Patrick DiClemente, 42, Locust Valley High School’s new hire for principal, is the type of person that believes that people should strive to improve every day. A principal must be someone with integrity who is accessible and a strong communicator, and who must be able to learn from others.
Bringing with him two decades of experience in education, DiClemente was ready to take on his role at LVHS next week. He said he couldn’t wait.
“I’m excited about being a part of a place that is successful and utilizes a personalized touch and individualized programs,” he said. “One of my goals has always been to foster a culture where there is access to success for all students, where there is access to programs and resources regardless of a student’s profile.”
He said he plans to get involved in what is important to the students, to be a part of what is the “spirit of the community.” He will be at the art gallery that promotes students’ works, sports teams’ games and music performances. “That’s where you make a bond with the students,” he explained. “And it makes me feel good when students feel good about their principal.”
Locust Valley Superintendent Dr. Anna Hunderfund said she was very impressed with DiClemente. “He brings the leadership abilities, human relations skills and record of accomplishments that are valued in the Locust Valley School District,” Hunderfund said.
Who is Patrick DiClemente?
The son of a former social studies teacher who was also a coach and school administrator, DiClemente grew up in Ronkonkoma. He attended The Catholic University of America, graduating in 1994 with a degree in English and a minor in secondary education, and was also a student-athlete leader. He earned a master’s from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Living with his wife, Angela, in Nesconset, he has four children.
He’s the kind of guy that sees the glass as half full but is also cognizant of the importance of seeing what is right in front of you.
“The biggest challenge we all face today is balancing our family with excellence at our job, or, in the case of students, our schoolwork,” he said, “and all the while making sure we attend to our mental health.”
He began his career in education teaching English at Brentwood North Middle School in 1994, and five years later moved to the district’s high school. In 2003, he began his school administration career at Oregon Middle School in Medford, working as an assistant principal. He became a principal at the Massapequa School District in 2010. Under his leadership, the high school was named a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2017.
Coming to LVHS
The Blue Ribbon achievement stood out when Hunderfund was considering who would replace LVHS Principal Kieran J. McGuire, who was retiring.
The National Blue Ribbon status, Hunderfund said, was “a testament not only to his and the school’s ability to promote high levels of student achievement, but to their ability to do so by developing high levels of school-community support.” After screening many highly qualified applicants, Hunderfund said that the administration concluded that DiClemente would make very significant contributions to Locust Valley High.
He came to the school on Aug. 20 — rather late, which he said will be his biggest challenge. “My colleagues don’t know me, but I can say I’ve been welcomed by the school board, parents and some students already,” he said. “One student even brought me a box of cookies with a note that said, ‘Once a Falcon, always a Falcon.’”
Goals for LVHS
The principal has a big role in making certain that a school is inviting for everyone, DiClemente said, which he plans to do. And a school should always strive for peak academic performance. “What’s unique for me at Locust Valley is that we offer an I.B. and a full A.P. program,” he said. “Not many schools offer this.”
He is also cognizant of personal health, saying that it’s valuable for students and staff to take care of their social and emotional wellbeing.
DiClemente, who played basketball, was also an NCAA Division III baseball player. Participation in sports is valuable for youth development, he said. In sports, participants work toward a common goal, which he will be striving for from both the students and teachers. “I want to have a model team of educators that are constantly growing and getting better as educators,” he said. “I also take a lot of pride in developing relationships.”
The opioid crisis
One of the biggest ways to confront the opioid crisis is to make sure that students are offered non-traditional programs, DiClemente said. After-school opportunities like the Fishing Club and driver education, which is a part of the district’s budget, make valuable connections with students who might otherwise feel left out. He plans to bring speakers to the school and make sure that counselors are well connected with outside agencies that can offer guidance or help for the students who need it.
What people may not know about him
“I handle my commute by listening to audio books and podcasts,” he said. “In fact, I’m always looking for new ones.”
And he has been taking different routes to LVHS in the past few weeks to enjoy the scenery. “I stop and take photos often,” he said, and then he paused. “It’s a good lesson, actually. It’s important for us to stop, especially when starting a new job, to think about how fortunate we are.”