Dr. Thomas Dolan first decided that he would spend his adult life in the field of education when he was in the eighth grade. Hired by the Locust Valley Central School District on Aug. 12 as the acting superintendent, he has committed to leading the district until June 20, 2020. Affable and keenly intelligent, he brings with him much experience, perhaps even more than he had imagined he’d acquire when he was a middle school student with a passion for history.
Dolan, 63, who lives in Lindenhurst, was a social studies teacher for 15 years at Canastota High School in Canastota, N.Y. He began his administrator career path accepting the position of dean at Hewlett High School in in 1981. He went on to become principal at two different schools — Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School and H. Frank Carey Junior-Senior High School in Franklin Square, where he was beloved by students, including Jennifer Masa, the administrative dean and coordinator of the special education department at Locust Valley High School.
Dolan was at Carey until 2000, leaving after Masa completed her sophomore year.
“When he left we felt his absence,” said Masa, adding that he was very popular. “He had the ability to bring all the students together. Dr. Dolan promoted inclusion before it was trendy.”
Masa remembers Dolan as someone who spoke to every student with respect, never needing to demand it for himself.
“He was funny and he was at everything, never leaving at 3,” Masa recalled. “And he knew your name and your sibling’s name too.”
Dolan became an assistant superintendent at Manhasset Public Schools and a superintendent twice, in Franklin Square Elementary School District and then at Great Neck Public Schools.
He tried to retire several times but didn’t because he said opportunities kept coming his way that he couldn’t resist. One offer was to be the interim president at Nassau Community College for a year in 2015, another was to open a graduate center in Hauppauge for St. John’s University. He then worked as the interim director at Northport-East Northport School District until June 2019.
Coming to Locust Valley as an acting superintendent is another opportunity that Dolan said he will relish.
“At the first board meeting the interaction between the board and staff was so mutually respectful and supportive I thought, ‘Yeah, this is going to be good,’” Dolan, said. “I’m glad I’m here.”
He has three priorities for LVSD that he said are of equal importance. The first is relationship building. He’d like to get to know everyone, he said — administrators, parent leaders and students. Working to develop effective work relationships is important, Dolan said, and should be done “before there is a need to develop one.”
His second priority is to get a handle on the facilities and has already toured the district and seen all of the buildings.
Finally, he’s immersing himself in what he referred to as the “documentary” — the test scores and board agendas. “I’m looking into as many documents as I can to learn about the history of the place,” he explained.
Dolan possesses a number of attributes that he said he believes will assist him in being an effective leader. He is flexible, positive, a lifelong learner and because he has five grown children he can relate to a parent’s concerns, he said.
“My lessons and the grey hair they brought can serve me well,” he said, smiling. “And I enjoy the company of kids — their enthusiasm. I will enjoy the opportunity to create an environment where the students can learn and enjoy themselves.”
Dolan has a hobby that will surely intrigue some students. He was a professional baseball umpire at the college and high school levels for 20 years. And in the late 1990’s he worked twice as an umpire at Yankee Stadium. He said it was exciting at first but then, “Once the game started I realized something — the field is the same there as anywhere else,” Dolan said.
Masa said she was surprised when she learned that Dolan would be coming to Locust Valley. So was Robert Levy, a Locust Valley High School social studies teacher. Dolan was Levy’s social studies teacher in 1986.
“He was so innovative with how he taught that you didn’t realize you were learning,” Levy said. “He’s a person who definitely puts children first, whether in terms of teaching or helping that person achieve their personal goals. He inspired me to become a teacher.”