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Barbara Chu, longtime educator, dies at 82

Barbara Chu, who began her career in the

Barbara Chu, who began her career in the William Floyd School District in 1976, held many roles including classroom teacher and principal. Photo Credit: Chu Family

Longtime educator Barbara Chu served in many posts in the Mount Sinai and William Floyd school districts throughout her career, even helping lead the development of the secondary education system in Mount Sinai.

Chu, a longtime Port Jefferson Station resident who was living in upstate Romulus, died May 26 at Geneva General Hospital. She was 82.

"Her favorite of those positions was at the elementary school. She loved working with young children," said her daughter Patricia Chu, of Boston. She added that her mother was an adjunct professor for St. Joseph's College in Patchogue from 2006 to 2007.

Chu was raised in Flushing and graduated from Queens College with a bachelor’s in psychology and physics. In 1967, she and her husband, James, moved to Port Jefferson Station. James died in 1975 and she raised daughters Patricia and Sandra alone.

She received two master's degrees, in education and reading education, from C.W. Post, as well as a certificate of advanced study in educational administration. She also completed some doctoral work at Columbia University.

She began her career in the William Floyd School District in 1976. Over 10 years, she was a classroom teacher, a remedial reading specialist, ran the district reading and compensatory programs and served as an assistant principal, her daughter said.

Paul Casciano, former William Floyd superintendent who is now Port Jefferson superintendent, recalled her work ethic.

"Barbara was the consummate professional who always had the students' best interests first and foremost on her agenda," he said. "Barbara expected excellence from herself and from those she supervised in her various leadership roles at William Floyd and Mount Sinai. On a personal note, Barbara was a tremendous help to me during my formative years as a school leader."

In 1986 she became the principal of Mount Sinai Elementary School. She eventually was named principal of the middle school and then served as the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In that capacity, she was the architect of and led development of the secondary educational program when the high school opened in early 1990s, her family said.

"Barbara Chu was a brilliant educator whose work ethic was second to none," said former Mount Sinai Superintendent Anthony Bonasera who retired in 2012. "Her expectations for those who worked with and for her were no less than she would expect of herself. In planning for the newly built district’s high school academic program, Ms. Chu was given the responsibility of overseeing its development in her capacity as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. She accomplished this while maintaining her position as elementary building principal."

Bonasera said her accomplishments were noted in an independent study out of the University of Albany, based on student achievement measures. Within a few years the high school was recognized in the top 10 percent in the state, he said.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Rob Grable was hired by Chu in 1998 as a fourth-grade teacher and worked with her throughout much of his career.

"She communicated high expectations for all, students and staff alike, and held them accountable accordingly. However, her expectations of others were never as high as her own expectations. Her commitment to learning and teaching was second to none," Grable said. "Personally speaking, Ms. Chu’s confidence in me and guidance had the greatest influence on my career as an educator. I will forever be indebted to her." 

She retired in the early 2000s and moved upstate to Romulus to be closer to her daughter, Sandra, and her granddaughter, Payce, now 10, who lived nearby in Geneva.

Chu was an avid reader, reading all kinds of books from fiction to nonfiction to murder mysteries. She also enjoyed photography and had quite the eye for photos, daughter Patricia said.

In addition to her daughters and granddaughter, survivors include sisters Jaylene Chin of Dix Hills and Joan Young of Bohemia.

Services will be held at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Smithtown with visiting Friday in the parish from 6 to 8 p.m., and funeral Saturday  at 10 a.m.

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