Daniel Holtzman, the new principal of North High School, acknowledged that he has big shoes to fill – but that it’s a challenge he looks forward to as he forges his own path.
“I think after having a principal here for 24 years, I think the adjustment to a new principal is going to be a challenge – but not in a bad way,” Holtzman said in an interview on Friday, referencing longtime principal Bernard Kaplan, who recently retired along with South High School Principal Susan Elliot.
“I need to be who I am and lead by my philosophy and approaches to things,” he added.
Holtzman’s career in education began as a social studies teacher and coach in Smithtown, where he worked from 1997 to 2005. He then served as assistant principal of William Floyd High School from 2005 to 2006.
After that, Holtzman settled at Shoreham-Wading River High School for a decade. He was their assistant principal from 2006 to 2007, before serving a nine-year tenure as principal. He was also president of the Suffolk County High School Principals Association.
Holtzman said that it’s hard to define the role of a principal in one word. But he described them as being a leader, teacher, coach, friend, colleague and parental figure – to name a few things.
“You wear so many hats and play so many different roles,” Holtzman said.
While he valued his tenure there, Holtzman said that the reputation of Great Neck North High School, its impressive academics and the community support for education drew him out here.
“Those are things that are very important to me as a principal,” he said.
Now that he’s at Great Neck, Holtzman said that he hopes to meet with counseling and mental health teams on a weekly basis, establish mental health protocols and start programming in the school to help identify and counter depression and other mental health issues.
Holtzman added that while at Shoreham-Wading River High School, he tried to run a “student-centered” school focused on their social and emotional health.
“Emotional, social and mental well-being are paramount,” Holtzman said. “They have to feel safe, secure and content within themselves before they can be academically focused.”
As for academics, Holtzman also expressed interest for an emotional learning program, education on social media responsibility and an AP capstone class where students conduct “research on a different level” for two years.
For now though, Holtzman said he intends to continue observing, listening and to “get the lay of the land.”
“Everybody has been beyond welcoming and beyond supporting,” Holtzman said.