South Orangetown Central School District

In recognition of National Assistant Principals Week, we asked our five assistant principals to reflect on their professional practice in the context of the current environment. “Our assistant principals are the bedrock of this school system. You can’t have a good school district if you don’t have a strong ‘front line’ and we have an incredibly talented squad,” said Superintendent of Schools Robert Pritchard.

Here’s what our amazing assistant principals had to say:

Maggie White, William O. Schaefer Elementary School: “It’s hard not to be surrounded by students and staff on a daily basis–they make this job wonderful and interesting and complicated and joyful! But, Ms. Beglin and I are trying to be as responsive as we can to the needs of our students, their families and of course our excellent staff. There are a lot of unknowns, but our focus is to help everyone feel comfortable with the situation at hand. I am so grateful to work in and with a community of people who are kind, understanding and flexible. This is such an important learning opportunity for all of us–what we do as educators and as caretakers to show our kids how to apply those character traits in this trying time is essential.”

Rob Schliessman, Cottage Lane Elementary School: “My role, at this time, is to communicate what’s happening within our school community and to create moments to celebrate our staff and students. We’re committed to maintaining a supportive learning routine for our CLE students and our teachers are working incredibly hard to make this happen. I’m grateful for the dedication, organization and quality of work coming from our teachers and staff and am proud to be a part of such a fantastic team.”

Joseph Onativia, South Orangetown Middle School: “I’ve adjusted to my role as a remote assistant principal by remaining engaged with our SOCSD community through Google classrooms, Zoom and Google Hangout meetings, emails and phone calls. My goal is to reconnect with our students, make sure they are feeling supported during these challenging times and to be a source of positive energy for them. The experience has made me appreciate the strength of relationships we have with our students, our talented staff, administrators and families. Seeing our District and community come together to support each other has been inspirational.”

Richard Neidhart, Tappan Zee High School (not pictured): “As an AP, my role has always been to support our students, staff and families academically, physically and in terms of social-emotional wellbeing. That hasn’t changed, but doing it remotely is new and challenging. I’ve always worked to develop and maintain strong, collaborative relationships to support students’ success. Without the opportunity for direct, in-person interactions, those connections have to be built and sustained differently. The new challenge is identifying appropriate technology, learning how to use it effectively, adapting to its strengths and overcoming its liabilities to continue providing the best supports to meet the needs of all our students, staff and families and create opportunity for growth.”

Melissa Luciano, Tappan Zee High School: “Although I’m working from home, I’m reaching out to students, families and faculty members to support them the best I can. This is a difficult time for everyone and I want our community to know that they are not alone. We are in this together and I’ll continue to support our students and faculty to ease their transition to online learning during this challenging time. I miss my TZHS family and can’t wait to see them again!”

Thank you to our wonderful assistant principals for the valuable work you do!

Joe Onativia, Rob Schliessman with child, Maggie White and Melissa Luciano