Nominate A Colleague for a SAANYS Award!

winnersEach 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


Now Accepting Nominations!

Application Deadline: January 2, 2018

Click here to download a brochure.

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.


2017 Award Winners

NEW AWARD! Leader in Digital Education – Michael Sylofski, Capital Region BOCES NERIC

MSylofski PhotoMichael 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.”

NYS Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year – Nicole Ey, Port Jervis CSD

Nicole Ey HeadshotNicole 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.”

NYS Elementary Principal of the Year - Jeremy Rich, Central Valley CSD

RichJJeremy 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.”

NYS Middle School Principal of the Year – Mary Beth Fierro, Oswego City SD

FierroMary 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.”

NYS High School Principal of the Year & NASSP NYS Principal of the Year – Thomas Hall, Brighton CSD

HallPictureThe 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.”


Outstanding Educator – William Davern, West Genesee CSD

Davern ColorWilliam 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.”

Leadership and Support - Christopher McGinley, Williamsville CSD

McGinley - Headshot 4x6Dr. 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.”

K-12 Building Principal Award - Sheelarani Webster, Rochester City SD

SheelWebster_PhotoSheelarani 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.”

NYS Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year – Thomas Kachadurian, South Colonie CSD

Kachadurian-150Thomas 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.”

Friend of Education - Kim McCluski, Pittsford

Kim McCluski_ColorKim 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.”

Irving Schwartz Distinguished Retiree Award – Thomas Long, Cazenovia CSD (retired)

 Thomas Long-croppedThomas 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 - 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.