Former Sewanhaka schools chief dies at 68

District’s ex-superintendent succumbs to pancreatic cancer


Dr. John Williams, who served as superintendent of the Sewanhaka School District from 2004 to 2006, died on Feb. 4, of pancreatic cancer. He was 68.

Williams, a resident of Long Beach, was the superintendent of the Amityville School District from 2007 until his death. His cancer was diagnosed in 2011, and he had said he would retire by the end of the current school year.

Born in Scranton, Pa., Williams attended public schools there, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Scranton and his doctoral degree, in school administration, from Lehigh University. He taught at James Lowell Elementary School in Scranton, and was principal of the James Monroe, John Whittier and George Bancroft schools before becoming superintendent of the Scranton School District, a post he held for 11 years prior to his appointment at Sewanhaka.

Sewanhaka’s current superintendent, Dr. Ralph Ferrie, described Williams as selfless and considerate of other people. “During the few times I had the opportunity to spend any time with Williams at professional meetings and fundraisers for local charities and agencies,” Ferrie said, “I found him to be a compassionate educator and an advocate for children. I was saddened to learn of his passing, and my thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues.”

County Legislator Carrie Solages, of Elmont, said that Williams was devoted to his craft as an educator. “Williams was a dedicated educator who believed that students were able to achieve the highest level of achievement based on hard work,” Solages said. “He has helped to contribute to a legacy of excellence among the staff and teachers in [Sewanhaka]. He will be missed, and I’m very thankful for his contributions to our community.”

“Williams endeared himself to educators, parents and, most importantly, children,” Lisa Johnson, president of the Amityville School District Board of Education, said in a release. “He regularly provided words of wisdom to anyone with an open ear. Under [his] leadership, our schools made enormous strides; schools that struggled to meet state measures were brought to good standing. [He] left our district having built a solid foundation for all [and] set a standard for all of us to follow.”

Williams, an avid runner and a member of several civic organizations and clubs, was the son of the late Albert and Elizabeth Wallace Williams. He and his wife, Dr. Rita Cusick Williams, were married in 1969. His wife survives him, as do two brothers, C. Randolph Williams and Andrew Williams (Catherine); a son, John Williams Jr. (Sherry); a granddaughter, Isabella Fanucci, and several nieces and nephews. Williams’s brothers Keith and David predeceased him.

His funeral was held on Feb. 8 at St. Paul’s Catholic Church, in Scranton.