By Casey Sanders
As students leave through the main doors at the end of each day, they have become accustomed to Ms. Elliott smiling and waving as she sends them off. But students must soon get used to a new face waving them goodbye at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, as Ms. Elliott is retiring after 9 successful years.
Before arriving at Great Neck South, Ms. Elliott built the Eleanor Roosevelt High School in New York City from the ground up. From designing the layout of the building, to selecting the paints, and then picking the first graduating class to enter, Ms. Elliott was the key decision-maker in all regards. Through this experience, she became comfortable holding a position of authority.
Because of her positive experiences in prior leadership positions, it did not cross her mind that she wouldn’t be comfortable implementing new policies and procedures at South. However, because South was already an established, successful school, she had to learn how to work within the already established practices and traditions of a school completely foreign to her and her ways of leading. This was easily the most difficult transition of switching schools.
Another challenge for Ms. Elliott when she entered the school was having to prove herself (once again) to an entirely new team. She soon learned that she simply needed some time and experience with the school faculty to gain their trust. Through these challenges, Ms. Elliott found her way and, with hard work, became the principal we know today.
Reminiscing on her years here at South, Ms. Elliott said, “Running high school was like being the leader of a small country.” As principal, she became aware that every decision she made set a precedent, she had to consider all of the different stakeholders and try to satisfy everyone, not just one group or one situation. From these experiences, Ms. Elliott learned that one of the most important things to have is confidence in herself and her decisions. She also learned that transparency and open communication are essential in whatever you do.
Ms. Elliott has also learned the importance of incorporating kindness into every situation. Part of this is teaching students rather than reprimanding them when they make mistakes. Informing this mindset is one of her favorite quotes: “Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s a quiet voice just saying I’ll try again tomorrow.” She added, “There are lots of difficult situations you face as a leader and the courage to show up is most important.” To show up with a good attitude that demonstrates kindness and a willingness to help is of ultimate importance.
As principal, Ms. Elliott’s dedication has been so thorough that the student body and faculty have actually become a surrogate family. She will greatly miss the strong bonds she has formed with the faculty, especially the office staff, including her assistant Mrs. Roseann Imperato, and Ms. Applebaum and Mr. Duggan. Although slightly sad about retiring, Ms. Elliott knows that now is the right time to go, as there are many places to see and things to do, both by herself and with her family.
Ms. Elliott would like students to remember the following advice: “Continue to display a mutual respect and appreciation for each other. Love this place and everyone in it, and continue to be all that you can be.” Her final words impart her deep feelings about the strong sense of character displayed by the students in our school, which means so much to her and makes this goodbye so hard.