Back to school with District Clerk Jacki Dunning

SHELTER ISLAND SCHOOL PHOTO
A new mural painted by former teacher Erica Mailand now adorns the math, science and technology wing at Shelter Island School.

The Reporter caught up with Shelter Island School’s district clerk, Jacki Dunning, to talk about life on campus.

Who painted the new mural and what was the inspiration/theme behind it? 

The new mural in the MST Wing (Math Science Technology) was painted by Erica Mailand, who was an elementary teacher and teacher assistant in our school last year. The mural design of three female scientists was suggested by three of our very own female scientists — Lauren Gurney, Emma Gallagher and Abigail Kotula.

How long have you worked at the school?  

I have worked in the district since March 2006, over 13 years.

What’s your job title? Can you describe what you do?

In March 2006, I started as the greeter at the door and within a month or two was approached by the superintendent at the time, Sharon Clifford. She wanted me to know that the position of secretary to the superintendent was opening up and would I be interested in applying. I was very interested and in July 2006 I was appointed as a part time secretary to the superintendent, Once we determined more hours were necessary, I was appointed full time in November 2006.

As the secretary to the superintendent, I perform all administrative support duties for the superintendent. My position requires knowledge of district procedures and policies, the ability to assume responsibility, work effectively and independently under pressure and maintain confidentiality. In addition to supporting the superintendent, I am of course also here to support our students, parents and faculty in any way I can. This position also has me dabbling in the role of multi-media specialist as I maintain a large portion of the district website, district Facebook page and send communications through the Connect Ed system.

In July 2012, after Dr. Hynes, the superintendent at that time, realized I had much more to offer the district, I was appointed to the position of district clerk in addition to my role of Secretary to the Superintendent. As the district clerk I provide support to all seven members of the Board of Education, I schedule meetings for them, prepare correspondence on their behalf, oversee the school budget vote and the school board election, handle Freedom of Information Law requests, prepare the agendas and related materials for all board meetings and I record and publish the minutes of these meetings. This position also requires knowledge of district procedures and policies, the ability to assume responsibility, work effectively and independently under pressure and maintain confidentiality.

What’s new around school this year?

We have a lot of new faces at the school this year: Dr. Brian Doelger, superintendent; Danielle Spears, school psychologist; Catherine Brigham, art teacher; Claire Read, elementary teacher; Lauren Farkas, music teacher; Maggie Manarel, literacy teacher; Timothy McElroy, teacher assistant; and Christopher Geehreng, permanent substitute. It’s going to be a very exciting year.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is having the ability to interact with students from Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. I get to watch them from when they enter the building as Pre-K students, grow through the years and then graduate as young adults. I’m very lucky to interact with them on a daily basis in the hallways or cafeteria or when they come see me in my office and I’m even luckier to be invited into the elementary classrooms to read books or share in a special moment.  There’s nothing better.

What’s your favorite part of the school year? 

My favorite part of the school year is in December when the PTSA holds the annual Holiday Boutique. Watching our young children shop for gifts for their family members and hearing why they are choosing each item warms the heart beyond words. They are all so thoughtful when making their purchase, but some are just so funny. One year, I witnessed a child proudly purchasing an over-sized diamond ring brooch for his mother who happened to be a friend of mine. I couldn’t wait to talk to her to find out how much she liked her gift. LOL.  

How have things changed most since you began working at the school?

I would say that the faculty has changed the most since I began working at the school. Over the years, so many teachers have retired; leading the way to hiring new faculty. New faculty typically brings new ideas and new excitement. It’s always sad to see colleagues go, but it’s wonderful that most leave due to retirement. Our teachers are truly committed to our district.

Another thing that has changed is my hair color. I fulfilled a life-long dream of having blue hair three years ago. May sound crazy to most, but it was something I have always wanted to do. I have to credit my daughter for giving me the confidence to finally do it.

What’s the first day of school like?

The first day of school is always a blast. It’s fun to see students reconnecting with old friends or new students making new friends. Everyone is so excited to be back, sharing stories of their summer and showing off their new backpacks and new back-to-school clothing. Of course there’s the occasional Pre-K or kindergarten student who isn’t happy to be here on the first day, but watching them adjust over the first few days is wonderful. 

Do you have children in school?

My son graduated from St. John’s University in 2018 and my daughter became a certified makeup artist at Make-Up Designory in NYC – considered the “Harvard” of makeup schools. Matthew, 23, lives in Queens and Elizabeth, 21, lives in  Brooklyn.

What are you most famous for?

My specialty flavored cupcakes.

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