As she prepares for the first day of school on Sept. 4, new Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School Principal Cynthia Cameron cited student growth and an improved reading program as major goals to foster a bright future for the district.
“Some of my main goals include getting to know the children and the families, and working collaboratively with our staff to introduce our new reading program,” Cameron said. “In doing so, we’ll work together to really bring our students above and beyond academically.”
Cameron explained that this year, the district is using the Leveled Literacy Intervention Program, which assists students who struggle with reading by providing them with extra support and assistance.
Cameron, 42, who lives in Nesconset, began her duties at Hegarty on July 1. She came from the Elmont School District, where she has served as an assistant principal since 2012, and takes over for Jacob Russum, who became the district’s director of pupil personnel services after Dr. Laurie Scimeca retired in June. Russum had been principal of Hegarty for 10 years, and Cameron said he has given her advice about what to expect at the school, which she affectionately called “his baby.”
Cameron said she was drawn to Island Park because of its tight-knit feel. “It’s really family-oriented, and the teachers and administrators come together with the community for events,” she said. “It really helps bring that feeling and sense of community and family into the school building.”
In Elmont, Cameron implemented curricula, provided professional development opportunities and teacher training, oversaw staff members and teacher teams, led parent workshops and coordinated testing, among other duties. She also served as the principal of the district’s academic summer school and the Enrichment Program, and was a consultant to Nassau BOCES.
Before coming to Elmont, Cameron spent 13 years as a fifth-grade teacher at P.S. 68 in Ridgewood, Queens; a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in the Half Hallow Hills School District; and a sixth- through ninth-grade academic intervention specialist at Edward Bleeker Junior High School 185 in Flushing, Queens. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Hofstra University and a specialist diploma from Queens College. In addition, she is a state-certified school supervisor, administrator and literacy specialist.
Island Park Superintendent Dr. Rosmarie Bovino said that Cameron’s wealth of experience was one of the many reasons that district officials felt she was right for the job.
“Through the extensive interview process, she stood out as someone who not only has the tactical and leadership skills to be an effective principal, but someone who is truly passionate about working with children,” Bovino said. “I am confident that she will quickly endear herself to the Island Park community.”
Bovino also extended her appreciation to Russum for his accomplishments as principal. “Under Mr. Russum’s leadership, a number of new programs and initiatives were successfully launched,” Bovino said, noting that he was at the helm to oversee new English as a Second Language and science, technology, engineering, art and math — collectively known as STEAM — programs.
Cameron said she hoped to build on Russum’s accomplishments, and noted that she aimed to expand the LEGO robotics program that he brought to the district. “My past experiences will help me grow as an administrator and help me to really implement programs and individualize instruction within my building,” Cameron said. “I’m looking forward to implementing programs to enrich and support our current curriculum.”
In addition to robotics, Cameron said she would like to institute hydroponic planters in the building to enable children to have a farm-to-table experience, in which they grow vegetables and eat them. She said she would also like to add a sensory hallway for students who need a break from academic rigors or have down time. The hallways would have various activities, such as hopscotch, mazes and toe-heel exercises, which would “keep students moving between subjects if they need a brain break and would be something they could use during an indoor recess period as well,” she said.
Cameron said she is also passionate about technology, and would like to use a green screen to broadcast morning announcements live. She said administrators were able to employ classroom smartboards in Elmont to broadcast the announcements, and could use the green screen for themed backgrounds, such as outer space or the beach, depending on what the students were learning at the time.
Cameron said that the staff members she has met have helped her feel at home, and that she was excited to welcome students next month. “I’m most looking forward to meeting the children,” she said. “I’m looking forward to really enriching their experiences at the elementary level. I’m expecting a great year and to develop a sense of family, while continuing to grow as an individual and helping my students strive for the very best.”