District administrator retires after three decade-plus career
When Dr. Maureen Appiarius was hired back in 2015 to replace Dr. Fino Celano as the Garden City Public School District’s assistant superintendent for personnel, she was an admitted admirer of the educational standards her employer was known for.
“I think it’s a very well-run organization and my impression of Garden City from afar is the same as working within the organization and the community,” she said. “There are high standards at play and it’s as impressive as it is from the inside as it is from the outside.”
Four years later, Appiarius is retiring to spend more time with her family after spending 34 years as an educator. And while she never expected to file her papers so soon after accepting this position, the time she’s spent in the district has been rewarding and an experience she won’t soon forget.
“I’m going to very much miss [working in the district]. Central Office is a very busy pace. It’s nice and we did and saw a lot of great things. I was at my last class for observation a couple of months ago and that’s when it hit me. I get to work into classrooms all over this district and watch amazing things. I get to watch children engaged and teachers who clearly plan meaningful lessons for kids,” she said. “Then I realized that’s not something that will be part of my life anymore—that beauty of observing teachers and children learning. That’s the first time that I got a little emotional about leaving. That was the first time I said, ‘Whoa, this is going to be very, very different.’”
For Appiarius, the yen for learning and sharing knowledge, particularly about language and different cultures, stemmed back to her childhood in Islip, when she would go over her Latino friends’ homes and speak Spanish with their parents. The lifelong lover of language got her start as a secondary Spanish and French teacher in Rocky Point Public Schools from 1985 to 1987 and from there ascended the educational ladder while experiencing many of the different stages that are facets of any public school district. She came to Garden City having served as the assistant superintendent for instruction in Wantagh Public Schools since 2011, where her role involved the hiring and oversight of administrative, instructional and classified personnel. There were also stints as the k to 12 curriculum associate for world languages in Jericho Public Schools (1998 through 2001), assistant principal at Jericho High School through 2011 and department chairperson of world languages in Locust Valley Central School District (1996 to 1998). All those stops helped Appiarius with the approach she took to her job.
“Whatever I was doing along the way, I was able to see all of those different stages, whether it was when I did a lot of curriculum work or where I was a building level administrator or as a k-12 content area coordinator in Jericho. When you’re a chairperson, you’re closer to the classroom. When you’re a k-12 director, you’re close to the content. When you’re a building director, you’re close to all the content areas. Is quality instruction going on in all the content areas?” she asked. “Then you get to the district level, you’re working with other people making sure they’re disseminating all of those priorities whether it’s hiring the best teachers or making sure the students are getting the very best they can.”
Appiarius’ acumen as an educator will also be sorely missed by Dr. Kusum Sinha, superintendent of the Garden City Public School District.
“Dr. Appiarius has been an educator for over 30 years with the last four years here in Garden City. She began a career as a Spanish teacher and has served in various administrative roles from a department chair, assistant principal to assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction to Assistant Superintendent for Personnel for us here in Garden City,” Sinha said. “She has been instrumental in hiring many of our talented faculty and staff and successfully negotiated all of our labor contracts. Tenure candidates were teachers hired by Dr. Appiarius and on a personal note, Maureen assisted me with my transition to Garden City. I will miss her and our work together.”
Educated at the University of Puerto Rico and someone whose travels have found her extensively traveling to Spain and a recent jaunt over to Paris for a 2013 conference, Appiarius has built up quite the impressive credentials that include getting awarded a doctorate in educational administration, leadership and technology from Dowling College in 2011, a master of science in school administration and supervision from C.W. Post, Long Island University in 1997 and a master of arts in liberal studies and linguistics and bachelor of arts in Hispanic languages and literature from Stony Brook University in 1988. And while travel to places like Italy will be part of her post-retirement life, the Huntington resident and her husband will be enjoying the humble pleasures of post-retirement life while spending time with loved ones while splitting time between Long Island and San Marco Island in Florida.
“I’m going to be looking forward to the simple things in life, like taking my mom out to lunch once a week and seeing my sisters, one who lives in Northport and the other who resides in Bellmore,” she explained. “My husband has grandchildren in Smithtown that I’d like to spend more time with. I live in Huntington, I work here [in Garden City] and there are after-school soccer games I don’t get to go to. So when you say family, it can be something as simple as a soccer game and you get to participate. So my family world is out there.”
Appiarius gushes when talking about the Garden City District’s commitment to education, that’s shared by the students, parents and staff. She feels it’s a big part of what’s made it a destination community for not only families, but educators.
“The value that parents place on education makes the employees feel valued. Because if you’re in a school district where they don’t value it that much, employees sometimes feel that they’re going through the motions. But here, the district holds education in such high regard, the people that work here are elevated by that belief system,” she explained. “I was so honored to be hired here. I’m really sorry to go in many regards. I’ll miss the work, the people I work with, the board, my secretary Judy and the people that are here. But I want to miss other people in my life less.”