Mattituck Cutchogue School District

Fast Chat: Cutchogue East Elementary principal Kathleen Devine

Cutchogue East principal Kathleen Devine. (Credit: courtesy photo)
Cutchogue East principal Kathleen Devine. (Credit: courtesy photo)

Cutchogue East Elementary School students will see at least one new face on the first day of school this September.

Kathleen Devine of Bayport, 57, was hired last Thursday to replace Anne Smith, who will step into her own new role as Mattituck-Cutchogue School District superintendent after James McKenna retires July 31. 

Ms. Devine was in the audience with her husband, Ronald, an Islip Town assessor, and their 20-year-old son, Ronald III, a junior at Emerson College, as the school board unanimously approved her three-year contract. Her employment commences Aug. 1.

Since 2011, Ms. Devine has been assistant principal at Mary G. Clarkson School, a K-2 elementary school in Bay Shore, where she was also coordinator for the Bay Shore School District’s universal pre-K program.

Previously, Ms. Devine had worked in Connetquot schools as an elementary teacher and later as a staff developer.

In addition to teaching, she served as an assistant director of labor relations for the Long Island Rail Road from 1985 to 1989 and a director of program development at Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations from 1989 to 2003.

Ms. Devine earned a master’s degree in elementary science and literacy education from Dowling College and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Hofstra University. She’s certified to teach both elementary and special education students and is currently writing her dissertation for the St. John’s University doctorate program.

We talked to Ms. Devine about her new role after last Thursday’s meeting. The following was excerpted from the conversation.

Q: What are your goals as the district’s elementary school principal?

A: One of my major priorities will be getting to know the students, teachers and families at Cutchogue East. I really want to see where everyone is at. I was interviewed by the student leadership team and was extremely impressed by some of the initiatives they’ve had just in this past year and I think I can learn from them as much as they can be learning from me. I really want to listen, see what’s happening in the building and take it from there. I don’t want to change things and move things around. It’s a successful school and I’m there to learn from them also.

The community of Mattituck-Cutchogue was really one of things that drew me most to this position. I did a walk-through of the school and it’s very apparent what a collaborative group of teachers are at Cutchogue East, and the children have been extremely friendly and inviting to me when I came into the building.

Q: How did you learn about the position?

A: I had known Anne [Smith] through different professional development circles. We were in Communities for Learning. She was there with her team from Mattituck and I was there representing Connetquot. She’s also a professor at St. John’s University and happened to teach one of my courses. I worked for three years as an assistant principal in Bay Shore. I do love the Bay Shore School District and, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have any principal openings at this time. In addition to working as an assistant principal for three years and completing my doctoral work, I felt I was ready for the next step. The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District’s philosophy and its vision were enticing to me. And considering Dr. Smith was going to be staying on as superintendent, I felt her leadership style and vision for the school district was something I paralleled along with.

Q: What’s the best way for parents to encourage their children to read and do their homework?

A: As far as reading is concerned, I think it’s important to read to your child when they’re young — read to them every night and have them read to you at the point they can be readers. It’s bringing the love of reading: They should see you reading, visiting the library, enjoying literacy from the very beginning. As far as homework, I was brought up to have a set time and place for homework. It’s important that the children learn very young about how to manage their time as far as their homework is concerned.

Q: What challenges do you anticipate in your new role?

A: I think right now the education field is in a constant pattern of change. There are so many things going on, coming down from state ed — whether it’s APPR, Common Core, the testing the children are being exposed to. It’s just a matter of being aware of what’s going on and what’s coming down from the state and being able to work with the teachers with those changes. The teachers are under a great deal of pressure now with all of the changes that are happening with the state on a daily basis, so I think my real challenge is making sure that we’re compliant with the regulations of the state, but also making sure that the teachers receive professional development — whether it’s the Common Core, APPR, whatever is necessary.

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