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Meet ‘the new guy’ at school: Guidance Consultant Casswell is in place

“I still have gas in the tank,” is how Edward Casswell describes why, after retirement in 2020 as principal at Center Moriches High School, he’s opted to continue taking educational roles as he did in February, becoming Guidance Consultant on Shelter Island.

The Board of Education appointed him this month on a per diem arrangement meant to last until the end of the school year in June.

He was hired soon after Shelter Island School officials began work to remedy a program that left students upset and parents angry after they were ordered to participate in a “Cross the Line” guidance lesson meant to teach empathy. Instead forced students to reveal personal information about themselves and their families, and resulted in what some parents said was bullying of their children by other students resulting from their responses to the session.

Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., who said at the time that the hiring of Mr. Casswell was put into place to deal with scheduling, class advising, college applications and working with students who are struggling academically. Mr. Doelger said he, Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Rylott and Todd Gulluscio, Director of Athletics, Physical Education, Health, Wellness & Personnel, would lead the effort to deal with the fallout from the lesson.

When Mr. Casswell was growing up, his goal was to become a police officer. Today, at 58, he’s a highly experienced educator — former teacher, principal and still a member of the Board of Education in Rocky Point.

A visit with a former high school teacher turned him away from his original goal, encouraging him to enroll in Stony Brook University, where history and political science became his passions. He started his career teaching social studies and pursued a master’s degree in education at the now defunct Dowling College. But administration beckoned, and he pursued the necessary credentials at Long Island University.

After 20 years at Center Moriches as principal, he was “happy to close the book” on that role, but he wasn’t ready to stop working.

Looking back on those years as a principal, he said his approach was, “I can teach you how to be a good teacher, but I can’t teach you to love kids. That’s my genetic wiring,” he said.

It was early in the pandemic when Mr. Casswell retired and it took a bit of effort to connect with interim jobs — first as director of social studies and then director of science, both at Smithtown. This year, with the calming of COVID, there were no immediate jobs until Shelter Island came calling.

It’s the opportunity to work in a small district where he could get to know students and staff individually in a way large districts can’t accommodate. He’s worked in small districts before, but never one this small, but that doesn’t mean small opportunities, he said.

Mr. Casswell points to the attention students get from the staff, their academic achievements and opportunities to participate in many clubs and activities.

“I love this district,” he said. The more a role enables him to help students, the better, he said.

“I have the same giddy feeling I had doing directorships,” Mr. Casswell said. He has found an administration and staff welcoming and supportive.

“I’m playing catchup but winning that battle,” he said. “I’m the new guy.”