Garden City principal Nanine Cuttitta always loved school.
As a child she cried on snow days, played school incessantly and coveted school supplies. It’s no wonder that she’s dedicated her life to education.
Her career has run an unexpected trajectory as her intent was to teach and with a glint in her eyes she says she was encouraged by mentors to seek administrative positions.
She began her career in 1993, teaching social studies at a junior high school in Brooklyn. Most of her students were children of immigrants and appreciated her efforts. She threw herself into the work and volunteered to coach cheerleading, since funding was an issue.
Cheerleading? If you’ve ever heard her speak, you know she is determined and no-nonsense and yes you now know that she was once a cheerleader. Though these qualities seem to be counterintuitive, she’s in many ways still a cheerleader.
After four years, Cuttitta began teaching at Deer Park High School. She taught social studies and served as social studies chairperson. Encouraged by mentors she pursued administrative certification. After four years she became an assistant principal and ultimately principal.
She honed her craft at Deer Park becoming adept at developing budgets, master schedules, discipline, teacher development, curriculum and all facets of running a school.
Garden City came knocking in 2008, when another mentor encouraged her to apply for the open principal position.
“I was excited at the prospect of teaching in a higher performing district,” said Cuttitta.
Due to a lack of administrative consistency, prior to her arrival, she concedes she’s been busy. Nevertheless, Cuttitta has forged ahead proving that she’s at the helm and taking the school to new heights.
She’s quick to add how fortunate she is to have two wonderful assistant principals, Dave Perrotta and Kevin Steingruebner, along with support from administration, curriculum coordinators and teachers.
The stability and experience she’s brought to the table has not gone unnoticed.
“Ms. Cuttitta is an extremely smart, hard working and dedicated leader,” shared Perrotta. “She approaches every decision with passion, an emphasis on detail and what is best for the students.”
Dr. Robert Feirsen, superintendent of schools, agreed that she has been a strong leader.
“Her commitment to our students is evident in every aspect of her work,” said Feirsen. “She has demonstrated vision, a thorough knowledge of best practices, enthusiasm and the willingness and ability to address challenging issues...that consistently places the needs of students first.”
When asked about her proudest achievements thus far, she cites the research and writing initiative implemented in 2009. She’s also commended advancements made in the school’s library.
A strong proponent of character development, she brought Challenge Day to the school, an award-winning program for youths that promotes compassion. She’s also implemented new rules that are enforceable.
Under her tutelage, mastery level rates (scoring 85 percent or better) on Regents exams have increased. Of the class of 2010, 98 percent graduated with a Regents diploma, up 2 percent from 2009, with 84 percent earning an Advanced Regents diploma or an Advanced Regents diploma with Honors, an increase of 9 percent since 2009.
With 186 Advanced Placement (AP) scholars, Garden City achieved the highest number in the district’s history, besting last year’s record-breaking number of 154 scholars. These numbers have earned Garden City inclusion in Newsday’s ranking of the top 20 Long Island school districts (July 15, 2010).
What’s next? She’s quick to reply that she wants the high school to be as revered for academics as it is for athletics. She wants students to be ready for the challenges ahead, which are her measure of success.
“We’re on the rise and this community will be a force to be reckoned with,” and those are the words of a true cheerleader - still with a glint in her eye.