A Fond Farewell to a Beloved Principal &
A Warm Welcome to a New Principal
At the June 12, 2018 Board of Education meeting, Hauppauge Public Schools (HPS) bid a fond farewell to the Class of 2018 Retirees with love and gratitude.
Middle School Principal, Ms. Maryann Fletcher, was among the honorees. Ms. Fletcher has been a teacher/administrator for 34 years.
She started her career in Queens in a private school for special needs students aged 16-21 where she taught and coached. From there, Ms. Fletcher moved to a public-school teaching 5th grade and then taught in a middle school in the East Meadow School District. In the fall of 1990 she became the Assistant Principal in Selden Middle School in the Middle Country School District where she was named principal in 1995-96. At that time, Ms. Fletcher was the youngest female Middle School Principal on Long Island. She returned to Woodland Middle School in East Meadow in September of 1996. She found her home in September of 2000 at Hauppauge Middle School thanks to a friend of hers from high school whose daughter was entering 7th grade and told Maryann that the previous principal was retiring.
When asked to comment about retirement and memories of HPS, Ms. Fletcher had this to say, “At this time, I don’t have any defined plans except to spend more time with my family and friends. My husband Dave will still be working so I will have a chance to figure out what my next phase will be.
I have so many wonderful memories from my time in Hauppauge that I couldn’t name just one. But, I am especially proud of the work we have done in upgrading the facility (thanks to support of the community, the Board of Education and our District Office teams) and in the hard work of helping to take care of the children of Hauppauge. Hauppauge Middle School has a different feel than it did when I arrived and I am very proud of that.
Without a doubt, the part I love the most about the job is the students. Middle School kids are an amazing blend of interested and not, focused and not, energized and not, responsible and not…and I could go on. In middle school it is never boring and it has always been fun. Any time I had a rough day, I found a way to be around kids and that always made any challenge I was facing better.
I will miss the energy of middle school kids and I will miss being their principal. I will also miss the families whom we’ve served and the members of the faculty and staff who have taken care of our students with me for all these years.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to thank everyone for the kind words you have shared with me. I appreciate the fact that I have been blessed to walk on the path with so many students and families and would like you to know that I have learned a great deal from you; I am a better educator and person as a result. But most of all I hope people will remember me as a hardworking educator who loved my kids. My parting words will always be, ‘with something to think about, this is Mrs. Fletcher. Make it a GREAT day or not, the choice is YOURS!’
I am beyond grateful for the recognition offered my way at the Hauppauge Teachers Association Celebration. Thank you to Kevin Giachetti for his kind and thoughtful reflections on our time working together to care for the children of Hauppauge as they have navigated their middle school years. I am grateful to all the faculty, staff, parents and students who have shared the journey; I have learned so much about myself and our work during my career – thank you so much.
My hearty congratulations to the other retirees. I wish each of you, health and happiness.
To the entire faculty and staff, I would like to share a little encouragement – the work we do is hard and is crucially important in the lives of our kids. Know that your heart, head and persistent hard work are needed on a daily basis in order to make the most of the limited time we have with our students. Never underestimate the power of a smile, a word of encouragement, a little TLC, some tough love and even a hug for a colleague or a student – you never know where your influence leads, so do all you can for it to be a positive one.
I appreciate the good wishes shared by so many. My heart is full, my eyes are brimming and I am humbled by your encouraging words. I hope you enjoy a wonderful summer and that you are able to continue your career knowing that our students need the best version of you each and every day.
To quote our very talented high school chamber choir who recently gifted me with a special performance, ‘May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. May the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.’
If I can help you in any way, I hope you will feel comfortable to reach out.”
The Board also celebrated the careers and bid a fond farewell to Ms. Debbie Duprez and Mr. Christopher Probst. Ms. Duprez served as a clerk/typist for 12 years and Mr. Probst, a graduate of Hauppauge High School, dedicated 34 years to the HPS custodial staff.
Many teachers are moving on as well. Ms. Roberta Alifano was a Special Education Teacher for 18 years. The love and empathy she shows her students is special. She has the ability to connect with everyone.
Ms. Phoebe Czachor served as an elementary teacher at Bretton Woods for 27 years. She raised her family in Hauppauge. Her daughter is now a teacher at the Pines. Ms. Czachor is looking forward to spending time with her 6 grandchildren. She is best known for the wonderful plays she produced for Bretton Woods.
Mr. Jeffrey Parrett taught Middle School Social Studies for 30 years. Mr. Parrett is one of the most accomplished Cross-Country and track Coaches in Suffolk County. In retirement, he will pursue his dream of continuing to play music. He would like to be considered the Hauppauge version of legendary Bassist Jon Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin or Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mr. Parrett raised his family in Hauppauge with his wife Debbie who also teaches in the Middle School. Jeff is a gifted storyteller in the classroom and is student centered. He is so proud of the success of his former students and feels blessed to have worked in the HPS District.
Ms. Beth Figari served as an elementary teacher at Bretton Woods for 24 years. Spending her entire career in Bretton Woods, Ms. Figari is humbled and “so proud of the direction our district is going.” Her advice to the parents of her students is to be present in your children's lives and take them places. Her daughter, Elia, will carry on the ‘Figari Torch’ at Bretton Woods.
