In his 44 years in the Elmont School District, Marshall Zucker has worked with people who started their education careers in the 1930s, and others who might continue to work in the district through the 2060s. Now, after witnessing so much of the district’s history, he is one of three Elmont principals who are set to retire at the end of the year.
The Board of Education approved Zucker’s, Amy Buchanan’s and Hope Kranidis’s retirement requests in January. Zucker was honored with a drive-by parade on June 16, and Buchanan was previously awarded the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award by Elmont Online and Highlighting Success Inc.
Zucker started out as a student teacher in the district, then substituted at three of its six schools, an experience that he said was “invaluable to me.” Over the years, he climbed the ranks of the administration, from teacher to assistant principal and Gotham Avenue School principal in 1997.
“I remember just about everything that’s gone on here,” said Zucker, who declined to give his age, instead describing himself as “ageless.”
He has amassed “years and years” of files during his time in Elmont, including old newspaper articles about the origins of the school district, class rosters, old newsletters, photos from various Gotham Avenue events and student work. They are now all included in the Gotham Avenue archives.
“I have a natural interest in history,” Zucker told the Herald in March, “and I’m willing to share that interest with anyone.”
He also enjoys scheduling programs and classes, he said, and would even volunteer to help other principals with their class schedules. “I like details,” he explained. “To me, they affect everyone’s lives.”
But now, he said, he would like to spend his time teaching religious school and learning how to play more musical instruments. “I’ve been an amateur musician since 1963,” said Zucker, who plays the xylophone and vibraphone.
He said he would miss his time at Gotham Avenue, but noted that “good leadership will make it a continued success.”
William Mingo, who is now the school’s assistant principal, will take over in the fall.
When Amy Buchanan first came to the Dutch Broadway School from a public school in Queens, she said, “I almost felt like I had opened the door on Oz, it was so different from where I’d been.”
Then-Principal Walter Oksinoff walked her through every classroom in the building and introduced her to every staff member, making her feel more welcome.
Now Buchanan, 62, is ending her career at the school. “I’m back home where I started,” she said.
Buchanan taught kindergarten at the school in 1993, then became a sixth-grade teacher. Her colleagues later encouraged her to take on the role of assistant to the principal of the Dutch Broadway School, and in 2001 she was tapped to become principal of the Alden Terrace School.
During her time there, she helped train new teachers, and received the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Award for her dedication to Elmont at the 10th annual Black History Month Celebration in 2013.
“She guides with her heart,” Superintendent Al Harper said of Buchanan at the awards ceremony. “She’s always there.”
Also in 2013, State Education Commissioner Dr. John B. King Jr. visited Alden Terrace to observe students and faculty during a typical day of teaching and learning. King called Buchanan “an energetic principal who is focused on instruction for the students,” and added of the school, “It’s an impressively diverse student body where teachers are focused on making sure every student is prepared for college and career success.”
Four years ago Buchanan was transferred back to Dutch Broadway to be its principal. One thing that hasn’t changed, she said, “is the people.”
“The constants are so important here — the parents’ love for their kids, the professionals’ love for their work,” she noted, adding that she has had students whose parents were in her classes more than 20 years ago.
Now, however, she said it’s time to leave. “I want to go out on a high note,” she said.
Assistant Principal Cynthia Qasim will take over as principal in the fall.
Over the 39 years that Kranidis has been in the district, she has seen education change. Teachers no longer just make children memorize facts, she said, and are instead posing questions to students so they can apply what they have learned in class.
“It’s just very rewarding to watch the children grow and become independent,” she said. “You kind of grow with the students and families.”
Kranidis, 60, began her career in the district as a teaching assistant with students struggling with reading and math. Then she took a position as a fifth-grade teacher at Alden Terrace, and became its core skills coordinator, working with small groups of students who were struggling with literacy and coordinating instruction with their teachers.
She eventually became the assistant to the principal at the Stewart Manor School and assistant principal at Dutch Broadway, and has been the principal at Stewart Manor for 21 years. There she has continued the school’s tradition of putting on a holiday play every year, and has helped the parents of incoming kindergartners adjust to the school environment.
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education designated Stewart Manor a Blue Ribbon School, based on student test scores and academic achievement. It was one of only about 250 schools to be named to the program that year, and Kranidis was invited to attend a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where she received a plaque and a Blue Ribbon flag.
“It was very exciting,” she said. “It’s quite an honor to be a Blue Ribbon School.”
Newsday named Stewart Manor the most diverse school on Long Island last year. In 2018-19, the student body was 26 percent Latino, 24 percent white, 23 percent black, 22 percent Asian or native Pacific islander, 4 percent multiracial and 1 percent Native American. Kranidis called the school a “unique place for students,” and told a Newsday reporter that she was proud of her school and its racial diversity.
In retirement, she said, she would like to travel once it’s again safe, and teach students about gardening.
Of her time in Elmont, she said, “I really couldn’t think of a more rewarding career.”
Kranidis will be replaced by Clara H. Carlson Assistant Principal Amanda Sagnelli next year.