Gembka Named Principal at Pound Ridge Elementary

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. — After nearly a year and a half of screening and evaluating three pools of applicants, the search for a permanent new principal for Pound Ridge Elementary School finally concluded Wednesday night, when the Bedford School Board named interim principal Timothy Gembka to the post.

Gembka has been acting principal for the past school year, following Principal Peter Politi’s retirement last summer.

“Mr. Gembka brings expertise in curriculum, instruction and teacher evaluations to keep the academic bar high at Pound Ridge,” said School Superintendent Jere Hochman, noting that the relationships Gembka has already built with students, parents and staff during his temporary stint will provide continuity for the next year.

Gembka is set to start his three-year probationary period on July 2, which will continue until the final day of the 2014-15 school year on June 30. 

Reached at his office Thursday morning, Gembka said he was very happy with the board’s decision and was looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s been a gratifying nine months,” he said. “I’m enthusiastic about working with the Pound Ridge community and Bedford School District to provide a challenging, nurturing and fun experience for the students.”

Gembka began his career as a math teacher and a coach; he has nearly 30 years of education experience. He served as principal of Beginning with Children, a charter school in Brooklyn, N.Y., for three years. Prior to that, he spent 11 years in the Ossining Union Free School District in both principal and program mathematics supervisor roles.  

Deborah McDermott, a parent of a second-grade student at Pound Ridge Elementary, attended the meeting to support Gembka’s appointment. “I’ve been really impressed by his knowledge, and his research-based educational methods,” she said. “He seems to be really available and I feel like the school has become a bit more focused.”

Reading from an announcement that goes out to parents today, Hochman gave a detailed account of the selection process. Over the past two months, a large committee of parents, teachers and administrators narrowed the latest pool -- consisting of hundreds of applications -- down to 30 to 40 finalists, then down to eight.

This group was reduced to four candidates, who were given in-depth interviews by several district administrators. In the end, the selection committee came back to Gembka.

“As we implement a new and more rigorous mathematics curriculum, new programs in reading, continue emphasis on nurturing success in our special ed program, anti-bullying and character education, and a new ambitious teacher evaluation plan,” Hochman said, “Mr. Gembka’s knowledge, skill and experience this year and in general will prove beneficial immediately.”

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