New Principals to Greet Students This Year

Dennis Heck takes the helm at THS; Angela Davis to lead TJMS; and Deirdre Spollen-LaRaia fills principal role at Hawthorne

When Teaneck Public Schools begin the 2011-12 school year on Sept. 6, students will see familiar faces from the district serving in new leadership roles.

On Aug. 3, the Teaneck Board of Education approved the transfer of former  Principal Angela Davis to her new role as principal of . Former THS Assistant Principal Dennis Heck now serves as interim principal of THS, with former Dean of Students Peter LoGiudice now serving as interim assistant principal alongside Assistant Principal Marianne Conway.

Deirdre Spollen-LaRaia, who served as the K-12 Supervisor of Literacy and ESL for Teaneck Public Schools, was selected as  new principal, replacing now Assistant Superintendent Vincent McHale.

Superintendent of Schools Barbara Pinsak said she made the recommendations for transfers and that the BoE agreed with her.

“Ms. Davis has much experience in the high school arena,” said Pinsak. “She knows what is necessary to be successful, and she will take that knowledge and collaborate with [ Principal] Dr. Lennox Small and make heightened adjustments with the curriculum, so our students will be better prepared and more skilled entering into high school.”

Pinsak said that the district will continue its search for a permanent high school principal, “but we’re not in a rush because the high school is in very capable hands.”

“Our focus right now is on getting the school up and running for the new year and putting everything in place,” she said.


THS Principal Dennis Heck served as the high school’s assistant principal for three years. He taught physical education at THS for 10 years, served as dean of students for 10 years, and was the school’s head football coach for 20 years.

“I’ve always been impressed with the students at Teaneck High School,” Heck said. “I’m always excited about the things that our teachers are doing, and we need to share what’s going on in our building with the community. Our slogan this year that’s all over our school and in the handbook is “Quality Education…A Community Commitment.”

Heck said his goals for the upcoming school year are:

  • To improve the academic performance of all the students, especially in math. Heck said that the freshman orientation program at the high school consists of a course that covers the history of the community, the history of the school, note-taking skills and character development. A math element, with a focus on algebra, has been added to that course.
  • To improve communication between the high school and the community by utilizing the district’s website (teaneckschools.org) and getting more parents signed up with Skyward, which is a student information system. Through Skyward, Heck said parents can see into the grade books of their child’s teachers and keep track of their child’s progress.
  • To use the available data from standardized test scores and exams to guide instruction and utilize the strengths of all the staff.
  • To decrease student tardiness that disrupts classroom instruction. Heck said he will deal with this issue by encouraging students during class meetings to make a conscious effort to arrive to school on time.

“I want to create a caring environment here that not only goes from teacher to student but from everyone that’s involved in this building,” Heck said. “I think when reaching out to individuals and teenagers it’s important that they feel that we care about them and that we’re interested in the things that they’re doing.”

Heck said that when he’s out in the community, he’s greeted by residents and alumni who stop and tell him that they're proud of what the high school provides for its students.  

“I learned on Aug. 4 that I would be the interim principal,” Heck said. “And I say it to this day that it’s truly an honor and a privilege to serve this community.”


TJMS Principal Angela Davis, through an emailed response, listed a few goals that she said she wanted to address for the upcoming school year:

  • To use available data to inform instruction to enhance student achievement.
  • To best utilize all means of communication among all stakeholders.
  • To be available and accessible to staff, the student body, parents and the community at large.
  • To continue ongoing articulation between TJMS and THS to share best practices and strategies to enhance student achievement.
  • To better position TJMS students to make an easier transition to the high school.

In order to prepare TJMS students for high school, Davis said she would provide students with an education full of “rigorous and challenging” programs; offer opportunities for expression through the arts and athletics; foster a sense of spirit through service; and expose students to a career fair, technology, and resources that enhance critical thinking and goal setting.

“As I did at Teaneck High School, I will serve as a role model, a mentor, an educational leader and will provide a caring, supportive and welcoming environment at Thomas Jefferson Middle School,” Davis said. “I have been in the Teaneck School District for 12 years and look forward to working with our children and our staff for many more years.”


Hawthorne Principal Deirdre Spollen-LaRaia has worked in the district for more than six years. Along with serving as supervisor of Literacy and ESL, she also supervised the Teaneck Academically Gifted (TAG) Program.

She said her goals for the school year align with those of the district and include meeting and exceeding core standards and elevating reading and writing skills through “rigorous” instruction that teaches high-level questioning and critical thinking.

“I look forward to being a part of the Hawthorne community and getting to know the students and parents,” Spollen-LaRaia said. “I enjoy building a partnership with parents and teachers and providing students with support that builds upon their strengths.”

Assistant Superintendent Vincent McHale, who served as Hawthorne’s principal during the last school year, said Spollen-LaRaia is focused on the academic success of students.

“She knows Teaneck’s students from her literacy work in the district, most notably in the after-school and summer literacy support programs, which she supervised," McHale said. "Dr. Spollen-LaRaia has a warm and friendly disposition, which will serve her well in meeting and getting to know Hawthorne’s students and parents. I think the school community will find her to be knowledgeable, approachable and ready to take Hawthorne School to new heights.”

Zette August 31, 2011 at 11:44 AM
With all these changes, can you share what is the new position of replaced former TJMS principal Antoine Green?
Zette August 31, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Yes, I also saw that on the directory. So in reference to your article providing us with an update & reshuffling of Teaneck Principals & Antoine Green's name was omitted as the former TJMS principal, is a C&I Instructional Supervisor a promotion or demotion for Mr. Green??
Jennifer Pinto August 31, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Hi Zette, Superintendent Pinsak declined to comment on Mr. Green's new role, pending further discussion with the board on the central office's restructuring. She did say in an emailed response that Mr. Green "has a vital part to play in the improvement of our district."
DMAB6395 August 31, 2011 at 05:14 PM
Wow Dennis Heck is now the principal of THS. He's fair-he helped us a lot when we were having problems with our oldest in THS. Congratulations Dennis!


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