Richard S. Rozakis starts July 1
When Garden City resident Richard S. Rozakis was recently approved to the appointment of superintendent of schools for the Babylon School District, it was the culmination of a 29-year climb up the ladder in the field of education. After starting out as a social studies teacher in the Sewanhaka Central school district, Rozakis’ career path took him through stops as an assistant principal at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, a principal at Glen Head’s North Shore High School and his current job as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High school district. It’s a journey he felt drawn to dating back to his time growing up in Elmont.
“I think I had wanted to be a teacher back when I was a kid helping my friends do their homework, teaching them how to tell time—doing things that I didn’t even know was teaching at the time,” he recollected. “I taught in my church when I was an older teenager. I was always like that and it always felt like it was a natural thing for me to do. Then I went through the whole ladder of education, [eventually] hitting every rung.”
With his new position effective July 1, the newly-minted Babylon school superintendent is well aware of the obstacles he’ll face going into the 2012-2013 school year. “I think any superintendent, be it incoming or a sitting one, has to be aware of being compliant with all the state mandates,” he explained. “There’s so much change going on. We also have to be realistic with these budgets in getting the most for less while using our resources wisely.”
Even though these and other challenges are awaiting him, Rozakis is optimistic going in given the correlations he sees between the Garden City and Babylon districts.
“I feel Babylon is in a very good position because it’s a very motivated community,” he observed. “They are very school-centered and want the best for their kids; the same things that I wanted for my son when he was going to school in Garden City. I see a lot of similarities and I would only choose a district that I felt had the same values. They do put the kids first. Just being able to have these things and keep your values centered on students is going to be the most important challenge.”
A resident of Garden City since 1997, Rozakis moved to the village after residing in the South Shore communities of Bellmore, Oceanside, Long Beach and Atlantic Beach. The choice to plant roots in his most current hometown was a combination of practicality and a longstanding affection for Garden City.
“My wife, Felice, is a vice-president with W.W. Norton in Manhattan and she needed to shorten her commute,” he recalled. “Plus, we’ve always loved Garden City—the aesthetics, homes, charm and park-like settings. St. Paul’s has always been an attraction along with the outdoor cafes you can find on Seventh Street. Between the schools for our son, who was just entering first grade, the perfect commute for [my wife] and all the amenities, there was no other choice and we’ve never regretted it.”
Rozakis’ son Adam is a 2009 Garden City High School alum and is currently a junior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, studying for a degree in education. Adam’s father is convinced his offspring’s current success can be directly traced to where he attended public school. Rozakis’ front-row seat as a parent during this time is also a perspective/philosophy he intends to bring to his new position.
“What I liked about [Adam’s] whole education was the fact that there was a lot of communication between school and home, which goes back to when he was in Homestead [Elementary School]. We always knew where the school and principal sat and where the school was headed,” he said. “I loved the whole academic program that they offered where kids were challenged to strive, the bar was raised high and everybody had the opportunity [to succeed]. I loved all the extra-curricular programs. [Adam] took a bite out of all the things that were offered and it ended up making him a well-rounded kid. I feel Garden City really prepared him to do well at a very competitive college and I would want the Babylon kids to have those same opportunities.”