Dr. Eric Lutinski
BY JANICE LLANES FABRY
Starting July 1, Dr. Eric Lutinski will step into the position of Rye Neck Union Free School District Superintendent. A 26-year veteran at Rye Neck and the District’s Middle School Principal since 2005, he is proud and excited to serve at the helm.
“Rye Neck has a rich history and deep community roots that we can preserve while still continuing with progressive improvements,” he remarked. “None of us do anything in a vacuum, so I’m excited to collaborate with our parents and staff to deliver the best opportunities for our students.”
No stranger to collaborating with fellow administrators and department chairs, monitoring professional development, and making curricular decisions, Lutinski also served as Assistant Superintendent for Instruction under retiring Superintendent Dr. Barbara Ferraro.
“Barbara was the high school principal who hired me, and she’s been a role model and mentor ever since,” he noted. “She has focus and clarity, forethought and vision, and true love for the job. Of course, her work ethic is second to none. She added a great deal of value to Rye Neck in the past three decades.”
About stepping into the role, he believes a Superintendent’s responsibilities have evolved since he began teaching Social Studies at Rye Neck in 1995.
“The position has changed dramatically. Proportionately speaking, the education aspects have shrunk as the role has expanded beyond educational leadership,” he explained. “There has been a shift to broad management of a large organization, from plumbing to politics, from annual budgets to community engagement.”
Indeed, community engagement and creating an inclusive spirit are high on Lutinski’s list of long-term goals. To that end, he will promote regular, active communication with families and a brand-new, more navigable website is coming this fall. Moreover, he conducted a two-week talking tour, “Conversations with Doctor Lutinski”, at all the Rye Neck schools to convey that although he was an internal candidate, he welcomes new ideas and approaches.
“As a former history teacher, I see change as healthy and a change in leadership is a perfect opportunity for organizations to grow,” he said.
The incoming superintendent’s student-centered vision focuses on three key elements. “Rye Neck schools will develop students who possess a strong, diverse academic foundation earned through a challenging instructional program; take ownership of their life-long learning and master their ability to communicate; and demonstrate good character by treating people with dignity.”
Of course, first and foremost on Lutinski’s agenda is resolving all Covid-related issues as long as they continue.
“The pandemic has been a true test of our will power. Administrators, staff and students have lost family members,” he said. “We’ve seen a real heroic contribution across the board by parents, students, staff, and faculty.”
Rye Neck’s enforcement of strict Department of Health safety measures — masks, desk shields, classroom seating charts, bathroom capacity limits, adequate building ventilation, quarantining, and surveillance testing — paid off.
“One real triumph this year was that our schools have had lower rates of Covid than the community at large,” noted Lutinski.
Nevertheless, he recognizes the isolation many students suffered as a result of the restrictions, whether having to stay home or having limited interactions on site. He observed, “The social fabric of a kid’s day are the three minutes he or she gets to talk to classmates at the lockers between classes.” (Lockers should be back in the fall.)
Counselors and psychologists will continue working with students and parents. In addition, learning gaps as a result of the shutdown will be bridged through summer programming.
Going forward, Lutinski will oversee the completion of two major capital campaign projects, the new middle school gymnasium which will become a venue for a broad range of activities and the high school STEAM wing which will create more opportunities with its collaborative spaces and state-of-the art technology.
The new superintendent will also expand professional development for staff and faculty. “We want to invest more time, energy, and creativity to make sure our staff is the best it can be.”