BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The message from parents and educators at Eisenhower Intermediate School was loud and clear – please don’t take away our principal.
A total of nine speakers took the podium at a recent board of education meeting to plead with the school district’s governing body not to reassign long-time Eisenhower principal Joseph Diskin to another local school. Each took their seat to applause from members of the audience after they had finished speaking.
Eisenhower parent Adena Feinstein, who has three children attending school in the district, said she was spurred to speak publicly after she heard the possibility that several Bridgewater-Raritan principals might be reassigned from their current positions. She said she believes that Diskin and assistant principal Cathleen Filippello embody the face of Eisenhower, and keep the education at an A-plus level.
Sign Up for E-News
“It’s not something to be taken lightly,” said Feinstein of a potential leadership change.
Stephen Fenton, physical education and health teacher at Eisenhower, called Diskin “the heart of the school,” and agreed he should remain in place. Fenton also said he had known Diskin for 20 years, and that Diskin’s pride and passion is at Eisenhower.
James Perry, also a physical education and health teacher at Eisenhower, said he has known Diskin for 18 years, and also has concerns about a potential principal transfer.
“There are many reasons I feel it is the wrong move,” said Perry.
He said Diskin helped him become the teacher he is today, and that he considers Diskin not only a principal, but a colleague and a friend.
Parent Barb Dziedzic said Diskin had been a tremendous asset to her own son, who was hindered by a learning disability early on, and that Diskin had “made him grow.” Her son is now an honors student at Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and she added that a proposed move of Diskin to Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School would be “folly.”
“This man would not be placed well there,” said Dziedzic. “I just think it’s a bad decision.”
Louise Kelly, a special education teacher at Eisenhower, admitted that she had a difficult time wrapping her head about the possibility that Diskin might be transferred.
“This is a drastic change, to replace one principal,” she said, “who doesn’t want to leave.”
She explained that Diskin has built something “unbelievable” at Eisenhower, and that he probably only has a few more years to go until his retirement. She added that transferring Diskin elsewhere would impact Eisenhower’s school morale, student test scores and more.
“Let’s give the man respect,” Kelly said. “Don’t take him out of his home.”
Jaclynn Hurley, who has spent the last 13 years at Eisenhower and teaches fifth grade, said that news of a potential changing of the guard hit her hard.
“Part of my heart broke last week, for all he’s done,” she said of Diskin, before tearing up. “We would lose the captain of our ship.”
She thanked Superintendent Russell Lazovick and other administrators who had visited Eisenhower the previous day, and said she would try to remain optimistic.
Elaine Maggi, a sixth grade teacher who has been at Eisenhower for 13 years, said Diskin had been there for her in tough times, and asked the school board to consider the school climate before making its decision.
“It’s truly a family,” she said. “The effect on staff and students would be immeasurable.”
Eisenhower fifth grade teacher Melissa Forina also said she does not support moving Diskin to the middle school. She added that Diskin wants to stay at Eisenhower, and that he has also served as a mentor for her own principal aspirations.
“He knows Eisenhower inside and out,” she said. “I’m here because I want him to stay.”
The last speaker was Susan Mary Morris, a teacher intervention specialist who has been at Eisenhower for more than 30 years, and has spent some 50 years in teaching. She said teachers are artists and thinkers who give their hearts and souls to young people, and will always remain teachers no matter what else they gravitate to in life.
Morris added that Diskin not only salutes his staff’s individuality and differences, but has built both a family and a loving community at Eisenhower.
“Joe knows how to lift a child’s spirit,” she said.
The board did not respond publicly to any of the speakers during the remainder of the public meeting, and did not publicly discuss any potential principal transfers.