Change is underway at Dickinson Avenue Elementary School, as parents and staff welcome Patricia Essenfeld, a 20-year teaching veteran who will leave her current post as Assistant Principal at Minnesauke Elementary School in Setauket to take over on July 1 as Dickinson's new principal for the retiring Anne Whooley.
Essenfeld was introduced to faculty by Whooley and Superintendent Marylou McDermott on Monday night, and met with parents at a PTA meet-and-greet two days later. "They welcomed me with such a warm greeting," Essenfeld said on Thursday. "The sense of support from the central office has been absolutely delightful."
Essenfeld was scheduled to be introduced by McDermott to the Northport community during the June 4 BOE meeting but had to leave at the last minute when she got a call that her daughter had gone into labor. The Essenfelds later welcomed their sixth grandchild, a girl, into the family fold.
"I feel very strongly about her leadership," McDermott said on Thursday. "She's really a quality 21st century educator."
McDermott had high praise for Whooley as well, noting that "Ann is doing a spectacular job during this transition."
Essenfeld began her career as an elementary school teacher in the Middle Country School District in 1992, then moved to the Hauppauge School District two years later. In 2005 she began her current stint at Minnesauke.
As a teacher, Essenfeld has clearly left her mark on her students. Last November she received a wedding invitation from two of her former students who had met in her fifth grade class in Hauppauge. Even more remarkable, the wedding took place on her birthday. Essenfeld said she and her husband attended and had a wonderful time. "When I got the invitation in the mail, I was bowled over," she recalled. "I was beyond flattered."
In addition to transitioning from one school to another, Essenfeld has a busy schedule on the home front. Through the Gift of Life organization, the Essenfelds host children from Honduras who are waiting for open heart surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital. She also serves as President of Long Island Adolescent and Family Services, an organization devoted to helping abused and abandoned children which she founded in 1987.
While Essenfeld admitted that leaving the halls of Minnesauke was "tugging at her heart strings," she was looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead at Dickinson. "I'm very excited about starting at a new place. It's obivous they're a very caring community."