A Memorial Plaque Unveiled to Honor Devoted Board Member Deborah Van Essendelft

  • At the June 6th Board of Education Workshop meeting, the late Deborah Van Essendelft was honored at a brief memorial ceremony during which a new memorial plaque was unveiled. This plaque celebrates her contributions not only as a long-term Board of Education member but also as a dedicated advocate for the arts and will be installed permanently in the High School's Music Wing over the summer.

    Memorial Plaque

  • Serving on the Board of Education for twenty-five years, Deborah Van Essendelft was a strong advocate for all children, as well as a dynamic supporter of the arts. In the brief ceremony to honor her memory, Mrs. Van Essendelft's family, friends, and admirers were treated to a performance by the Sayville String Quartet. Superintendent John E. Stimmel made an address, and Music Department Chairperson Jeff Hoffman shared his thoughts in an endearing letter. The Board of Education members extoled her wonderful legacy as each contributed words of praise about her extraordinary intelligence, her compassionate heart and her artistic soul. Following this exchange, the celebration continued with light refreshments and an opportunity to mingle. 

    Click here for the VIDEO TRIBUTE

  • Address by Sayville Superintendent Dr. John E. Stimmel – June 6, 2019

    "Board Trustee, a leader, and a friend, Mrs. V. valued family, community schools, the society that she lived.   I believe she was a ferocious patriot.  She believed in a stronger country, stronger community, stronger schools, stronger families, and personal growth.  She wanted the students in her community of Sayville to be able to pursue their passions, develop their intellect, and be instilled with a very strong moral compass.  We miss her terribly.  Her presence is felt throughout the district.  It is fitting that in some intangible and physical way we dedicate a part of the district in her memory.  I can assure you, her family, that we remember Debbie every day. She was a very good friend of mine.  She was my champion.  She helped to keep me grounded.  She was the one who took the time to show me where the ins and outs were.  I can assure you I would not be here today were it not for her friendship, support, guidance, and wisdom and in a very personal way that not a day goes by that I do not think of Debbie and the lessons she taught me.  But in many ways not a day goes by in this district that her actions, her kindness, her foresight isn’t evident.  It is present throughout the buildings, where the middle school is still doing simulations, and in the performance you saw tonight [string quartet]. These are all outgrowths of Debbie’s efforts as a Board Trustee. 

    "We wanted to remember all the wonderful things Debbie stood for.  In a small way we wanted to preserve that memory in a very physical sense.  What the Board has done is we are dedicating the New Music Wing at Sayville High School, which is not so new anymore, in Debbie’s honor and memory so that whenever students go for music classes, when guests come to see plays, concerts, performances, they will see a plaque depicting who Debbie was as a Board Trustee and as a partner with the educators of the community." 

    Dr. Stimmel unveiled the plaque which read:  Sayville High School – Deborah Van Essendelft Music Wing – Dedicated in 2019 – In memory of Board of Education Trustee Deborah Van Essendelft who served on the Sayville Board of Education for twenty-five years.  A dedicated public servant, child advocate, and tireless supporter of the music/theater arts program in Sayville.  “Never stop learning: believe in yourself even when you think nobody else does; treat others the way you want to be treated.  Decide to be happy and find a way, no matter how small, to make a difference” From BOE President Deborah Van Essendelft’s Commencement Speech, June, 2010. 


Family and friends gather to honor Deborah Van Essendelft

Family and friends gather to honor Deborah Van Essendelft

    “Mrs. Van Essendelft was always for the students first.  Every decision she ever made was in the best interest of the students of Sayville Public Schools.  I had the supreme pleasure of coming into the district at the time Debbie’s daughter, Kate, was coming to the high school.  Getting to teach and work with Kate allowed me the privilege of getting to know Debbie in so much more of a personal way than I would otherwise had.  Debbie’s love of the arts allowed her to lead with her heart in the direction of the arts.  We were the lucky recipients of that love in so many different ways.  Her support of the music department was second to none.  She took a deep personal interest in what was going on in the department from the teachers to the students.  She celebrated the awards and accolades with us and championed changes that needed to be made for the sake of the students.  When I became chairperson of the Music Department, Debbie said we have always put the kids first and I will continue to do so for as long as I can.  She kept that promise.  It is so fitting that this remembrance of her will always be with her music kids.  I love so much that it will be hanging in the hallway of the people she championed, and among the students that she fought for every day of her life.  I love her and her family so much and I am so proud that her plaque will be prominently displayed with us, where she can be remembered for many, many years to come.”

    Music Department Chairperson Jeff Hoffman