenue School, Valley Stream UFSD 30

The principal of this culturally diverse elementary school since 2010, and an educator since 1996, Singleton has strived to foster a culture of inclusiveness and provide unique opportunities to the students at Clear Stream Avenue School. Through his leadership and participation in the Courageous Conversations program, he developed a partnership with a “sister” school in South Africa. Discussions between the schools have opened up via teleconferencing and have given the students the ability to have real-time discussions on race and social justice. Commented Nicholas Stirling, superintendent of schools, “Mr. Singleton’s most recent work with the children of South African schools and children of Clear Stream Avenue School represents vision for future activities focused on global education.”

As the leader of a multicultural school serving families representing 49 countries, Singleton has worked to provide a welcoming environment based on respect and acceptance, believing that feeling welcomed as part of the school community is the pathway to success. To that end, he participates in the Long Island Consortium of Excellence and Equity that meets monthly to discuss and share ways of including the school’s culturally diverse community into the educational process. Noted sixth grade teacher, Richard Mansfield, “During the last five years with Mr. Singleton as our building leader, our sense of school community has taken a dramatic turn for the better. He has been able to connect with our diverse parent/student body, inspire, and motivate our faculty and staff, as well as raise student achievement in this ever-changing climate of educational reform.”

Continued Stirling, “In a world where there is social unrest, police brutality, school violence, and family dysfunction, someone has to ask the question ‘what about the children?’ John Singleton asks that question and reminds us that we are here to educate the whole child. Thus, he continually leads on developing social and emotional programs as well as resources to support our students.”

Edward Kilmartin - Outstanding Educator Award

Kilmartin-150x150Edward Kilmartin, Columbia High School

Assistant principal of this high school since 2008, Kilmartin has worked diligently on several initiatives to improve opportunities for Columbia High School students. He was instrumental in implementing the Operation Graduation program that reaches out to at-risk students and offers them diverse options toward completing graduation requirements, including extensive online learning and credit recovery courses. This program has graduated 80 students since 2011. He also played an important role in developing a Distance Learning program at Columbia, which provides unique learning opportunities for many students.

Additionally, Kilmartin has been the driving force behind increasing Columbia High School’s STEM offerings and bringing technology into the classroom by organizing an annual Technology Forum for teachers at the school. As noted by Shay Harrison, board of education president, “His work on the Technology Committee, as one of the driving forces and organizers of the annual summer Technology Forum, and as the administrative lead for the Operation Graduation program has been exceptional. Operation Graduation has allowed many students who likely would not have made it to graduation, the opportunity to find the strength and resolve to achieve success, and Ed has been a champion, advocate, and tireless supporter of the students and the program since its inception.” Harrison also acknowledges Kilmartin’s work in the East Greenbush community through the Education Foundation board, which provides financial support to children who reside in the district for summer enrichment programs, as well as providing approximately 20 endowed student achievement awards.

Kilmartin is also known as a committed advocate and proactive leader on behalf of students at the school. Commented Lawrence Edson, Jr., assistant superintendent for school business finance, “Mr. Kilmartin always displays an optimistic attitude with administrators, teachers, students, and parents. He consistently looks out for the best interest of his students and develops a rapport with them to gain their trust and respect.” And, noted Helen Squillace, director of special education, “Relied upon as a ‘can-do’ administrator, no challenge is too daunting for Ed. Teachers and parents readily seek him out as he is highly visible, very approachable, and always willing to lend a hand. He is goal oriented and hard working, and truly a standout in our profession.”

Scott Spino Foundation - Friend of Education Award

Spino-150x150The Scott Spino Foundation was founded by parents Geri and Jerry Spino in memory of their son and Rochester City School District teacher, Scott Spino, who was killed at the age of 28 by a drunk driver in 2004. Commented Association of Supervisors and Administrators of Rochester Executive Director Tim Wagner, “This was a parent’s worst nightmare. How do you go on after losing a son in such a manner? From day one, the Spino’s took the positive road. First they came to the school and spent the first days consoling students. I cannot tell you how powerful that was. The students were devastated, but the presence of the Spino’s was one of the most powerful scenes I have ever witnessed. No crisis team could have been so effective.”

The Spino’s are dedicated and community minded supporters of public education, continuing their son’s passionate commitment to the success of each of his students and “living a life that matters.” In the more than ten years since Scott’s tragic death, the Scott Spino Foundation has awarded 29 scholarships, given 12,000 new coats, 16,000 new hats, 16,000 new pairs of gloves, and 30,000 new books, investing approximately $340,000 into the greater Rochester area through the establishment of two programs – the Scott Spino Literacy Program and the Scott Spino Warm Program.

The Scott Spino Literacy Program is currently active in 22 Rochester schools and consists of more than 200 volunteers. The volunteers spend time reading one-on-one with students in kindergarten through second grade. Each month, the volunteers purchase one or two books to read with their student, after which the student is able to keep the book as their own. In addition, the foundation also offers a monthly guest reader event in each classroom. The guest reads aloud the book and copies are distributed to each student.

Understanding the great need of many of the students at the schools that it serves, the foundation annually distributes new hats, gloves, scarves, and coats, as well as a new book to more than 2,000 children in the Rochester City School District each holiday season through the Scott Spino Warm Program.