‘Subtle changes’ as high school gains new leadership

Olivia Condell, Editor In Chief

Carrie Lipenholtz assumed the role as Commack High School’s principal at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, following Leslie Boritz’s transition to the district position of Principal for Leadership and Instruction. 

While her position is still relatively new, Lipenholtz is no stranger to the halls of CHS. As a Commack graduate, she has felt a deep pride for the students and faculty within the district, leaving only for four years to pursue her college education at Towson University. 

“I always felt such a connection to Commack. [I have a] connection to understanding what the students went through, because I was a student in Commack. I understand the values and what is important to the community, because my parents were living here and because I grew up here. I felt that strong connection, and I continue to feel it to this day. I believe very strongly in what we do here,” said Lipenholtz. 

Lipenholtz has worked in the Commack School District for seventeen years under various titles. She began her career as a social studies teacher at both the high school and middle school. Being in a classroom environment allowed her to foster closer relationships with students through engaging lessons and hands-on projects. These interactions fulfilled Lipenholtz’s desire to bond with her students, yet she consistently found herself eager to branch out of her teaching role. 

“I wanted to be able to give back differently, in that I started to look at what was going on in the building[…] I got myself involved in building initiatives and that is when I thought [being an administrator] would be something I was interested in. My dad was also a high school principal, so I always joke that it was in my blood,” said Lipenholtz.

Her interest in administrative tasks led her to become the Assistant Principal at the middle school. As the name suggests, Lipenholtz’s job focused on aiding the Principal. She ensured that the building ran smoothly and performed management duties, such as planning and organizing school events. Lipenholtz has had a strong impact on supporting students academically, socially, and emotionally.

“I worked very closely in the middle school with the counseling staff and mental health staff in order to make sure that all students were supported in a well rounded education,” she said. 

This aspect of her job as Assistant Principal helped Lipenholtz become a Curriculum Associate at the district level for the 2020-2021 school year, where she focused on assisting students amidst the Coronavirus pandemic through quarantine support, tutoring initiatives, as well as forming other protocols and procedures. As Curriculum Associate, she served as the liaison between the district office and the schools. 

Lipenholtz’s past positions allowed her to understand the district from multiple perspectives, preparing her for her newest position.

“I’ve been here 17 years, but back and forth [between positions and buildings]. That has helped me so much professionally […] I can really see where the kids come from,” said Lipenholtz. 

Understanding the entire kindergarten through twelfth grade experience is also something that Lipenholtz values as principal. While maintaining positive relations with all administrative staff, she ensures that her work at the high school aligns with that of the middle school, as those students prepare to step into the last stage of their schooling in Commack.

“I am always in conversation with [Commack Middle School Principal] Dr. Larson. We like to stay on the same page […] It is really important because we are working on a continuum. We’re working on kindergarten through senior year. What they are doing down at the elementary schools and the middle school is so important for us to know and to be aware of. We are seeing [students] on the way out, they are seeing you on the way in,” said Lipenholtz. 

Aside from her typical emails, phone calls, and staff meetings, Lipenholtz and the leadership team at the high school have created three goals for the school year: to be present, reflective, and good communicators.

Being present involves interacting with students. This could be in the form of visiting classrooms, stepping out into the hallways, or attending sporting and spirit events.

“I love homecoming. It is my favorite. I love celebrating with the seniors, going to prom, and graduation […] I was able to see everything the high school offered [when I attended] and I want to [be present] do that for other students now,” said Lipenholtz.

The new administration is also taking time to reflect on building initiatives and operations. As a new team, Lipenholtz does not intend to make any changes to the functionality of the high school. Instead, she hopes to understand how and why things are done.

“We are reflecting on the ‘why.’ Why do we do what we do? Why does this program run the way it does? Why do we have a homeroom?,” she said.  

Communication is vital to Lipenholtz and the students. Her goal is to be effective in informing people regarding events around the building, as well as encouraging students to communicate back with the administrative team. 

“I would love to have conversations with students [who have] questions or concerns. The one thing I would not like is to know that someone is upset or confused [without] having that conversation. It is so important. That goes for me [and the other administrators,] we all feel that way. And if I’m not the right person [to talk to], I’ll point you in that direction,” said Lipenholtz. 

Lipenholtz confirms that if the new administration is able to accomplish these subtle changes, then that will “measure their success” for the upcoming year. 🔳