Throughout his life, West Hempstead High School Principal Alvaro Escobar said that he has prided himself on consistency. “Every day, I would just get up, put on my suit, come to work and do my job as best as I can,” said Escobar, who compared his routine to the work ethic of former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
After 18 years in the West Hempstead School District, Escobar retired on Feb. 28. “This has been a great place to work,” he said. “All the people that I’ve worked with — from the faculty to our central administration and our students — have brought out the best in me.”
Escobar, 58, who has worked in education since 1984, began his career as an adaptive phys. ed. teacher, helping disabled students for the New York State Education Department. In 2000, he was hired as an athletic director at West Hempstead High. He was promoted to assistant principal in 2005, and in 2015 he was appointed principal.
“Admired by former and current students, staff and community members, Mr. Escobar was an educational leader who established an atmosphere of respect and kindness, and always had students’ and staff’s best interests at heart,” Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss said in a statement.
Of his years in the district, Escobar said, he was proud of his staff members for increasing the rigor of the high school’s curriculum. “We’re graduating more students, and we’ve had more students complete mastery level in Regents,” he said. “We’ve also challenged our high school students to make the school better each year, and I can safely say that every class has made its own positive contribution.”
Last year, the high school launched its Silver Cord program, which urges students to take part in community service. Escobar said that students had volunteered at local hospitals, and some traveled to other countries to help build homes. At graduation, 36 seniors were recognized for their efforts. He said that through this program, the district has continued to build responsible young citizens.
“No matter where your community is, you have to be willing to help those less fortunate,” Escobar said. “The Silver Cord was a way of rewarding students who put in the hours.”
He also said that he was proud of the school’s diversity, which he described as a living mosaic, and that students have accepted one another’s differences.
“In the last few years, we’ve had a significant influx — like all of Long Island — in the number of Spanish-speaking students,” said Escobar, who also speaks Spanish. “I would say that as principal, I was able to give at least somewhat of a voice to a population that didn’t always have a voice, because I spend a lot of time with the [English as a New Language] kids.”
He added that he and his staff were dedicated to supporting students at all levels of education. “We not only look to support the highest achievers or the students who are at risk, but also those middle-of-the-road kids,” he said. “Sometimes they’re the ones that just go unnoticed in high school.”
“Alvaro Escobar’s dedication to serving the community and helping children foster a love for learning is truly remarkable,” said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who presented a proclamation to Escobar on Feb. 26. “His commitment to the children and their success has made him a pillar in the community, and his retirement is well deserved.”
In a 2015 questionnaire that Escobar participated in with the Herald, he said that one of his main goals was to turn the high school into a beacon for the communities of West Hempstead and Island Park. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he said, “but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Ever since Escobar became principal, at the start of each school year, he played “Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression-Part 2,” a song by progressive rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, on the P.A. system. The song’s opening lyrics are, “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.”
“Education doesn’t end, it just keeps going,” Escobar said. “The show never ends, but sometimes the act has changed.”
In the next chapter of his life, Escobar said, he looks forward to playing golf more often, and spending time with his wife and children.