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Long Island School Notebook: 9 named Schools of Excellence

Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin was among those

Plaza Elementary School in Baldwin was among those named 2020-22 Schools of Excellence by the National PTA. Credit: Baldwin School District

Nine Long Island schools have been named 2020-22 Schools of Excellence by the National PTA.

The schools are among 23 statewide and 351 nationwide to receive the designation, which recognizes "strong partnerships between local PTAs and schools that are enriching the educational experience and overall well-being for all students," the National PTA said.

The selected schools are Lynbrook Middle School, Lenox and Plaza elementary schools in Baldwin, Dutch Broadway Elementary School in Elmont, Stanley D. Saltzman East Memorial School in Farmingdale, East Lake Elementary School in Massapequa Park, Meadow Drive Elementary School in Albertson, Old Bethpage Elementary School, and Ogden Elementary School in Valley Stream.

"The efforts of these PTAs and schools have made a positive impact for all students, families and their school, which has been and continues to be more important than ever, especially given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," National PTA president Anna King said.

The School of Excellence program consists of a yearlong commitment to identifying and implementing an action plan for school improvement based on the National PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and Transformative Family Engagement.

Those that exhibit improvement are named Schools of Excellence, a distinction that spans two years.

"More than ever, it is essential that we have a solid partnership between our schools, families and community where we can collaborate and communicate effectively for the benefit of our children's future," said Shari Camhi, superintendent of the Baldwin School District, which had two schools honored.


New principal

Tammy Alcalde has been named principal of May Moore Primary School in the Deer Park School District. She replaced Philip Paniccia, who is now the district's administrator of elementary special education.

Alcalde had served as associate principal for both May Moore and the district's John Quincy Adams Primary School since 2019. Before that, she was a general education teacher and instructional support teacher in the Longwood School District in Middle Island.

"I am excited to continue the great work in supporting our students in becoming lifelong learners and helping them reach their fullest potential with the best team of teachers and staff at May Moore," Alcalde said.


New principals

Amy Lederer has been appointed principal of Leo F. Giblyn Elementary School, and Linda Carter has been named interim principal of Freeport High School. Lederer replaced Amanda Muldowney, who retired; Carter replaced Joseph Mille, who resigned.

Lederer previously served five years as assistant principal at Giblyn and before that was a teacher at Giblyn and at Columbus Avenue School, also in Freeport. Carter served the Freeport School District for 25 years before retiring in 2017, most recently as the high school's principal.

"I look forward to continuing to build on the strengths of Giblyn as a school that cultivates academic excellence and a culture of kindness," Lederer said. "At Giblyn, our focus is that every student and every staff member feel supported, safe, challenged and motivated, so they can reach their full potential."


New appointments

Dennis O'Hara is the new superintendent of the Islip School District, ande Brianna James has been named principal of the district's Maud S. Sherwood Elementary School.

O'Hara had served as superintendent of the Hauppauge School District since 2016, and before that was principal of Oyster Bay High School for 13 years. He replaced Ellen Semel, who retired.

James, who replaced Curtis Juengerkes, had been an assistant principal at Wantagh Elementary School since 2019. Before that, she was a teacher at Glenwood Landing Elementary School.

"I am most excited to meet students and families and find ways to be of service," O’Hara said. "I cannot wait to work with the many dedicated and hardworking teachers, administrators and staff to help change students' life trajectories."

"I firmly believe that great schools are the result of great teachers, and it is my goal for all of us at Sherwood to continue to work together to provide our children with a rich academic program in a safe, inclusive and emotionally nurturing environment," James said.


New principal

Heather Soffer is the new principal of Nassau BOCES Robert Williams School. She replaced Joanna Malament, who is now assistant director of the Nassau BOCES Department of Special Education.

Soffer began as a substitute teacher for Nassau BOCES and then became a special-education teacher and assistant principal of Nassau BOCES Children's Readiness Center and Willet Avenue School.

"I want to empower staff and students alike to take risks and think outside the box," Soffer said. "It's my responsibility to set the tone for school and to model expectations in a way that will inspire everyone to be their best."


New principal

Nicole Schnabel is the new principal of Seaford High School. She replaced Scott Bersin, who is now an assistant superintendent in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District.

Schnabel previously served as Seaford's assistant principal and before that was an English teacher for 11 years at Massapequa High School.

"We are a big family and the community is very supportive," Schnabel said. "The school is in a great place because of the hard work of so many. I want to use the energy that already exists to create new and exciting opportunities for students."


New principal

Timothy Hellmuth has been named principal of Accompsett Elementary School. He replaced Bryan Frank, who is now the executive director of instructional technology for the Carle Place School District.

Hellmuth had been the school's assistant principal since 2016 and before that was an assistant principal at Northwest Elementary School in Amityville. He also has been an elementary math coach and elementary teacher in the Smithtown School District.

"Smithtown is a wonderful place to live and learn," Hellmuth said. "I'm thrilled to continue working with the Smithtown community in my new role as principal of Accompsett Elementary School."


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