Deborah Wortham, superintendent of the Roosevelt school district, won a national school administrators award. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Randee Daddona; AASA, The School Superintendents Association; Photo Credit: Deborah Wortham

Roosevelt Union Free School District's superintendent, Deborah Wortham, who twice delivered the district higher academic standards, has been awarded the highest honor for her profession.

Wortham, of Glen Cove, was given the Superintendent Award Feb. 16 in San Diego at the national conference of the American Association of School Administrators, also known as the AASA.

Wortham has served two stints in Roosevelt. Twice she has raised the district to “good standing” status as rated by the New York State Education Department.

“To receive the highest award in your profession is a dream come true,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday night.

“But you don’t work for the award, you really work to serve and if an award is the result of that, then perfect,” Wortham said. “For me this has been nothing but service for my students, my staff, the board and for the community.”

In 2013 Wortham became the first locally elected superintendent for the Roosevelt Union Free School District after the state took it over in 2002 because of low academic performance and financial distress. During her tenure, the district moved from “state takeover” to “good standing.”

She then left and served as the first African American woman superintendent of the East Ramapo Central School District in Spring Valley, where all 12 K-8 schools went from “school improvement” to “good standing.” Wortham returned to Roosevelt in October 2020 when the district lost its “good standing” ranking.

As of November, the district was back to “good standing” status. Before her first stint in Roosevelt, the Chicago native was superintendent of the school district in York, Pennsylvania, and the Steelton-Highspire School District in Steelton, Pennsylvania.

Wortham said she believed what made her stand out was her consistent performance in schools that needed improvement.

“I believe that consistency that demonstrates transformation is … possible in every district anywhere,” she said. “And at Roosevelt we did it twice.”

She thanked her school board for rehiring her, something she said gave her the opportunity to continue her mission to serve Roosevelt students.

“Together we were able to work together to improve student achievement,” she said.

Rose Gietschier, Roosevelt school board president, praised Wortham, calling her a “visionary” who is playing a significant role in helping the school district improve.

“She understands … what students need to achieve, that their access is important for opportunity,” said Gietschier, who pointed to the superintendent’s ability to advocate for different programs in the school district.

Gietschier noted that it is an “exciting time” for the school district.

“Roosevelt has gone to heights that we didn’t believe we would get to so quickly, especially right after COVID,” she said in a phone interview.

The award, sponsored by Horace Mann and the AASA, pays tribute to the talent, creativity and vision of outstanding women educational administrators in the nation’s public schools.

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