It must be the music teacher in her. Washington Primary School starts off each day with Principal Marsha Neville singing a patriotic song over the building’s public address system. It doesn’t take long for the more than 400 students spread across grades K-4 to learn the words and sing right along.
Now in her 11th year at Washington’s helm, Mrs. Neville assumed the principal’s position with extensive knowledge of the building’s history and academic programs. That allowed the veteran educator to jump off to a fast start and gain the respect of faculty and parents during the earliest days of her tenure.
After 17 years as a Huntington music teacher, Mrs. Neville spent a year serving as the dean of Huntington Intermediate School, the predecessor of Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. Her experience in the district formed the basis of the confidence she felt in her own abilities as she assumed responsibility for Washington School’s academic program.
A May 1983 graduate of Houghton College, Mrs. Neville obtained a Master of Science degree in elementary education at Dowling College in 1990 and earned a Professional Diploma in educational administration at Dowling in 2005. She spent her entire teaching career on the elementary level at Jefferson, Southdown, Washington, Woodhull and Huntington Intermediate Schools.
Well-known as a talented music teacher, Mrs. Neville gained valuable experience during the year she spent as Huntington Intermediate School’s dean, dealing with many behind the scenes issues that she now routinely handles each day. She has worked hard to maintain the level of educational excellence that has been Washington School’s hallmark since the building opened its doors to students for the first time in September 1954.
As a teacher, Mrs. Neville implemented a sequential music literacy program featuring interdisciplinary projects for kindergarten through sixth grade students. She worked with three levels of choral performance groups and supervised the development and writing of elementary level district music content standards and exiting skills to help insure comprehensive instruction and accountability.
“Once a Washington kid always a Washington kid,” is a belief that Mrs. Neville is fond of expressing. It’s a nod to the remarkable loyalty that Washington’s alumni feel for their old school. Many return to visit teachers or to just look around the building and reminisce about the good times of yesteryear.
Collaborative by nature, Mrs. Neville includes the building’s faculty members in as many decisions as possible. By gaining consensus before she renders a final verdict, she gets teachers to act in unison in carrying out the school’s mission on a daily basis. The Washington Philosophy is as pro-student as it can be. Teachers place a premium on classroom instruction and learning, but do whatever they can to make sure school is fun for their students.
One of Mrs. Neville’s strengths has been her ability to work closely with members of the school community to create an environment that is educationally stimulating for every youngster.
The past few years have been especially challenging with implementation of the Common Core learning standards and a new model of teacher evaluation among many other initiatives. Through it all, Mrs. Neville has maintained her professionalism and continued to provide the students, parents and teachers of Washington School with the leadership they count on her to display each day.