In reflecting on the past year for schools under COVID-19, Fork Lane Principal Susan Guiliano had nothing but the highest praise for the staff at the school.
“The teachers have all done fantastic work adapting to the new conditions under COVID,” Guiliano explained. “Every single person came back with their own questions and concerns but they came back professionally, and with grace. Every staff member had to do new things, to learn and grow and every one met and exceeded those challenges. They did it without question because they did it for our students.”
Sitting on just under 10 acres, the school educates hundreds of local K-5 students each year. Opened in 1952, Fork Lane was one of the district’s “sister” schools, along with Burns, Dutch and Old Country Road, to serve Hicksville’s burgeoning post-war population of families. Situated between Jerusalem Avenue on the east and Route 106 on the west, Fork Lane serves the children of Hicksville’s central southern neighborhood. It is a little jewel of a school, with a student body of 168 in-school students and 101 students learning remotely for the 2020-21 school year. The beautiful facilities include a new library media center and new playground equipment that was installed just before the pandemic.
Although Guiliano is completing her first year as principal at the school, she has served in the district office since 2008 as the director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessments. That experience continually provides her with a wealth of knowledge to bring to bear as the school’s principal.
“I love being principal,” she commented. “Working directly with students, teachers and parents every day at Fork is wonderful. I am honored and privileged to be a part of the team at Fork. Our PTA provides such support—they are dedicated and devoted to assist us in offering the best opportunities for our students.”
Fork’s PTA Co-President Cindy Garcia explained, “Everyone had to work hard and adjust to ‘new normals’ this past year. Our teachers and staff truly had to reinvent every facet of their day-to-day work. Mrs. Guiliano’s strong leadership and support were critical components to the successful and memorable year our Fork Lane family experienced and shared together.”
Teaching from home, second grade remote classroom teacher Carolyn Marschean, also a 12-year veteran teacher at Fork, stated, “The students and I were comparing the beginning of the school year to the end of the year. We’ve had so many students come through our remote class this year whether for a trimester, a couple of weeks, or days. The biggest challenge for me was to acclimate each student and parent to our remote classroom and figure out the structure that worked best for the remote platform because of the many different types of transitions. Mrs. Guiliano was amazingly helpful. I appreciated her guidance, support and her willingness to always lend a helping hand.”
For her part, growing up in a small upstate town near Lake Ontario, Guiliano always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Her dad was a an elementary teacher and her mom was a secretary at SUNY Oswego, the school at which she would eventually be awarded her Master of Science degree with a major in Reading Education. She began her teaching career in Oswego and moved downstate in 1995 to serve as a reading specialist at Countrywood Primary School in South Huntington. In 2003, Guiliano received her Administrative Certificate from Hofstra University and was hired as an assistant principal in Garden City Public Schools, where she served five years before accepting the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessments position in Hicksville.
“Being an assistant principal provided a broad range of experience, from building a master schedule and coordinating the testing program to providing professional development and evaluating teachers,” Guiliano esplained. “This experience, along with my strong literacy background, prepared me for success in my role as director at the central office level.”
Now, as the educational leader at Fork Lane, Principal Guiliano wants her students to develop a strong foundation.
“One of our main goals is to improve literacy. This year our teachers worked on creating and using learning targets and success criteria aligned with the ELA Learning Standards with a focus on student learning. Next year our kindergarten teachers will be piloting a new reading program, Fountas & Pinnell Classroom, which includes interactive read alouds, focused mini-lessons and guided reading. Supporting our teachers in working in professional learning communities where they share ideas to enhance their teaching practice will help build local capacity and lead our teachers and students on the path to success. As Principal, my goal is to cultivate a growth mindset where all of us in our school community discover that we have limitless potential to learn and grow.”
What is Guiliano’s greatest joy in serving as Fork’s principal?
“When you see students meeting with success and being excited about learning, that is rewarding. Not everything will come easily, but if they focus on growth, with hard work and perseverance, and the right amount of support, they will meet with success.”
-Submitted by the Hicksville School District