Jefferson Primary School has been providing the young people of the Huntington community with an exceptional education since the building first opened in September 1962. The stage is set for that same commitment to excellence to continue throughout the 2018/19 school year.
“We have spent a lot of time planning for this school year and we are very excited to have you and your family as part of the Jefferson school community,” wrote Principal Valerie Capitulo-Saide in a letter to parents.
A social was held for incoming kindergarteners and their families on Thursday morning. The youngsters mingled with their new classmates while parents met PTA leaders. Bus tags were distributed so everyone is set for the first day of classes on Wednesday.
Students and parents are invited to visit Jefferson next Tuesday (September 4) from 1-2 p.m. Teachers will be in their classrooms and available to say hello. School supplies can be dropped off at this same time.
Jefferson Primary School Principal Valerie Capitulo-Saide. (Darin Reed photo)
“All students will begin the first day of school by lining up according to class on the playground. Teachers will be holding signs indicating their name and grade level,” Ms. Capitulo-Saide said. “Children will be escorted off of the buses and brought to their respective teachers on the playground.” Students being dropped off by parents can be escorted by them to the playground area. The line-up will be held in the gym in the event of rain. The same procedure will be followed on Thursday and Friday.
Ms. Capitulo-Saide has been the principal of Jefferson Primary School since August 1, 2012. She came to Huntington after serving three years as principal of PS 101Q-The School of the Gardens in Forest Hills, Queens. She earlier worked for two years as that school’s assistant principal.
Ms. Capitulo-Saide earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative studies-dance at Hofstra University. She pursued graduate level studies at LIU-C.W. Post College, obtaining a Master of Science in elementary education and a certificate in educational administration-school building leader.
Prior to embarking on an administrative career, Ms. Capitulo-Saide worked in Community School District 26 in Bayside for two years as a dance teacher in a "literacy through the arts" program for students ranging from pre-kindergarten through ninth grade. She then taught grades three, five and six in elementary classrooms at PS 173Q and PS 213 in Bayside from 2001 to 2005.
Ms. Capitulo-Saide was a math coach and academic intervention services team leader at PS 101Q in Community School District 28 in Forest Hills from 2005 to 2007. She has engaged in a wide variety of professional training and development activities, including the Principal's Institute, NYC leadership mentoring program, advanced leadership mentor program for assistant principals, City College of New York Mathematics Institute mentoring program, Marilyn Burns Math Solutions Institute, Columbia University-Teachers College summer institutes in reading and writing and various experiences with the Educational Leadership Institute.
Jefferson School History
Sensing the need to add another elementary school to meet the needs of a growing community, the Huntington School District purchased an eight acre tract of land on Oakwood Road more than 56 years ago and in 1961/62 erected what would later be named Jefferson School, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson was the fourth building named for a U.S. president, with the others being Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington elementary schools. The district had earlier decided to name any new school south of 25A in honor of a former president and schools north of that boundary after the area in which they were built.
After purchasing the land, the district engaged the architectural firm of Eggers & Higgins to design the new school. Some of the early designs were rejected in whole or part. The general contracting firm of D. Fortunato was retained to erect the new structure.
Construction began in the fall of 1961. The cornerstone was laid in 1962. J. Taylor Finley was the superintendent of schools and Louis C. Bernst was the board of education president at the time.
The design that was ultimately chosen included a central courtyard visible from the front door and main lobby, a timeless fieldstone façade, extensive interior brick walls, dynamic utilization of massive exposed wood beams in the cafeteria and very liberal use of terrazzo-type floors. These features combined to give the new school a stunningly attractive look.
Construction of Jefferson Elementary School completed a longtime plan to place one school in each of the four corners of the district. The project cost $1.171 million. The bond that funded the work was paid off in 1991. As originally constructed, Jefferson included 18 regular classrooms, one “special” classroom, one remedial reading room, two kindergarten rooms, two music practice rooms, a combination gymnasium/auditorium, a library the size of a regular classroom, a main office with an administrative area, a nurse’s office and a 200 seat cafeteria with a large kitchen. The building measures 45,400 square feet. There is no useable basement.
While Jefferson was under construction, a citizen’s advisory committee consisting of two PTA representatives from each of the district’s elementary schools was formed to help develop recommendations for a redistricting of attendance zones. Eventually students from Woodbury, Lincoln and Roosevelt elementary schools, all of which would eventually close, were placed in the Jefferson zone.
Jefferson’s founding principal was J. Allen Matthews, who served in the post through June 1967 when he went on an extended sick leave. He was succeeded by Frank J. Marlowe, who served only until October 1967. Philip Nardone, who was a fifth grade teacher on the original faculty of the school, then stepped into the post and remained as principal until June 1980. The school has had only eight principals in its 56 year history.
Over the years, the parents of Jefferson School students have been extremely supportive of the school and its programs. That same tradition continues today. The school is a single story structure set back from Oakwood Road. A long driveway leads to the building with athletic fields and a large playground visible to the thousands of cars passing along the busy thoroughfare.
When Jefferson was built, most of the nearby land was used for farming and other agricultural purposes. Today, some of those large areas have been set aside for perseveration and are forever free of development, although they are no longer used for agricultural endeavors.
The building includes two large wings that are connected by a shorter span. There are two playground areas and a fully functional and modern library-media center. The cafeteria overlooks the school entrance.