For many Long Island students, the 2018-19 school year began before the first day of classes.
Districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties hosted a range of special events — back-to-school barbecues, orientation sessions and team-building programs — to prepare pupils, families and teachers for the academic year.
In Seaford, 184 incoming high school freshmen were joined by 75 juniors and seniors who served as mentors. Activities included tours of the building, helping freshmen find classrooms and lockers, and discussions of effective time management, extracurricular activities and support services.
“The Freshman Buddies program has become an important part of how we welcome the ninth-graders to our school,” said Scott Bersin, Seaford High School's principal. “Our junior and senior leaders get to know the younger students and serve as positive role models. They will continue to meet with their buddy groups throughout the year.”
The Lynbrook school system hosted an orientation for new pupils at the Kindergarten Center. Students unpacked their school supplies, were treated to a book reading by volunteers and toured the building as parents and guardians attended lectures by administrators.
Districts also had events focused on familiarizing new employees with schools.
The Farmingdale district held a multiday New Teacher Institute and the Freeport system had a First Year Teachers’ Orientation. The programs included bus tours of the local communities and talks on such topics as school culture, student safety and technology in the classroom.
In Herricks, the district's newest staffers participated in an obstacle course in the high school’s courtyard that was designed to help them collaborate and build camaraderie.
David Schneider is the new superintendent of the Bethpage school district and Nicholas Jantz has taken the helm as principal of Bethpage High School.
Schneider most recently served four years as the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and technology. Before that, he was principal of the district’s John F. Kennedy Middle School and assistant principal of Merrick Avenue Middle School. He replaced Terrence Clark, who retired.
“I look forward to continuing the district’s tradition of excellence and maintaining the high standards that have made our schools so successful,” Schneider said.
Jantz had served as assistant principal of John F. Kennedy Middle School since 2014 and previously was a social studies teacher in East Meadow. He replaced Michael Spence, who now is the district's assistant superintendent for instruction.
Maria Hecht, a veteran educator in the Sewanhaka Central School District, is the new principal of Floral Park Memorial High School. She replaced Jason Martin, who resigned.
Hecht has worked in the Sewanhaka system for more than 30 years and had served 12 years as an assistant principal of the district's New Hyde Park Memorial High School. She also has been the district’s coordinator of English and the English chairwoman for Floral Park Memorial High School.
“I am extremely excited and honored to return to Floral Park Memorial High School as principal,” Hecht said. “I look forward to working collaboratively with such a wonderful community of students, parents, faculty and staff.”
Don Sturz is the new superintendent of Valley Stream School District 24.
Sturz, who replaced Edward Fale, previously served as assistant superintendent for pupil services and director of special education for the Levittown school district. He also has been a director of pupil services in the Merrick and East Meadow systems.
“I am thrilled to be the new superintendent of schools. It is an amazing community which is rich in cultural diversity and has a strong sense of family. Culturally responsive learning is a hallmark of the new Every Student Succeeds Act standards," Sturz said, referring to the federal education law.