Citing health issues, Port Washington School Superintendent Kathleen Mooney announced at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting that she will retire after the end of the school year.
“Anyone who knows me does know that I do not make decisions lightly or without considerable thought and reflection and this is probably one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever have had to make,” she said.
“It is truly in the best interests of my own health for me to take this step,” she added.
In an email, she said that she has been experiencing unspecified challenges to her health in recent years and she would like to be able to spend more time with her family.
Mooney joined the Port Washington school district in 2000 and served in various administrative capacities before she was appointed as superintendent in 2012. Before being superintendent, she served as the district’s human resources administrator and director of pupil personnel services.
She took the position of superintendent at a time when the district was experiencing increasing enrollment.
“It was important to address the academic and social/emotional needs of our students, especially with new academic standards, while staying within the tax cap levy limit,” she said in the email.
Regina Mclean, a member of Port’s Teachers Association, thanked Mooney for her work on behalf of over 500 professionals in the district.
“When Dr. Mooney became superintendent of the Port Washington schools, she changed the tone and created a calm in the district at a much needed time,” she said.
She expressed her gratitude to Mooney for having facilitated a positive relationship between the teachers association and central administration.
“We will always remember her for that,” she said.
Asked about her favorite accomplishments as superintendent, Mooney mentioned the advances the school district has provided to its students. Over the years, she has overseen the district in “offering a new, challenging curriculum, upgrading technology and facilities, and enhancing safety measures in all schools.”
However, her favorite experiences of all “are those being spent being awed by the incredible talents of our students,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to approve the superintendent’s resignation.
“It is with great regret that I will, in fact, vote to accept this resolution; it is with sadness that we will see her go, she has done more for this district than most people could ever imagine,” Karen Sloan, the president of the Board of Education, said.
Mooney expressed her gratitude to the board, staff, community members and the students for making the 19 years she has spent in Port Washington so fulfilling.
“I have loved every minute of being here despite some very challenging times, but you always see the best in people in the hardest of times and I have always, always found that here in Port Washington,” she said.
She submitted her resignation early to allow the district ample time to search for her replacement.
Along with the farewell wishes to the superintendent, students and community members approached the board asking for the return of a literary magazine, Kaleidoscope.
It was discontinued at the high school in February.
Lily Labella, a 10th-grader at Paul D. Schreiber High School, gathered the signatures of 53 students who would like to see the literary magazine returned to being an individual publication and not just an insert in the back of the yearbook.
“We are not asking for a glossy, hardcover anthology, even a photocopied pamphlet or online format will allow us to express our passion for writing,” she said.
Students reached out to a community organization, AGATE, that advocates for quality education in Port Washington.
“We did not find them, they found us,” Barbara Cohen, AGATE’s recording secretary, said.
She provided a timeline to the board of all the times her organization has reached out on the students’ behalf and no action was taken.
Both she and Leigh Richards, the co-president of AGATE, have addressed the issue to multiple faculty members at the high school, including Principal Ira Pernick, to express their willingness to help either by supplying grants or seeking the support of the community when in search of a club adviser.
After speaking with Pernick, Richards was essentially told “that it would be looked into but thank you for your help but no thank you,” Cohen said.
No progress was made until last week when the announcement was made that Kaleidoscope would be made available in the back of the yearbook, much to the students’ disappointment.
What Cohen said she finds most disheartening is that students’ efforts to “meet with the faculty and to talk with the superintendent have been met with silence.”
Beth Ain, a Port Washington resident and published author, volunteered her services to the club.
She said she was astonished that a school like Schreiber did not have a literary magazine. “I come from rural Pennsylvania,” she said. “I had a literary magazine where I wrote in high school and here I am making a career out of it.”
In response to community concerns, Sloan apologized for miscommunication on the issue. She said that Pernick will make himself available and encouraged students to stop by to try and come up with a resolution.