A new chapter ahead at East Meadow's Barnum Woods


Two of Barnum Woods Elementary School’s most prominent leaders — Principal Gregory Bottari and David Rothman, a 30-year planning and management team member — have retired from their positions in the East Meadow School District, effective at the end of the past school year.

Bottari, who has worked in the district since 1997, has long been committed to fostering an educational environment that brings out the best in students. He has worked with the planning and management team at Barnum, a group of building administrators and faculty, as well as PTA and community members, that Rothman has been part of for decades.

During their time in their respective roles, Barnum Woods has been recognized for being a top school, ranking 66th out of more than 4,000 public schools in New York State.

“That puts us in the 1.6 top percentile,” Bottari said. “For educational institutions, that does not happen by luck or by chance. That is because I believe that we’ve gone out of our way to hire the best and the brightest for kids.”

Bottari’s philosophical perspective on education is that it must prepare students to be constructive members of society, and he encourages all students to make the best of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that school provides.

“The goal of education is to provide students with a learning experience that is challenging, inspiring, nurturing, safe and stimulating,” he said.

It is important for an educational institution to teach the subjects in its curriculum, but also to foster the development of honesty and integrity, compassion and kindness, perseverance and self-discipline, as well as good citizenship, according to Bottari.

“Encouraging our students to advance intellectually, morally and socially is a task for exceptional educators and a supportive parent community,” Bottari said. “Working as a cohesive and strategic unit, we can accomplish so much. There is no greater calling in the world than championing an effort to shape the future leaders of our society.”

Melody Schiller, a teacher at Barnum Woods and a member of the planning and management team, said even in his retirement, Bottari wanted to leave the school with new programs. K-Kids, a service organization for elementary-aged students through the Kiwanis Club of East Meadow, created a chapter at the school this year, and Barnum Woods also celebrated the opening of a garden, thanks to a partnership with Reworld, a waste management company in Westbury.

“He’s worked very hard to ensure the positive environment and strong relationships will continue beyond his time here, which shows his true character,” Schiller said of Bottari.

Rothman, who has served on the volunteer side of the planning and management team, has been a constant figure at Barnum, actively working in the community for more than three decades. He’s played a huge role in supporting Barnum, through his past position as the governor for the New York District of Kiwanis International, an education-focused nonprofit. While in that position, he was able to secure a $25,000 grant to help Barnum fundraise for the reconstruction of a playground at Hegarty Elementary School in Island Park following Superstorm Sandy.

As he steps down from his role with the planning and management team, Rothman said he is looking forward to more family time, which was a major factor in his decision to leave the team.

“I just think it’s great the way everybody unites and pitches in,” Rothman said of his time with the team. “I don’t think many people realize what goes into it. You know, we kind of fly under the radar, so to speak. But I’m not sorry for anything that I’ve done to contribute to the benefit of the community.”