by Kevin Brown
After the long reign of outgoing Athletic Director Chuck Scarpulla, Denise Kiernan takes over the position with a significantly expanded role. Kiernan will be the Director of Health and Physical Education, overseeing not only the interscholastic athletic program but also Physical Education and Health Education teachers for all grades K through 12.
Her resume and credentials are extensive. She is joining the district from a position as the Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics in the Glen Cove School District on Long Island. She has received mulitple teaching awards and is an administrator with a list of certifications that is remarkably impressive. She received her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education at St. Bonaventure and has a MS in Education Administration from C.W. Post. As a teacher, she has held several Physical Education positions and has coached soccer, basketball, and lacrosse.
Q: How will your role be different within the Tarrytown School District?
A: My position will be Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics for Kindergarten through 12th grade. Athletics is an extension of what goes on in the classroom. It is important that the education that we give children regarding lifelong fitness and wellness from a young age will impact them throughout their schooling and life. By providing children with a balanced lifestyle, this will allow them to live a life of health and wellness. When children begin 7th grade, hopefully they will participate in a sport that they enjoy and pursue for a lifetime.
Q: Your resume includes a lot of work and study in Nutrition and Wellness.
A: Our young students need the tools to achieve maximum success. By providing them with a wellness approach that addresses their health and nutrition, all students can be successful.
Q: Please share your mission.
A: Coaches are transformational in the lives of student athletes. Everything is connected. A well-rounded academic and athletic program will assist a student athlete to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually. So many students will note the coaches who played such a huge role in their formative years.
Q: Let’s focus on athletics. Have you met the coaches yet?
A: As of right now, I am transitioning jobs and will be meeting with the coaches throughout the summer to learn about their programs, goals and successes. An athletic program is a collaboration between coaches, students, staff, parents, and the community. All parts are equally important to ensure success.
Q: Sleepy Hollow High School is considered a football school. What is your mindset on football?
A: I am a big fan of football. Not just the sport, but the community that it engenders. The cheerleaders, the fans, the community that rallies around it…it’s a unique sport. Practices, games, dinners, fundraising and the bus rides to and from competitions are an integral part of the experience that impacts our students. Football is being taught differently now with an enormous focus on player safety.
Q: What are your thoughts about teachers as coaches?
A: I can’t comment, I need to become familiar with the policies of the school district. I do believe that all coaches should be held accountable with fair and rigorous standards. Feedback that is positive and critical will provide all coaches with the ability to grow and improve so they can offer the student athletes the best possible experience.
Q: Some of the parents of more competitive athletes are extremely disappointed by middle school athletics. The kids compete at a very high level through clubs and community programs from a young age and then Middle School Sports is an activity. Any thoughts?
A: This is a very prominent subject out there right now. I think Middle School Athletics are at a turning point. In the 70s and early 80s a lot of rules like the “no-cut policy” and “everybody plays a half game” policies were put in place to help engender participation in sports for all student athletes.
It is important to strike the balance between playing time and competition at the modified level. Middle School athletics is an important part of a school districts’ athletic program because it offers students an opportunity to build on the skills and fundamentals at a lower level and allows them to understand the commitment level required to succeed.
Q: Will you have focus on helping the gifted athletes move on to the next level?
A: The college bound process for student athletes includes the participation of the athletic director, coaches, student-athletes, and the parents. The goal is to provide them with opportunities to assist with the necessary tools and resources.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: I want to wish Chuck Scarpulla a healthy and happy retirement. I am fortunate to have met him and follow his reign and begin my career at Sleepy. I am looking forward to working with the staff, students, parents, and the Sleepy Hollow community who gives so much to the programs and to their children.