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EYE ON EDUCATION: Getting to know the new elementary school principal

February 26, 2015
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - It's been about two months since Lake Placid Elementary School's new interim principal has been walking the hallways, and so far he has been enjoying every minute of it.

"I love coming to work here every day," interim Principal Ernest Witkowski said Wednesday, Feb. 25 in his office.

Witkowski, who came out of retirement to accept the position, has worked as an administrator at four school districts during his career and as a teacher before that. The common bond he has witnessed at those districts is a faculty that cares about students and their education, and that is certainly true of Lake Placid, he said.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Elementary School’s interim principal Ernest Witkowski discusses his role at the school and teaching philosophy Wednesday, Feb. 25 inside his office.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)

"I have a granddaughter who is 17 months old," Witkowski said, "and if she lived in this district I would have the fullest confidence to send her to the elementary school here, as well as continuing her education here."

Witkowski was recruited by Lake Placid Superintendent Roger Catania and the Board of Education in December to fill in for former Principal Brian Latella, who found another job in Madison Central School District. Witkowski said his main role as principal is to ensure the school is run safely and orderly.

"I was honored they considered me for this position," he said.

Witkowski is a familiar face around the school district having served as an interim superintendent in Lake Placid during the 2009-10 school year. Prior to that he had a lengthy career as a superintendent at the Lisbon and St. Regis Falls school districts.

"I knew many of the faculty and teaching staff (in the Elementary School), and now know all of the names of the people who work here," he said. "My next greatest challenge is to learn the kids. Every day I learn a few more names."

Witkowski said the children are beginning to get used to him. One of the positive signs he experienced recently was a young student in kindergarten giving him a hug.

"I enjoy the field of education," he said. "I find it very satisfying to see students improve from one year to the next. Both academically, personally and socially."

However, in his current role as an interim principal he won't get to see students grow over a long period of time. Witkowski will be on the job for about six months until a permanent principal can be found to replace him this summer.

He will have a say in who is to replace him. The school district has asked Witkowski to be involved in the selection of a permanent principal and he is to help lead an advisory group to interview candidates.

Witkowski said what he looks for in a great principal is strong personal skills, the ability to relate to students and teachers, a collaborate approach to problem solving, and of course an appropriate background in education.

It's teaching experience and ability to understand the challenges of students and teachers that he says guides him as an administrator.

"We should always remember we are here because kids need a good education," Witkowski said.



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