Springhurst Elementary School Principal Julia Drake will be leaving at the end of this school year to join the Katonah-Lewisboro School District as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. She begins her new duties on July 1, succeeding Mary Ford, who is retiring.
Drake, a Hastings resident and product of its public schools, as well as Community Nursery School in Dobbs Ferry, has been Springhurst’s principal since 2011, presiding over a school of 700 students and 100 staff members. For three years prior, she was principal of P.S. 147 Isaac Remsen School (pre-K-5) in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section. She’ll be joining a district of nearly 2,900 students in five schools: Katonah, Meadow Pond, and Increase Miller elementary schools; John Jay Middle School; and John Jay High School.
On May 4, Drake talked with the Enterprise about the similarities and differences between the Dobbs Ferry schools and her new district.
“Both have exceptionally high standards for their students, their schools, and their educational programs,” she explained. “Both have a supportive school community feel, a coherence and collective effort that’s important to me, and I enjoy working in a place where it feels mutually supportive and there’s a collaborative effort.”
The two districts also have some similar programming: they’re both working on sustainability and a word study program. Both follow the same New York State Education Department standards, but their math and literacy programs differ.
The jump from elementary school principal to assistant superintendent, Drake said, is the next step in her professional life, which began in 2003, when she was a special education teacher at P.S. 307 Luisa Pineiro Fuentes School of Science and Discovery (K-5) in the Bronx.
“I’m excited to work with other elementary school principals... Being in Dobbs Ferry, I work closely with the principals of all itsthree schools,” she added. “I have a very close working relationship with my colleagues at the district level, which has given me a strong K-12 perspective.”
Drake said she’s tried to create a space she would want for her own three children, “a creative, happy space to learn and grow, and to work in a way with with others and adults in a collaborative, respectful, professional way, so that they feel valued.”
Drake affirmed that she sees her first responsibility in Katonah-Lewisboro as immersing herself in what’s currently happening. “I’m not going to come in with guns blazing right away,” she stated. “I need to familiarize myself with what’s in store before I go ahead and make changes.”
During her years at Springhurst, Drake has reached milestones in every area of her life: she gave birth to two children, led Springhurst through Covid-19, and earned her doctorate in educational leadership from Manhattanville College.
“We’ve been through a lot; Covid was so hard,” she recounted. “When you live through something like that with a group of people, it’s quite impactful.” During that time, she wrote her doctoral thesis, published by ProQuest in 2021, “Female Superintendents' Perceptions of Unconscious Gender Bias in the Superintendency: An Exploratory Quantitative Study.” Her article has also appeared in the American Association of School Administrators’ Winter Journal of Scholarship and Practice.
She also has received professional accolades: the 2014 DFSD PTSA Administrator Achievement Award and the 2021 Distinguished Dissertation Research Award from Manhattanville College, as well as invitations to be a keynote speaker or guest presenter at conferences and symposia including the NYS Council of School Superintendents’ Women's Initiative and the Minnesota Department of Education.
The mother of 13-year-old Joseph, 9-year-old Grace, and 6-year-old Timothy, who all attend school in Hastings, is involved inextracurricular activities as well: she’s on the board of the Hastings Education Foundation and its Grants Committee, and assists her husband, Tom, also a product of Hastings’ schools and now a village trustee, with coaching Little League. “Growing up, I used to play on the Springhurst playground,” she noted.
Calling her time at Springhurst “very fulfilling,” Drake said she’ll miss her relationships with staff, students, community members, parents, and families. “It’s been an honor to work with the people I have and to help some of the families that I’ve known over these years,” she said. One heartwarming experience for her will be watching her former Springhurst first-graders receive their high school diplomas this June.
“I’ve been really moved by peoples’ outpouring of kindness and gratitude,” Drake said of the community’s reaction to her imminent departure. When asked what message she wants to convey to the community, she replied, “I guess just, ‘Thank you.’ It’s actually a real privilege to have this responsibility. Especially as a mom, it’s a real privilege to be in the position to help shape some of the most impressionable years. I consider it a very important job, so I try to do the best I can. It’s hard saying goodbye to the staff here; we’ve been through a lot.” However, she asserted, “I’m ready for the next adventure.”
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