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New Port Washington superintendent: Students a 'reflection' of the community
Kathleen Mooney, 50, of Locust Valley, has been working as an administrator in the Port Washington School District for the past 13 years, but the 2012-2013 school year marks her first as superintendent. She oversees a student population of close to 5,300.
What initially attracted you to the Port Washington School District?
It [the district] had a very good recommendation for being a high-achieving school district. I also like the diversity of the community.
What role does the school district play in the community?
You have a number of different little towns [in Port Washington] . . . the schools are one of the places that brings everyone together. Everyone works to support each other. There’s a "Pride in Port Parade" in the fall that . . . brings out the chamber of commerce businesses, former athletes from the high school come back to be honored, and all the schools march in the parade. It is a true community event. We also have some grant organizations that contribute to the schools . . . and Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, which focuses on environmental issues, is very active in our schools.
What unique programs do Port Washington offer?
We’re very proud of our music program. I feel like our student performances could rival Carnegie Hall . . . We’re known for our Intel Science finalists, our middle school is one of New York State’s "Schools to Watch" . . . and we have a very strong arts program. We also have a TV studio and radio station.
What are the challenges currently facing the school district?
We’re very proud of the quality programs we offer in our school district and we certainly want to be able to maintain those programs. There’s so many competing forces that influence that including state ed mandates and agreements with our different bargaining units.
How is the district tackling these issues?
We reached an agreement with our teachers' association for some salary concessions. I think that went a really long way in creating more of a goodwill feeling in the community. People really felt that the educators were with us in trying to meet the economic challenges and not lose programming . . . Before we knew we had the agreement with the teachers, we were looking at cutting close to 22 teaching positions.
What are the strengths of the district?
Our strength is our students. They’re polite, respectful, socially conscious and civic-minded. That’s a reflection of the community. Our students get involved in a whole variety of causes. They really care about the world at large.