Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 31 July 2009 00:00
Great Neck Public Schools’ brand new superintendent, Thomas Dolan, is well on his way to making his mark on the school district and on the Great Neck community. Hired only months ago, and on the job only since July 1, Dr. Dolan already has a marvelous sense of the schools and the residents. Having spent much time in Great Neck during the several months before he began his new post, Dr. Dolan is now here full-time, already a strong part of the community, brimming with plans and ideas.
“People have been so kind,” Dr. Dolan told the Great Neck Record in a recent interview. And he found those four months getting to know the district, and the people, a real plus. “This is a people business,” Dr. Dolan said. Now he will be spending this summer and the coming fall “developing and building relationships.” Dr. Dolan plans to work hard on those relationships in order to “ensure the best interests of the children.”
Having worked with recently retired superintendent of schools Ron Friedman, Dr. Dolan has also met with former longtime school district superintendent Bill Shine. “Bill Shine and I had lunch … he was very helpful in adding to my knowledge of this school district and to my respect for the district,” Dr. Dolan said.
Dr. Dolan’s respect for the board of education is strong. “This board of education is so unique … so many years of hard work on the board, 80 years,” he noted. And Dr. Dolan emphasized how each board member is so “informed and accessible,” adding that “there is no purer form of democracy.”
Tom Dolan began his career in education in 1978, right after graduating college. He began as a social studies teacher, moved on to become a dean of students, and then, for a short period of time, worked in the central office at the Manhasset School District. Next, Dr. Dolan became superintendent of schools in Franklin Square, before just recently moving on to his new post in Great Neck.
“So I have been exposed to lots of work at all different levels,” Dr. Dolan said. Quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Dr. Dolan told the Record: “I am a part of all that I have met.” Great Neck, he said, “is the pinnacle.”
To Tom Dolan, being a teacher is the opportunity to make a difference to a class and to an individual student. Now as superintendent, Dr. Dolan hopes to make a difference to individual students, too, as well as making a difference in the school district. “I will always keep the best interest of a child at heart … I appreciate and recognize parent interest and views … a parent can know what the school doesn’t know, the school can know what a parent doesn’t know …” To Dr. Dolan it’s “about love and believing in your child.”
And so, Dr. Dolan very much wants parents involved.
Just before school opens in September, Dr. Dolan will offer a bit more details about the school district in a “welcome back to school” article in the Record. He did, however, touch on a few “unique challenges” facing the school district. First, Dr. Dolan noted the MTA payroll tax, stating that New York State Senator Craig Johnson “promised to get the schools more money … but the state has problems too …”
Next, he mentioned the retirement system issue, saying: “Our contributions will go up as the state’s goes down.” As for tax certioraris, Dr. Dolan said it would be quite a financial problem if Nassau County gave those tax certs back to the school district.
Another problem concerns the county and the CPSE (Committee on Preschool Special Education). Nassau County currently funds this but wants the school districts to provide the funding, all without any new revenue to pay for the new cost.
“There are icebergs in the water,” Dr. Dolan said. “Indicators show that these are unique times … you proceed more slowly … you don’t stop but you are more careful … and we will continue to be careful.” He added that “the school district is in good financial shape, thanks to stewardship of the board.”
Tom Dolan and his wife, Karen, have been married for 34 years. They have five children. And Dr. Dolan is proud that his family offers “lots of support.”
Dr. Dolan thanks everyone “who made me feel so welcome and made the transition so smooth.”
The Great Neck community can look forward to lots of opportunities to get to know Tom Dolan. He plans to be at lots of school events —- sports events, theater productions, concerts, etc. “This is a fringe benefit,” he said. “I want to be invested.”
And, oh, by the way, if you are a student in any one of the Great Neck public schools, you will have an opportunity to see Dr. Dolan on the first day of school. He promises to visit each school the first day, Wednesday, Sept. 9!