Whether it’s a Parent Teacher Association meeting, an Oceanside SAFE Coalition meeting, a school board meeting or one of myriad other engagements, Sandie Schoell always shows up ready to help those in need, making the most of her decades in community service.
Schoell, 69, was first elected to the Oceanside Board of Education in 2005, and established an extensive track record. She has served as president and vice president four times each.
She presided through the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which hit her personally after the storm severely damaged her home. That slowed her down, but it didn’t stop her. Pressing on, she tackled the controversial introduction of Common Core, high stakes testing, tax cap legislation enacted by New York state and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
“In my almost 19 years as a School Superintendent,” said Superintendent Phyllis Harrington who’s worked alongside Schoell for a decade, “I have had the pleasure of working with many outstanding board members. Mrs. Schoell truly stands out as one of the finest. She is incredibly intelligent and hard-working, but it is her commitment to children that is unparalleled. While she works tirelessly to represent all facets of our community, what remains at the heart of all her decision making is what is best for kids.”
For her dedication to the students of the Oceanside School District, the Herald is proud to name Schoell its 2022 Person of the Year.
“I’m in everything,” Schoell said.
Schoell chooses not to remain idle. From one commitment to the next, there is never a moment spent without helping someone in some way, usually behind the scenes.
“I love what I do, I love it. I love giving back,” Schoell said. “You know, it’s funny, I came from a family of service. I guess that’s where I learned the lesson. They were so involved in the local parish, and when we went to our high schools, my brother and I both went to Catholic high schools and my parents were in the parent association. I guess I learned that lesson and when I stayed home to raise my kids, it wasn’t enough. I need something to keep me busy.”
Networking is one of Schoell’s strengths and worked in her favor, once she joined the board.
“I kept a level head, kept my cool and I listened to everybody,” she said. “That’s one thing I think I can do. When you're serving on the school board, you have to be good at the art of consensus. Which means to me – this is my definition – that you all walk away from the table unhappy, but you can live with it.
“And I think it’s a balancing act, because you have to check your politics at the door, and you have to understand you represent people from both sides of the aisle.”
One of Schoell’s most rewarding undertaking is Dawn Delirium, a post-prom party that keeps teens out of the city and from making bad decisions. She took over the program 30 years ago.
“If they do make a bad decision, we’re there to bail them out,” Schoell said. “In other words, we’re there to help them, protect them, and get them home safe.”
Her worst nightmare would be the dreaded phone call that something happened overnight that she could’ve prevented. For her, it’s all about keeping kids safe, drug free, and educated to the highest capabilities.
"Sandie does not only sit on the Board of Education,” said Frances Gallin who works with Schoell in the SAFE Coalition, “but she also volunteers her time to many community events, devotes her time to various committees that advocate for children of all ages and those in need."
Schoell is also part of the Kiwanis and Kiwanittees groups dedicated to the fight against pediatric Lyme disease. Kiwanis was considered a “boy’s club,” so a spirited woman named Edyth DeBaun started the Kiwanittees, focusing on helping senior citizens and female students. Now, Schoell is one of the spirited women keeping it alive, alongside DeBaun’s grandchildren.
“She’s wonderful, she is right on top of everything, she checks out all the legalities on everything,” said Pat Roth, who serves in the Kiwanis and Kiwanittees with Schoell. “She’s the one who keeps everybody in line when it comes to Robert’s Rules of Order. She’s known for that. The most important thing is that she cares about the kids, that’s her number one thing. She’s in the trenches, when there is something to be done, she’s there, she’s helping, and she’s organizing.
“I’ve never seen her miss an event from any of the organizations. The best thing about her is that if she doesn't know the answer, she won’t say ‘I don’t know,’ she'll say, ‘I'll find out.’ She’s a pretty terrific woman.”
Schoell remains active despite losing her husband Gary, Feb. 5, 2021, to pancreatic cancer.
“This keeps me out of the house,” she said, “Because I can only spend so much time with my kids and my grandchildren. So, this keeps my mind active, and I love what I do … I think I found that I found myself by being in service to other people. This is where I find myself.”
Nancy Baxter said her good friend, Schoell, is the driving force behind the Oceanside community.
“She is the most genuine and kind person you could ever meet. But, when you ruffle her feathers, she can be a tiger,” Baxter said. “She is strong in her beliefs but will always respect yours. She is a very smart woman with good intentions. She's a thinker. Always working on new projects for the good of those who are in need. She's the kind of person you can look up to ask advice, vent to and in the end, laugh with!
“She deserves the honor of Person of the Year more than anything," Baxter added. "She fights for the rights of all the children in Oceanside because of her strong convictions and ideals.”