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  •  2018 Board of Education

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Sayville School District Mourns Passing of Board of Education Trustee Debbie Van Essendelft

  • Deborah Van Essendelft, a soft-spoken but dynamic advocate who served on the Sayville Board of Education in various capacities for twenty-five years, passed away on June 25, 2018  after a long illness.

    It is with heavy hearts that the Sayville community deals with this loss, but looking back at all that she had accomplished for Sayville students and the entire School District as a tireless volunteer, the gains from her unselfish service are manifold.

    A long-time West Sayville resident and free-lance publisher, Mrs. Van Essendelft’s number one objective as a Sayville Board member was always what was best “for the kids”— all kids, not just for the academically, artistically and athletically gifted, but for each child who was entitled to a quality education.  Among the many districtwide initiatives in which she was involved, Debbie supported a stronger music program, launched the Site-Based teams, and provided opportunities for students interested in vocational education, to name but a few.

    In addition to pushing for excellence in educational programs, Mrs. Van Essendelft was at the forefront of requiring that Sayville School District have “transparency” in financial management, a term she touted long before the problems with other school districts made that a state mandate requiring levels of auditing. She was quoted once as saying, “I want to see the board go to a more open policy,” and throughout her years of service she worked well with the Sayville Administration and her fellow board members to ensure the District’s success in this area. 

    “She was a true friend to the entire school community,” recalled Dr. John E.  Stimmel, Superintendent of Schools. “Sayville students were her passion.  Mrs. Van Essendelft also cared deeply for the teachers, staff and administrators who served them.  Her presence on the Board and in our community will be sorely missed.”

    Former board member Raymond J. Nelson remembered Debbie as “a friend, Board Colleague and terrific person. A champion of children, advocate for kids of every need, interest and desire, she was a Board member for the right reasons: education, child advocacy and a deeply rooted and profound pride in Sayville. She considered all of the stakeholders in every decision before her and sought productive forward moving outcomes. Thank you Deb. God Bless.”

    Current Board of Education President Keith Kolar shared his thoughts upon learning “of the passing our board of education trustee Debbie Van Essendelft…. Mrs. Van Essendelft was a constant advocate of public education. Throughout her tenure she never lost sight of the most important resource of our community—the children. In honoring Debbie, this board will continue the legacy that she has left for all of us. While we grieve the passing of our beloved community volunteer, let us find peace in that our School District and community is much better off because of the life of Debbie VanEssendelft.”

    Before she served on the Board, Mrs. Van Essendelft had been President on the Council of PTAs and Vice President of Cherry Avenue PTA .  She is survived by her daughter Kate and husband Ken, her parents Mr. and Mrs. John Thompson, her sister Karen Stephan and her husband Vincent and nephews Zachary and Matthew.

    Sayville will miss Mrs. Deborah Van Essendelft dearly.