With a combined 41 years of administrative leadership in the North Bellmore School District, Deputy Superintendent Carol Eskew and Park Avenue Elementary School Principal Eileen Speidel will leave behind a legacy defined by unsurpassable and unwavering devotion to the students and the community they served.
Eskew came to the district 27 years ago after a stint in United States Navy where she supported the support services Division during the Vietnam War.
Eskew worked as a psychologist at four of the district’s six buildings. She became a respected mentor to district special education teams and a respected colleague of teachers and administrators. Eskew served 13 years as the director of special education before being named deputy superintendent. As deputy superintendent, Eskew maintained her role as director of special education and assumed oversight of the district’s human resource department.
Under her direction, the co-teaching model began with two classes at Saw Mill Road Elementary School and was eventually expanded to every school. The district was one of the first to have a certified behavioral specialist and an assistive technology evaluator on staff.
“We are a team in every way in North Bellmore and this team has put the district in a very good place for the future,” she said.
Speidel retires after 14 years at Park Avenue and, like Eskew, said that successful leadership comes from teamwork. Many initiatives have been spearheaded by school committees. The Shared Decision Making Committee, a team that includes Speidel, teachers and parents, created the school logo and the Parker Panda school mascot, while the Scholars Pledge and Parker Paw program originated with the school-based Character Education Committee.
“So much of what you do as a principal is what you do as a team,” Speidel said. “All of the brilliant minds come together to bring these ideas to fruition. We’ve created so much as a school community.”
With support from the PTA, an annual dance residency was created in which students spend two weeks working with teachers from professional dance schools before putting on a final performance for their families.
For the last 11 years, Speidel has selected books containing poignant messages which connect to the lives of the students. Speidel provided each teacher with a copy of the book as well as a letter from her outlining essential discussion ideas. The month of June marks Speidel’s 110th and final book of the month.
Testa commented, “Ms. Speidel’s principal’s book of the month set the very foundation upon which the kind, respectful, growth-oriented culture of Park Avenue was built. To say that she inspired a love of reading among her students and faculty and that her selections were awe inspiring, meaningful and valuable would be an understatement. Ms. Speidel’s legacy will forever live through the invaluable life lessons the children learned over these years.”
Speidel is a principal of students. She is out at recess, in classrooms, greeting students and arrival, wishing them well as they dismiss and is “seen along the way,” at all other times throughout the day. Speidel prides herself on knowing every student by name. Prior to the pandemic, she hosted monthly lunches for students celebrating their birthdays, another way of making a personal connection with students.
In 2019, Speidel, was one of 15 Long Island educators to receive the Administrator of the Year award from the Council of Administrators and Supervisors. This extraordinary honor was well-deserved and was celebrated by all who had the privilege of observing Speidel lead.
“Ms. Speidel is a leader among leaders, a humble human being and a devoted colleague,” Testa said. “For 14 years, she placed students, faculty and staff first in all decision-making, in every aspect of the programs she oversaw and in every work and action she took as principal of Park Avenue.”
Prior to coming to North Bellmore, Speidel worked as a teacher and assistant principal in Queens for sixteen years. Speidel applied to a few principal jobs on Long Island, and the day she sent her application to the North Bellmore, she received a sign. While having a slice of pizza and a soda, she noticed a message inside the soda bottle cap: “Important news about your job will come soon.” Not long after, she was hired to lead Park Avenue.
“Obviously that news did come and my journey at Park Avenue School soon began,” Speidel said. “It really was the opportunity of a lifetime. Being the principal at Park Avenue has truly been the highlight of my career.”
Testa remembered the day Speidel was interviewed, “I knew during the interview that Ms. Speidel was the one…I knew that she would be a once in a lifetime principal!”
Courtesy North Bellmore School District