Although she retired last year, Ms. Lillian Carey was officially honored by the Board at this meeting. Ms. Carey served for 9 years as the Director of LOTE (Languages other than English), Integration of Instructional Technology and ENL (English as a New Language). She was dedicated and hard working. Smart-Compassionate and loyal, Lillian loved her work and now in retirement is able to spend time with her children and grandchildren.
Other retirees, who were not in attendance include Karen Abbondondelo, Joanne Chicvak, Rose D' Aversa, Lynda Keller, Maureen Lucenti, Dot Marchica, Eve Nagler, Laurie Rich, Lou Rossi, Michelle Salanitri, and Antoinette Sposato.
Hauppauge High School (HHS) Principal Christine O’Connor will be moving to the Middle School to replace Ms. Fletcher in the main office. Ms. O’Connor’s position at the high school will be filled by Mr. Christopher Cook.
Originally from Long Island, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School, Mr. Cook comes to HPS from the Boston Preparatory Charter Public School (Boston, MA) where he has been the principal for the last three years. In total Christopher has been a principal for six years. Christopher has taught writing and history and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a Master’s degree in School Leadership from Harvard University. The father of three young children (ages 6, 3, and 1), Christopher and his wife have returned to Long Island to raise their family and join the HPS community.
When not working, Mr. Cook enjoys being with his family, playing or watching basketball, discussing politics and leadership, exercising and getting to know Suffolk County again.
Mr. Cook had this to say about Hauppauge, “I chose Hauppauge because I assessed it was on a trajectory toward excellence. I believe that the leadership team in place, both at the district level and the school level, along with what I have observed from the community and students, positions the high school to be extraordinary. I have always craved being part of excellence, and I have made a career cultivating individual and collective improvement. I believe I have a lot to learn in Hauppauge and I believe I can offer some things, too.
I look forward to working hard, building relationships, motivating students and educators, and walking hallways and spending time in classrooms observing teaching and learning.”
Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dennis O‘Hara said, “I hope you will join me in welcoming Christopher Cooke not only to Hauppauge High School, but to our entire community of learners. I am sure you will find him to be thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate, student centered and most excited to join us on our mission to change students’ life trajectories.”
The Community Charter School of Cambridge in Massachusetts posted a blog about Mr. Cook which includes his writing about “Why I Teach.”
Our “Why I Teach” series resumes with Chris Cook, who is in his second year as upper school principal. Upper School Principal Chris Cook is a graduate of Northeastern University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He also coordinates the Senior Internship Program. A collegiate lacrosse player, he coaches the CCSC track team. Highly visible and admittedly “intense,” Mr. Cook seems to be everywhere at once, working from his standing desk in the Upper School hallway, talking with students during lunch, overseeing early morning arrivals and after school learning centers, and visiting classrooms to observe and evaluate teachers.
Mr. Cook knows the GPA (and behavior record) of each and every one of the 153 students in the Upper School and constantly exhorts them all to work hard and be their best selves at all times.
Kids think I am intense. They probably wonder how I know as much as I do about them, and why I’m “up in their business” all the time, why I’m always telling them what they need to improve on and how to do better. If you spend even a few minutes in the Upper School, you’ll see and hear me in the hallway saying to students: “Pull up your pants; this is a professional environment,” or “Get to class, your education awaits you,” or “C’mon, you’re better than that,” or “Get it together – I’m expecting big things out of you.” CCSC students know that I’m not all talk either; I regularly and without hesitation give demerits and detentions to those who have earned them. However, chiding students to step up their game and giving out sanctions is not what gets me out of bed before 6:00 a.m. every morning, excited to come to work at CCSC. I sweat the details because I know how much support young people need to achieve their dreams, and because I believe deeply in the ideals of this country.
I’m a “tough love” principal because that kind of support helped me through a rough period when I was in high school and was struggling to come to terms with the loss of two very close friends in separate and tragic circumstances. The strong community I had around me – both in my family and my school — helped me maintain my sense of purpose and focus and helped keep me on a path toward success. I know firsthand that kids need constant and close support in order to stay on track and achieve their dreams, because I needed my community’s support to achieve mine. I was lucky enough to have some great role models — peers, teachers, coaches, family members, and grandparents who showed me what it means to work hard, to care for others, to educate effectively, and to be committed to goals. Experiencing and overcoming these tragic losses made me want to become an educator, and ultimately, a leader within a school community. I am thankful every day for the supportive people and role models I’ve had, and each day I strive to pay forward my gratitude.
I also want to pay forward the advantages I have had in life by doing my part to make sure that we stay true to the ideals in our Declaration of Independence. Underlying the message of, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are…” is the implicit need for people to have the skills necessary to equally access, “Life, Liberty and [their] pursuit of Happiness.” While no one can guarantee that life will always be fair, the surest way to ensure that all people have the ability to live their lives freely and happily is to provide every single person with a high-quality education. I have never for a moment doubted this ideal; to me, it’s a given that this should be what we all work toward.
Serving as principal of CCSC’s Upper School is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Our mission and our message is “college-college-college.” To put and keep all our students on the path to and through college, we sweat the details. I admit, we sweat many, many details. But beyond the push to college, beyond the 70-minute classes, hours of homework, difficult assessments, demerits and detentions, lies a core belief that what we are doing will make a difference in our students’ lives. I have no doubt that every member of our faculty and staff wakes up every day with the hope that we are ensuring all our students will have the ability to achieve their dreams, that all our students will have a chance to lead successful, fulfilling lives.
That’s certainly why I do what I do.