Richard Organisciak, a longtime school administrator in Deer Park, New York City and New Rochelle, who was committed to educating at-risk youths, died July 20 after a long battle with renal cell carcinoma, his family said.
The Westbury resident, who helped found the nation’s first public high school for gay students, was 65.
Organisciak was born in Guildford, England, in 1951 and immigrated with his family to Brooklyn in 1957. He graduated Baruch College in 1973 and earned a law degree from New York Law School in 1989.
After years of teaching high school students in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Organisciak took a job with the New York City Department of Education and led efforts to bring high school dropouts back into the education system.
The job helped foster Organisciak’s passion for educating disadvantaged youth. He later became principal and director of Offsite Educational Services for the city, administering schooling programs for young people in prisons and drug treatment facilities.
In that role, Organisciak in 1985 helped found Greenwich Village’s Harvey Milk School — the first public high school in the United States specifically catering to gay and lesbian teens.
“He reached out to any student who was disaffected,” said his wife of 28 years, Ann. “It was just his personality. He respected and liked everybody, but especially those he felt he could raise up. I think that was his calling.”
Organisciak went on to hold various administrative education jobs, including as principal of the George W. Wingate High School in Brooklyn, as superintendent of New York City’s Alternative Schools and Programs, as superintendent of the Deer Park school district from 2003 to 2006, and as superintendent of the New Rochelle City school district — a job he held until retiring in 2013.
New York State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, who worked closely with Organisciak over both their careers, called him an “innovative and inventive” champion for the state’s marginalized students.
“The most challenged kids . . . those were the kids Richard passionately cared for,” Rosa said. “He was just a wonderful human being.”
In addition to his wife, survivors are daughter Jana Oberman of Manhasset and sister Lilia Brendlen of Wyckoff, New Jersey.
Organisciak was entombed at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.