Walt Whitman High School principal James Polansky has been named 2010 New York State high school principal of the year by the School Administrators Association of New York State.
The organization said the award is given to "an administrator who has set the pace, character and quality of education for the students in his or her school."
Polansky, who is 44, has served as an educator for 21 years, including 11 years as a school administrator. Whitman has about 1,900 enrolled students.
Whitman students set up a Facebook page saluting the indefatigable Polansky, who is known for showing up and participating in virtually every school event any day of the week. He's also known as a no-nonsense educator who has won the respect of students, faculty, staff and parents.
One of his former students, Jennifer Li, said on the Facebook page: "I am not a student from WWHS, but I was Mr. Polansky's Biology student when he was teaching at Syosset High School. I just want to leave this message to congratulate him for winning NYS Best Principal. I just heard it on the news today. and I believe it's NYS best choice!"
In his letter of recommendation, Steven Ramsey, assistant principal at Whitman, spoke about the progress Polansky has led at the school. "When Jim took over, we were on the state's school improvement list. Through Jim's leadership, we are now off the list and have been cited the last two years as a high performing school by the State Education Department. He has done this through his expectations of staff and students alike."
He adds that Polansky has encouraged student character development by allowing "students to receive credit for community service, thus teaching them that there is a need, no matter what age, to give back to the community you live in."
About the award, Polansky said: "Our first priority - and I say 'our' because I don't do this alone - was a safe and secure environment where children could attain any academic goal they set for themselves."
Polansky has been principal at Walt Whitman High School for six years after two years as assistant principal. He started his teaching career at Holy Child High School in Old Westbury, then spent most of his career as a science teacher at Syosset High School. His administrative career began as a kindergarten to grade 12 director of science in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich school district.
The band parents' association said it "is honored to have a gentleman like James Polansky to be selected as principal of the year. He has devoted endless hours to the school, the community, and the organizations within the school. We should all be proud of Mr. Polansky's accomplishment."
Susan Harvey, mother of a Whitman sophomore, said, "Mr. Polansky is the consummate advocate of and for teenagers today. That's not just in words and deeds, but in person - I've never seen anyone be at more places at almost the same time!"
Polansky will be honored for his accomplishments at an awards ceremony on May 7 in Saratoga Springs. The award makes Polansky eligible for selection as National High School Principal of the Year, an award sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.