Protests over Elmont High principal’s sudden sabbatical

Protests over Elmont High principal’s sudden sabbatical
Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty. (Photo courtesy of The Island 360 archives)

The return of classes to Elmont Memorial High School has been marked by protests from students, parents and alumni following the announcement two days before school started that principal Kevin Dougherty was taking a sabbatical for the school year.

On Tuesday, Aug. 30, Sewanhaka Central High School District Superintendent James Grossane sent a message to the community announcing Dougherty’s leave and the appointment of an interim principal to be for the year.

“Kevin Dougherty, principal of Elmont Memorial High School, is taking a sabbatical leave of absence for the 2022-2023 school year,” the statement read. “Thank you for your patience during this time of transition. The district will be appointing an acting principal for Elmont Memorial High School for the 2022-2023 school year. Elmont Memorial High School is ready for Opening Day in anticipation of another successful school year.”

On Friday, Sept. 2, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Taryn Johnson was appointed acting principal until further notice.

Students and families held a protest outside the Sewanhaka district office in Floral Park on Aug. 30 demanding more transparency and answers, according to News12.

An online petition with over 2,300 signatures was circulated last week amid calls for bringing back Dougherty and removing school board members.

“We are asking the NY State Board of Education to conduct an internal investigation of the Sewanhaka Schools District’s practices and handling of this situation,” the petition said. “We are seeking the removal of the school board members and removal of the superintendent, for his lack of transparency and lack of respect for the taxpayers of this community.”

State Assemblymember Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) also expressed concerns and demanded answers about Dougherty’s status.

“Parents are rightfully frustrated by the lack of communication by the Board of Education in this situation, and we are requesting more information as to the reasoning behind Principal Dougherty’s departure just as the school year begins,” she said in a statement. “From our experience, Principal Dougherty has been a thoughtful and compassionate leader that parents and students speak highly of. We have been fortunate to collaborate on many educational initiatives together to enhance the S.T.E.A.M. and college readiness programming in Elmont, and we are concerned with the direction the Sewanhaka Central High School District is taking.”

Dougherty began as principal of Elmont Memorial in July 2015. He has been integral in opening up advanced classes to more students and implemented a Schoolwide Enrichment Model. This program, which was piloted with two teams consisting of seventh- and eighth-graders, provided students with an opportunity to work on a cross-curricular project. Dougherty organized the school’s first Black History Month celebration and began the Men of Elmont leadership group, which helps young minority men become empowered and works to develop them into leaders within the school and their community.

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