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Bay Shore people: Superintendent Peter Dion

Peter Dion, Superintendent of Bay Shore Schools, lived

Peter Dion, Superintendent of Bay Shore Schools, lived in Michigan before moving to Bay Shore last year. (April 11, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

Peter Dion, 61, of Bay Shore
Title: Superintendent of the Bay Shore School District

How long have you lived in Bay Shore?
I just took over this position in July. I came from Michigan, where I grew up. I have never lived in New York before.

You came for the job, of course, but why Bay Shore? How did you end up here?
The unemployment rate in Detroit hit more than 14 percent and people were leaving Michigan in droves. The legislature got involved to try to help things out and was offering retirement incentives to anyone who was eligible. So I decided to take it. And then the head hunters called and they said, ‘How about Bay Shore, New York?’ I said I’ve never even been to New York.

When you came to visit, what made you decide this was a move you could make?
It’s a great place. It was the kind of place my wife and I knew we could live. It’s close to a vibrant city, it’s near the water. Where we live, we can walk right out to the Great South Bay. It’s cool. We like it a lot.

What were some of your first impressions of the school district?
It’s a diverse district. And a really close-knit district. That’s one of the things that makes us a rich district. You can see it at the track meets and the lacrosse games. People of all different colors, all races, interacting, playing together. It’s a great thing about this community.
You know, I’ve been in seven or eight different districts, and the thing that really comes out are that the people here are really proud of their community. A lot of teachers went to school here and have come back. That tells me a lot.
And the athletics and the arts are both really strong. I’m looking out my window at all these kids practicing on our fields. It’s Spring Break, what are they doing here? They should be in Florida.
Right now we have 300 kids in our Vacation Academy. That’s a program for third- and fourth-graders to prepare for their state assessment tests. They have to take them the Tuesday they get back. That’s 300 kids that are volunteering to be in school during their vacation.
You can tell that we are a vibrant community.

The school district is a big part of the annual Community Summit, which is coming up. How are you feeling about it?
I’m very anxious and proud to be a part of it. It’s all the things I’ve always believed in. It’s a grassroots effort to improve the quality of life here. I think this is a good model for our kids -- give back to the community that has invested so much in you.

Have you ever seen something like this in other places you’ve worked, more than 40 organizations and the schools getting together to discuss community issues?
No. And that’s it exactly, it’s not just the school, it’s the businesses, the homeowners, everyone getting together with a vision to improve the quality of life. Maybe that’s where the pride this community has comes from.
When I heard about the summit, I told the members of the school board I commended them for taking a grassroots effort to improving the quality of life.

What sold you on this school district?
I’ve been a superintendent in the high performing, white districts. I’ve done that. I wanted to be in a diverse district. I know we can achieve the same results.
When I came here to interview, I was interviewing them as well. I paid attention to the school board, are they in it for the kids? They are. I feel proud and fortunate to be in a district like Bay Shore.

How would you define the character of the community?
It’s a very caring community. They show a love for one another. It’s giving, caring. It’s full of hard working people that care about their kids.

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