New East Rockaway leader discusses plans


James DeTommaso is set to become superintendent of the East Rockaway School District on July 1, when current Superintendent Lisa Ruiz retires. DeTommaso served in multiple roles in the district for 28 years before being named the next superintendent, as a special education teacher, a dean, an assistant principal, and a coach. DeTommaso also sered as principal at West Hempstead High School for three years and said he learned a lot from the community there.

DeTommaso returned to East Rockaway as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and said he believes that his experience will serve him well when he is appointed as the district superintendent.

“The central office enlightened me tremendously in terms of taking a 40-foot global approach to the school district,” DeTommaso said. “I’ve worked closely with Lisa Ruiz, our internal cabinet, as well as all our administrators.”

The Board of Education unanimously appointed DeTommaso at its May 24 meeting and he discussed the plans that he has for the next school year.

“We want to continue some of the great traditions that are here and have been established at East Rockaway,” DeTommaso said. “In terms of instruction, we want to focus on 21st-century learning, in which students will have the opportunity to succeed. I’m looking forward to working with and continuing the great work they’ve been doing and advancing our students as well”. 

One of the major issues that DeTomaaso will have to tackle is the peer discrimination problem many students have recently come forward to the school board about. DeTomasso discussed the plan he and administrators have crafted to address the problem. 

“We built into our strategic plan, a goal to address the community’s needs and we’ve formed a committee to provide a safe space for them to share their problems,” he said. “We brought in a professional development consultant, who specializes in that area.”

The committee is called “Building Bridges to Understanding” and will assist the school in addressing the discrimination concerns that have been brought forward. The new committee will have a preliminary meeting on June 27 to immediately begin addressing concerns in the district and there will be a series of eight meetings scheduled over the coming months to meet the needs of the community

“I didn’t want to walk into this without addressing the immediate concerns and starting over next year,” DeTommaso said. “We want to take care of the child’s emotional needs and academic needs. Moving forward, we want to make sure that all families feel welcome and that all families feel included in our community. We want to be proactive. We heard the concern, and we want to be supportive” 

With the plan to take on the most pressing issues of the district, DeTommaso said he is eager to take on the role.

“I grew up in this area I care about the people in the community, the teachers, and the students, and I feel with my leadership experience we can move in a positive direction without a doubt”, he said. “I’m really excited to take the experience that I have gained, pulling together some of the great things that have been done by previous administrations, and try to move forward to 21st-century learning where our students are prepared for each role after high school whether its four-year college, associate’s degree, job opportunity or into the military. When our students turn the doorknob and walk out of the walls of East Rockaway (we want to ensure) that they have prepared for the world ahead of them.”