With a combined 41 years of administrative leadership in the North Bellmore School District, Deputy Superintendent Carol Eskew and Park Avenue Elementary School Principal Eileen Speidel will leave behind a legacy defined by unsurpassable and unwavering devotion to the students and the community they served.
Ms. Eskew’s professional career is varied and highly diverse. She came to the district 27 years ago after a remarkable and extremely successful stint in United States Navy where she supported the support services Division during the Vietnam War. After that, Ms. Eskew took her keen financial talents to the banking industry where she rose to the illustrious position of senior vice president. Immediately upon embarking in her new position as a psychologist at John G. Dinkelmeyer and Park Avenue schools, she was recognized for her wisdom, intelligence and student-driven decision-making. Doing what is in the best interest of students had defined Ms. Eskew’s work for decades.
Fortunately, over the years, Ms. Eskew worked as a psychologist at four of the district’s six buildings. She became a respected mentor to district special education teams and a respected colleague of teachers and administrators. It was clearly the right selection when she was named director of special education. Her work in building and expanding the district’s special education offerings took flight immediately upon her taking on her new role. Ms. Eskew served 13 years as the director of special education before being named deputy superintendent. As deputy superintendent, Ms. Eskew maintained her role as director of special education and assumed oversight of the district’s human resources department. In addition, she has been a steadfast leader of the nursing department and oversees the psychology and social work departments.
Superintendent Marie Testa and the Board of Education credit Ms. Eskew with the myriad enhancements to the special education program that have been implemented during her tenure. Under her direction, the co-teaching model began with two classes at Saw Mill Road Elementary School and was eventually expanded to every school. The district was one of the first to have a certified behavioral specialist and an assistive technology evaluator on staff. Thanks to Ms. Eskew’s vision and her hiring of extraordinarily talented teachers, North Bellmore students in out-of-district placements were brought back to district to be educated.
Over the years, Ms. Eskew has cultivated strong relationships with the families she serves and commented that it is extremely important to have the trust of parents in order to work collaboratively to meet the needs of students. Ms. Eskew is proud to have been part of an administrative team that is collaborative, thoughtful and fully committed to the success of the district’s special education programs and services and of all the children North Bellmore serves.
“We are team in every way in North Bellmore and this team has put the district in a very good place for the future,” she said.
Ms. Speidel retires after 14 years at Park Avenue and, like Ms. Eskew, said that successful leadership comes from teamwork. Many initiatives have been spearheaded by school committees. The Shared Decision Making Committee, a team that includes Ms. Speidel, teachers and parents, created the school logo and the Parker Panda school mascot while the Scholars Pledge and Parker Paw program originated with the school-based Character Education Committee. The school has also adopted “grit” as its motto to encourage students to adopt a never-give-up attitude.
“So much of what you do as a principal is what you do as a team,” Ms. Speidel said. “All of the brilliant minds come together to bring these ideas to fruition. We’ve created so much as a school community.”
With support from the PTA, an annual dance residency was created in which students spend two weeks working with teachers from professional dance schools, before putting on a final performance for their families. She also worked with several Boy Scouts to complete community service projects at the school for their Eagle rank.
For the last 11 years, Ms. Speidel has intentionally and thoughtfully selected books containing important, poignant messages which connect to the lives of the students in ways that support academic, social and emotional growth. Ms. Speidel provided each teacher with a copy of the book as well as a letter from her outlining essential discussion ideas. The month of June marks Ms. Speidel’s 110th and final book of the month.
Ms. Testa commented, “Ms. Speidel’s principal’s book of the month set the very foundation upon which the kind, respectful, growth-oriented culture of Park Avenue was built. To say that she inspired a love of reading among her students and faculty and that her selections were awe inspiring, meaningful and valuable would be an understatement. Ms. Speidel’s legacy will forever live through the invaluable life lessons the children learned over these years.”
Ms. Speidel is a principal of students. She is out at recess, in classrooms, greeting students and arrival, wishing them well as they dismiss and is “seen along the way,” at all other times throughout the day. Ms. Speidel prides herself on knowing every student by name, and knows that they appreciate it when she greets them by name, whether it is at morning arrival or when passing them in hall. During her first year, she said she memorized every name by January, and from there it was just a matter of learning the kindergartners and other new students every year. Prior to the pandemic, she hosted monthly lunches for students celebrating their birthdays, another way of making a personal connection with students.
In 2019, Ms. Speidel, was one of 15 Long Island educators to receive the Administrator of the Year award from the Council of Administrators and Supervisors. This extraordinary honor was well-deserved and was celebrated by all who had the privilege of observing Ms. Speidel lead.
“Ms. Speidel is a leader among leaders, a humble human being and a devoted colleague,” Ms. Testa said. “For 14 years, she placed students, faculty and staff first in all decision-making, in every aspect of the programs she oversaw and in every work and action she took as principal of Park Avenue.”
Prior to coming to North Bellmore, Ms. Speidel worked as a teacher and assistant principal in Queens for sixteen years where she left an indelible mark and a legacy of excellence. Ms. Speidel applied to a few principal jobs on Long Island, and the day she sent her application to the North Bellmore, she received a sign. While having a slice of pizza and a soda, she noticed a message inside the soda bottle cap, “Important news about your job will come soon.” Not long after, she was hired to lead Park Avenue.
“Obviously that news did come and my journey at Park Avenue School soon began,” Ms. Speidel said. “It really was the opportunity of a lifetime. Being the principal at Park Avenue has truly been the highlight of my career.”
Ms. Testa remembers the day Ms. Speidel was interviewed, “I knew during the interview that Ms. Speidel was the one…I knew that she would be a once in a lifetime principal!”