SELKIRK — Debra Neubart is no stranger to A.W. Becker Elementary School, but she is the school’s newly appointed principal.
She was appointed to the position June 6 by the RCS Board of Education, but has been a familiar face at the school for many years. Every school morning, she greets the kids as they arrive on campus, and then waves goodbye as they leave each afternoon.
Neubart will take the place of Tricia Carlton, the former principal who passed away in February after battling illness for eight months. Carlton had been in the position since her appointment in April 2014 when she replaced former principal Claudia Verga, who had retired.
Carlton’s death was a difficult transition for many in the RCS community.
“When Tricia became ill, we were obviously hopeful that she would be back with us soon,” said District Superintendent Robert Libby, who retired effective July 1. “Unfortunately, and with great sadness, that was not the case. But we know we have a fantastic successor in Debra Neubart.”
When Carlton first fell ill, Neubart was named acting principal for the 2016-2017 school year. Carlton passed away in February 2017.
Now Neubart, who was once a student at A.W. Becker herself as a child, will take the school’s reins. It’s a story she tells current students often.
“I love to share with the students that I was once a little girl and a student walking in these halls,” Neubart said. “This was my elementary school.”
Over the years, though, there have been changes — it’s not quite the same school it was in her own youth.
“When I was a student, it was just the front of the building here,” she noted. “The entire back of the building didn’t exist.”
But infrastructure changes aren’t the only things different from her own experiences as a student — there have been significant changes in how classes are taught and, of course, technology.
There is more project-based learning to make the lessons tangible and real for the students, technological advances have altered how lessons are delivered and learned, and there is a greater emphasis on STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math.
“It’s a world where students are growing up with the technology and that’s how they are learning,” Neubart pointed out.
After moving up from A.W. Becker, Neubart eventually graduated from RCS High School and went into education following her college years. She started out as a substitute teacher while still in college, and was hired by the district in 1990 as an elementary and middle school teacher.
In addition to teaching in the classroom, Neubart has held other educational responsibilities over the years, including serving as social studies coordinator, enrichment specialist, curriculum specialist and academic intervention provider.
She held all these positions in the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District.
She said she has found the full-circle nature of her education and career a rewarding experience.
“It’s very rewarding to feel like I’m giving back to the community I graduated from, a community I care deeply about,” Neubart said.
In her new position, Neubart hopes to cultivate positive relationships with all members of the school community, including students, families, teachers and staff.
She looks forward to imprinting on the school her own educational vision.
“It’s amazing how learning can bring you anywhere – it brought me here,” Neubart said. “I want to let students know that you can do anything you put your mind to. I never knew that I would grow up one day and be your principal, but here I am. It’s very exciting.”