Curtis Juengerkes has been appointed as the new principal of Islip School District’s Maud S. Sherwood Elementary School. Juengerkes replaced Chad Walerstein, the district’s new director of technology, innovation and information systems, earlier this academic year.
Juengerkes, 54, earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting at St. John’s University and his master’s degree in secondary education and professional diploma at Dowling College. An Islip resident, he has worked in the district for 25 years, most recently as the assistant principal at Islip High School. He also served as a business teacher and varsity golf and basketball and middle school football coach.
Islip Bulletin reporter Kate Nalepinski spoke with Juengerkes, who reflected on his background in education, commitment to the district and how to work as an administrator during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kate Nalepinski: What is your relationship to the Islip community?
Curtis Juengerkes: My father graduated from Islip in 1959. I grew up in Islip until high school, when I moved over to East Islip and returned [to Islip] to raise my family. I have four children, and they went through the Islip schools. And this is my 25th year, so I’ve spent nine of them teaching and coaching, and another 15 as an assistant principal in the high school. Sherwood is a building my four children went through, and Islip is a great community – they believe in family, they believe in education... it’s a great school to work in.
KN: What does your background in education look like? Did you always want to work in this field?
CJ: I went to St. John’s University, I graduated with a degree in accounting. I was [a certified public accountant] for nine years, I did public and private accounting. I always had an interest in education, coaching kids and the like. I had a couple teachers in high school that I was very close to and wanted to be like them. One was my accounting teacher – we used to call him “Uncle Louie.” He was the department chair, a CPA and a school teacher. He was who I wanted to be when I was in high school… My father was also in banking and business, so that drew me in. I discovered as I got older, and matured, that I found out I wanted to do something with deeper meaning. So, I student-taught and got into Islip. When I was first starting out, I was a bit apprehensive.
KN: You mentioned your family connection to the district, but why have you chosen to stay here? What separates Islip from other districts?
CJ: People ask me a lot about living, working and having kids in the district. It has really been nothing but positive. I don’t know what other districts offer, but I’ve never had an interest in needing to know. My kids have had nothing but amazing experiences at Sherwood, the middle school and high school. I have a daughter in education, she’s teaching in South Carolina; my other daughter went into accounting, and my two boys. I’ve always thought Islip was very special, and our approach about athletics and education, it’s a great balance of the social-emotional side of learning and the academic side… I think that’s probably what I enjoy most about it.
KN: Things have been very different this year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking forward, how does Sherwood plan to keep up academic engagement despite the circumstances?
CJ: At Sherwood, we have some students in the building and some working remotely K-5. Going back to balancing the social-emotional with academics, that was the main concern when kids first came back. We wanted to make sure they were developing and well-adjusted… We had to be flexible and understanding, and understand the purpose of our school. Kids are thirsty to learn – they want to be challenged, they want to grow intellectually. I can speak for Sherwood, because I’ve spent every day here since August; it’s a building that puts the right things first. I’m very proud to be a part of what they have to offer to this community and to serve and support them. I got very lucky this year.