Small group greets new superintendent

New superintendent — but an old face to Islanders — Brian Doelger has returned to lead the school district.

It was a sparse group that came to Shelter Island School last Thursday night to hear from new Superintendent Brian Doelger, but that’s likely a reflection that he’s already well known here, having spent several years as a social studies teacher in the district.

About 30 people — parents, some with their school-age children, Board of Education and staff members, heard Mr. Doelger promise he would treat each child as if he or she were his own.

He described himself as a “servant leader,” ready to help staff and students shine. Quoting educator Robert Goodleaf, he said, “Your gifts are not about you. Leadership is not about you. Your purpose is not about you. A life of significance is about serving those who need your gifts, your leadership, your purpose.”

Mr. Doelger said he wants to be “a very visible educator” who knows each child individually.

He and the staff must foster the hopes and dreams of students, he said. “Capture their hearts and their minds will follow,” Mr. Doelger added, explaining that he believes in social and emotional learning, encouraging each student to recognize their feelings, which can lead to positive behavior. He wants to build students’ relationship skills and empathy toward others.

Since leaving the district, Mr. Doelger earned a doctorate degree in educational administration and served as a middle school assistant principal, an interim principal and an elementary school principal. His most recent position was director of professional personnel for the Riverhead School District.

In his first 100 days back in the Shelter Island District, he said he plans to listen to the Board of Education, teachers, staff, parents, community members and students to get their take on what works and what needs to be improved.

“There’s no better community than Shelter Island,” Mr. Doelger said.

Teachers should know he will encourage professional development, he said, and to take risks with new ideas, knowing he will support their efforts. They should be encouraged to “really make our school a dynamic place,” he said.

Besides holding regular office hours, he wants parents and others in the community to know his door is open and he wants to hear from them.