When Dr. Henry Kiernan arrived in the Bellmore-Merrick Central School District in July 2005, newly hired as superintendent of schools, he found a district with a 1 percent dropout rate. Seventy-five percent of seniors from the district’s three high schools –– Calhoun, Kennedy and Mepham –– went on to four-year colleges, and another 22 percent to two-year colleges.
If students had a hard time fitting in academically at the district’s highly competitive high schools and middle schools –– Grand Avenue and Merrick Avenue –– there were seemingly few avenues to find help close to home. Such students were often sent to out-of-district schools run by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
Kiernan, 62, who has served eight years as district superintendent, said he immediately recognized a need to better provide for students on the fringes of school culture –– those who felt alienated, those who had lost hope of graduating and going on to college.
Thus the Meadowbrook Alternative School, known affectionately now as MAP, was born in the fall of 2006. The school, housed at the Brookside School in North Merrick, has since graduated 100 seniors who might otherwise have left school. Ninety percent of MAP graduates have gone on to college.
The program, Kiernan said in an interview with the Herald last week, is his proudest accomplishment during his tenure in the district. And, colleagues said, it will likely be the one that he is remembered for in years to come, though he has racked up a long list of program accomplishments as the district’s chief executive. And so, they said, he will be missed when he retires on June 30.
‘Mapping’ a new course
Kiernan is humble when he speaks about MAP. He immediately credits David Seinfeld, the Calhoun High School principal, whom he appointed to head a committee to develop plans for an alternative school in the district. And, he said, the highest praise goes to Susan Ellinghouse, the former Merrick Avenue Middle School teacher who has served as MAP’s director since the school opened.