Oyster Bay High School Principal Melissa Argaman has a passion for education that extends to all students. Before becoming the new principal on Sept. 7 — after Sharon Lasher officially retired from the district — Argaman was the acting principal. Before taking on that position in January 2023, Argaman was Oyster Bay High’s National Honor Society advisor, a Services for Students with Disabilities Coordinator for the College Board and supervised counselors at the district’s middle and high school for two years. And she was able to raise the district’s graduation rate by more than 7 percent using a variety of approaches.
“I paid attention to the details looking at every student,” she said. “I identified why students were dropping out, why they didn’t want to come to school, and I found that no one followed up.”
She discovered there were a number of issues. Sometimes students didn’t speak English. Others worked late into the night to support their families.
“I didn’t let it go. I went to their house, their job and truncated their schedules so they could come into school later,” she explained. “I let them know I wasn’t giving up on them. Then a team of counselors followed up.”
She created an alternative school for students in danger of failing in September 2022. Students were provided with targeted instruction to give them what they needed to pass. Some had had to take the same course over and over again. Although they moved up a grade, they had to take the class they failed with students behind them for the entire year.
In the alternative school program they were in a class with no more than three students receiving either a program guide or one-on-one instruction using an online program with a teacher. Once the work was complete, they could move on, which sometimes only took a month.
“This gave them hope,” she said. “Kids who didn’t come to school came back. The social aspect of graduation with one’s own class is a huge thing for kids. Sometimes kids just need to know that school is not the enemy.”
Argaman earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Oswego in 1999. She went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling from New York University and a professional diploma in school district leadership from Stony Brook University.
Married with two sons, 18 and 14, Argaman lives in Huntington. Although her great grandmother, grandmother and mother were teachers Argaman did not want to follow in their footsteps.
Instead, she worked at an alternative high school in Flushing in 2001 for students 18 to 21 years old as a counselor, which she said she loved. Then she accepted a job as lead school counselor for the New Hyde Park School District where she worked for 20 years.
“I was always more drawn to the psychology of it. It was my mother who suggested I should be a family counselor, but I got married and had kids so being a school counselor I could be a great mom and a great counselor.”
She has many plans for OBHS with her main goal being to promote a positive culture for the staff and students.
“I want kids to want to be here and for the staff to the custodians to be here for the students,” she said. “I want to promote positive school culture and tie it in with fun events. It was hard after Covid. I want us to all know each other.”
Students need to know that everyone cares for their wellbeing and want them to do well, she added.
Argaman recognizes there will be some challenges. Earning trust takes time from parents, students and the community, she said.
“I’m going to be a presence. I want everyone to know I’m approachable,” she said. “And I want teachers to know I’m here to provide what they need too.”
Her strengths will assist her in moving forward. Argaman described herself as compassionate, firm but fair, and very good at multitasking. And perhaps her biggest strength is that she is able to remain calm under pressure, focused only on finding solutions.