Jennifer Morrison is among several fresh faces in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district.
The district’s new superintendent officially started her job July 1, about a year after new principals took over all four of its schools following a wave of retirements. Morrison was picked in the spring to replace Robert Katulak, who retired in June after nine years as superintendent.
The relatively new staff has an opportunity to help the district grow, Morrison said, but must also keep the past in mind.
“It’s a fresh set of eyes, but you also have to remember to honor everything that came before and be wise enough to see how we got to where we are right now, and then figure out, what is it that we want to do to leave our mark?” Morrison, who most recently worked as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Eastport-South Manor school district, said in an interview.
Morrison has tried to seize that opportunity in her first two weeks on the job, meeting with the principals, other administrators, unions, parent groups and the school board.
The goal of those meetings is to better understand the district’s procedures, protocols, culture and history, Morrison said. So far she has met many “very proud people” and children who are “full of smiles,” she said.
Morrison posted her detailed “entry plan” outlining her transition into the superintendent’s role on the district website so parents can know her plans leading up to the start of school in the fall. Katulak helped her get acclimated in the first week, she said.
In addition to meeting with officials and parents, Morrison plans to dig into the district’s finances and review its curricular programs with the goal of ensuring all students have “a good, strong environment for them where they can grow and flourish and be happy kids,” Morrison said.
Before her work in Eastport-South Manor, Morrison, a Shoreham resident, was an administrator and principal in the Comsewogue school district.
Morrison said her teaching work at a predominantly African-American school in Jamaica, Queens, and with students learning English as a new language in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich school district gave her experience with students from diverse backgrounds.
“I guess every place prepared me for where I was going, and that was here,” Morrison said.
While she has experience preparing sixth-graders to enter a high school for grades seven to 12, Morrison said having the higher grades in a separate school district — the Sewanhaka Central High School District — will be an adjustment. She has met with Sewanhaka Superintendent Ralph Ferrie to start building a relationship.
As New Hyde Park-Garden City Park expands its use of iPads to fifth-grade classrooms, Morrison said she wants to work with officials and parents to determine goals for technology in classrooms, especially in the context of Sewanhaka’s plan to equip all its students with the tablet computers.
“They have their goals. I want to know, what are our goals?” Morrison said. “Why are we putting technology into the hands of kindergarten through sixth-graders?”
James Reddan, a New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school board trustee, said Morrison’s professional background makes her the ideal person to continue the district’s technology efforts.
Reddan expects Morrison to improve communication between the district, the school board and parents by making better use of the district website, which he said will become “more transparent” under Morrison.
“She has really taken the bull by the horns and is making the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district her New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district,” Reddan said.