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Vocational Center named after longtime L.I. educator

New center is ‘beyond schoolwork’

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The Woodward Children’s Center, a small private school on Merrick Road in Freeport, recently named its vocational center after longtime educator George Singfield, 91. At a Dec. 4 ceremony, students, school administrators, teachers and the Woodward board recognized Singfield for his commitment to the school and presented him with a key to the new George Singfield Vocational Center.

The center provides high school students with hands-on vocational training. It offers four 45-minute classes, with roughly eight students in each class. The classes include aero-gardening, photographic printing, vinyl printing, building maintenance, hospitality, iron and steaming, and clerical training. The facility also has a retail center with a cashier and inventory maintenance tools.

A beaming Singfield was given a tour of the new center along with students, faculty and staff.

According to Greg Ingino, executive director, when it comes to vocational education at Woodward, Singfield has been the main advocate, so naming the new center for him was the right thing to do. “He’s been passionate about vocational training,” Ingino said. “The center is a culmination of [our] developing program.”

According to Danielle Colucci, Woodward’s principal, naming the center after Singfield also means celebrating his legacy and his contributions to the school. “This is a legacy for kids to follow,” Colucci said. “Through this, his legacy will continue.”

Woodward is an alternative school for emotionally disturbed and autistic school-aged children. Formerly known as the Berman School, it opened in 1957. Gertrude Berman, a former New York City teacher and Freeporter who died at age 95, started the school. Singfield worked alongside Berman from the 1960s to the 1980s, and eventually became one of the school’s earliest principals.

At Woodward, the students are given the same education as traditional school districts, but focus on the social and emotional support of a student with smaller classes. Students are also given the option to take art, music and even culinary classes. The school is equipped with the latest in technology — smartboards, computers and tablets — and now a brand spanking new vocational center that encourages career exploration.

“We want our students to find their strengths,” vocational teacher Melissa Rosenholtz said. “It’s not about special education students, it’s about students.”

Through the center, students can explore whether they want to attend college or enter the workforce after graduation. The center also offers field experience and allows some students to spend two hours interning at the Trader Joe’s, Mutts and Butts and the Gap in Merrick, as well as at a local nursing facility.

“This gives them real experience,” Rosenholtz said. “They can add it to their resume, or it could spark interest in a career or job after school.”

At an age where he should have retired, Singfield said, “it’s not going to happen.” He continues to work in education. He’s now at Adults & Children with Learning & Developmental Disabilities as an education consultant, and he is a parent and child education advocate for school districts. Seeing Woodward’s growth over the last 62 years is inspiring, Singfield said. However, as an educator, his mission has long been providing “something to the life of the students that helps them not only succeed but also become better persons. There’s nothing better than to help a person shape their life that reaches beyond schoolwork,” he said.

“I’m honored,” Singfield said about having the center named for him. He also said that providing vocational training for students helps them prepare for life after school.

Singfield served at the end of World War II in the U.S. Air Force, is an alumnus of Shaw University in Raliegh, N.C., and holds a master’s in special education from the City College of New York.