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Story - Education

Nov 4, 2009 12:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

After 32 years, Hampton Bays administrator retires

Nov 4, 2009 12:36 PM

When Joseph Kolarik announced during a Hampton Bays School Board meeting in September that he would be retiring this fall, someone quipped that if you cut him, the district’s longtime director of student services would bleed purple.

As a man who has spent his entire life in education, beginning with his first day of kindergarten in Hampton Bays in 1960, it is easy to see why.

“This place is in my blood,” said Mr. Kolarik during a recent interview in his office, which is located on the second floor of the Hampton Bays Middle School.

After a 32-year career in the school district, Mr. Kolarik’s last day will be today, Thursday, November 5, which is also his 55th birthday.

Ever since the late 1950s when his family moved to the East End from Brooklyn, save for college and a brief stint in New Jersey the year after graduation, Mr. Kolarik has always called himself a Bayman.

After graduating from the State University of New York at Cortland and spending a year working for relatives in New Jersey, Mr. Kolarik took his first job with the school district, teaching a federally funded remedial math program in 1977.

“It didn’t pay very much,” he recalled.

Mr. Kolarik credited his own high school math teacher at the school, Tom Peczkowski, for inspiring him to pursue a career in education. “I became a math major because of him,” Mr. Kolarik said of his mentor.

A few years later, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in special education from C.W. Post. He took a job working in special education in Hampton Bays in 1979 and held that post for the next five years.

In 1984, just as Mr. Kolarik was finishing up his master’s degree in administration, an assistant principal position opened up at Hampton Bays High School.

“Timing seemed to be everything,” he said.

Ted Watt, who was the principal of the Hampton Bays Elementary School from 1974 until 1992, said he was able to observe Mr. Kolarik’s work for many years and was impressed with what he saw.

“He was loved by his students, he was respected by the parents of his students, and was really admired by the staff,” Mr. Watt said.

Mr. Watt said that he interviewed many candidates for the job, but when all was said and done, there was only one person he wanted for the position. That person was Mr. Kolarik.

“I was looking for a person that would be loyal and really pay attention to details,” Mr. Watt said. “I saw potential in him.”

Mr. Kolarik accepted the assistant principal position and stayed there for five years. In 1989, he took a job as the director of student services, a position he would hold for the next two decades. In that role, he provided support services for special needs students among other duties.

Though he was upset to lose Mr. Kolarik, Mr. Watt said those feelings were trumped by his happiness to see his coworker’s career flourish.

Mark Pagano, a former administrator in the William Floyd School District, will take over the reins for Mr. Kolarik. Mr. Pagano started on October 15 and will earn $139,000 annually.

Of his accomplishments during his time with Hampton Bays, Mr. Kolarik said that he is most of proud of being at the forefront of the inclusion program movement in the 1990s. Inclusion programs call for the integration of mainstream and special needs students rather than segregating them in separate classes.

He said that, in his opinion, Hampton Bays was a model for other districts in that department.

“We acted as a catalyst,” he said. “I was very proud of it.”

Hampton Bays Superintendent Joanne Loewenthal, who also plans on retiring early next year, described Mr. Kolarik as a dependable colleague, a team player and a substantive leader.

“Joe is one of a unique group of educators who spend their whole careers in one district and it’s lucky for the Bays that he did,” she wrote in an e-mail. “He has influenced and implemented strong programs for our students.”

Mr. Kolarik has seen his students grow up, graduate from college and return to the district to work. In fact, Hampton Bays Middle School Principal Lars Clemensen was one of Mr. Kolarik’s students at the district’s elementary school when Mr. Clemensen was just 7 years old.

Mr. Kolarik, who now lives in Southampton, said that after retiring he plans to spend more time with his 8-year-old daughter Jillian, complete projects around the house, and take a much needed breather from his 32-year career in education.

“You always want to be in the position to give 150 percent,” he said. “If you don’t, you want some more down time.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 09 4:11 PM
Best wishes for a happy and healthy retirement, Joe!
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 09 4:11 PM
You shall be greatly missed Joe!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Nov 4, 09 4:53 PM
What kind of retirement does an administrator get who is making $139,000 a year? Just an average taxpayer wanting to know? Is it public record?
By jim (48), hampton bays on Nov 5, 09 12:56 AM
Many thanks for all you did for the special needs students AND their parents.
By graibierd (6), Southampton on Nov 5, 09 1:31 PM
State retirement plans for teachers age 55 with 30 years of service are no big secret. I estimate Joe will receive about $7500 per month plus complete health benefits. I might add that it is money well deserved
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 5, 09 6:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Congratulations on your retirement, Joe. You were a positive influence in the district for many years. While you were certainly not alone in that regard, it made you pretty special. You have earned everything you will get.
By Doug Penny (64), Lexington, Virginia on Nov 6, 09 11:26 AM