Stephen Witt’s service to the Hewlett-Woodmere Board of Education stretches across three decades, beginning in 1984. It was interrupted by a hiatus from 1996 to 2003, and it is coming to an end on June 30.
Witt, of Woodmere, was appointed to the Nassau County BOCES board in 1996, and has served on it ever since.
The Board of Cooperative Educational Services helps districts share educational and support services and offers an array of vocational training programs.
Witt also helps coach Hewlett-Woodmere’s football, boys’ basketball and boys’ lacrosse teams. In these roles, he has come to know many of the students BOCES aims to help. After he retires, he said, he will remain on the BOCES board and continue to coach.
“It’s not about me — I could do a lot of different things if it was,” Witt said. “It’s always been about the kids . . . We come from a wealthy community, but that doesn’t mean that the kids don’t have problems. Even if they may seem trivial to you, it’s not to them.”
His dedication to the students has earned Witt their admiration, according to Bill Dubin, Hewlett High School’s varsity basketball coach. “All the kids love him,” Dubin said. “He’s the nicest guy you could imagine. He’s really the most giving guy . . . He’s out there almost every day.”
A retired JP Morgan Chase banker, Witt will turn 82 next month, and said he believes it’s time to step away. “I love [the board],” he said. “It has nothing to do with my feelings about what I’ve been doing. I just think it’s time for someone else to have a chance.”
In 2009, Witt received the New York State School Boards Association’s top award, the Outstanding School Board Member Award, although he said he keeps all his awards out of sight in his basement. He also served as the BOCES board president from 2009 to 2014. He called on BOCES to purchase buildings rather than lease them, and helped keep the Long Island High School for the Arts open.
“Everything he did, he did for the kids,” said Teresa Scaturro, the BOCES board secretary.
Scaturro has known Witt since he was appointed in 1996. “He’s so dedicated to the kids, and the growth of the special-education kids,” she added. “It’s important to him that they grow and become good citizens. He loves his coaching, too, but is really dedicated to the special-education children and [students] dedicated to their career.”
Dubin, who came to Hewlett in 1989, has worked with Witt on the teams ever since. Witt spent three months taking night courses at BOCES to become a licensed coach. “He’s giving of his time and his experience,” Dubin said. “All the students look up to him.”
Witt ran track at his alma mater, Michigan State. “I just wasn’t big enough to play football for them,” he joked. He is also certified to coach track.
While most people his age have slowed down, Witt said he feeds off the student’s energy. “I feel like I’m 25 years old when I’m around them,” he said. “Something rubs off around them that makes you feel young. You never get old around them.”
Hewlett High, where Witt has been involved for decades, has been his personal fountain of youth. Dubin’s daughter, Maia, is graduating in June. “I’m thrilled that he’s been here long enough to hand my daughter her diploma,” Dubin said of Witt.