The large crowd gathered at Great Neck South High School was much like a reunion, with a large group of current and former superintendents, administrators, teachers, students and parents. The afternoon was really a joy, as old friends caught sight of one another and embraced as the memories floated through the air.
The excitement was palpable as one after the other, old friends discovered Bill Shine,
the beloved former superintendent who led the district for well over 20 years. Suddenly, the years melted away and “yesterday” did not seem so long ago.
As guests arrived, they were treated to an informal reception in the lobby in addition to a continuous showing of The First 200 Years video. The video, produced by GNPS/TV in conjunction with the 200th Anniversary of the Great Neck Public Schools, offers an entertaining and informative look at the school district, from its beginnings 200 years ago to the many current programs that truly make Great Neck a “lighthouse” district.
The afternoon included the wonderful opportunity to mingle and rediscover old friendships, as well as “reflections” on the past, awards of achievement and some welcome words from school district leaders, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan and Board of Education members (President Barbara Berkowitz, Vice President Lawrence Gross and trustees Donald Ashkenase and Susan Healy).
Three alumni (one from each of the district’s high schools, North High School, South High School and the Village School), representing all alumni, were then presented with 200th Anniversary Alumni Awards. The honored alumni, Dr. Mary L. Cleave, North High School Class of 1965 (second female astronaut); Roy G. Niederhoffer, South High School Class of 1982 (hedge fund manager and philanthropist); and Ilan D. Hall, Village School Class of 2000 (chef and winner of the television series Top Chef), all spoke to the audience, offering enthusiastic memories of their growing up years in the Great Neck community and almost magical tales of their experiences attending the Great Neck Public Schools. Each one emphasized how their educational experience in Great Neck helped shape them to become leaders in their chosen fields.
The Showcase of Achievement was a special presentation, with displays from over two dozen school district programs and organizations. Guests walked from station to station to view and learn about a whole host of school district programs, including: Adult Basic Education, athletics, Community Education, Community School, DECA, ESL, facilities and structures, GNPS/TV, GNTA, Guide Post (North High newspaper), a historical perspective of former buildings, internships, math, music, opera, outdoor education, public service learning, responsive classrooms, Robotics, SEAL, school lunch program, science research, Shared Decision Making/Goal Setting, Stages, summer recreation, Teachers College Reading & Writing, UPTC and the visual arts.
For all who are or have been involved with the Great Neck School District, in any one of dozens of ways, this was an afternoon to remember, As everyone said, this was just the first 200 years.