What Happened to Principal Dougherty? – NBC New York

A Long Island high school principal whose mysterious leave sparked a student protest on the first day of school — and incited community uproar — will return to his position next week, the school district says, though it’s still not clear what sparked his absence in the first place.

Longtime Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty surprised students at their football practice Wednesday, six days ahead of his official return as announced by the Sewanhaka Central High School District in an email to the community. It was an emotional reunion for a group that likely didn’t ‘t see his return coming, and sparked sheer joy among the players.

In its note to the Elmont Memorial community, James Grossane, superintendent of the Sewanhaka Central High School District, wrote that Dougherty would return to his position as principal on Tuesday, Oct. 11, after a month-long absence the district described as a ” Sabbatical.”

“The past month has been trying and upsetting to many in the Elmont Memorial community, particularly many students and parents,” Grossane acknowledged. “We sincerely apologize to all those affected and hope that Mr. Dougherty’s return will allay and address the concerns they have raised.”

Grossane said the district “fully supports” his return and wished him and the rest of the school community well.

Dougherty has helmed Elmont Memorial since 2015, and news that he would be taking a “sabbatical leave of absence for this school year” dropped two days before it started. Some took to social media asking, “Where is Mr. Dougherty?” while others wondered if it was a personal choice or a force-out.

“He would not just walk away without giving a reason, so the fact that he said nothing whatsoever we knew something was terribly awry,” said PTSA President Lynette Battle.

The district didn’t offer a public explanation, and still has not given a reason for the sudden leave. Dougherty was not available for comment, and while Wednesday was seen as a victory, parents said the fight for truth is not yet over.

“The community isn’t standing for it, we want transparency. We are not done yet,” said parent Michael T. Anderson.

The initial announcement sparked a social media frenzy, with many asking the question: Where is Mr. Dougherty?

“We’re asking that question — is there a problem? What’s going on?” asked parent Kevin Barnes, who said none of their concerns have been addressed. “There hasn’t been a definitive answer or statement from the school board. We were told he’s taking a sabbatical — what does that mean? Let the parents know.”

Students wanting to know why walked out of their classes that first day, demanding the return of the man they call “Doc.”

The silence from the administration had many people upset by the loss of a principal who left his mark during a seven-year tenure. Graduation rates increased during his time at the school, and he was noted for helping homeless students.

“To some people, he’s like a father figure. He hangs out with all the students, he plays games with them,” said Joshua Dixon, a student who is part of a mentoring group that Dougherty helped create.

The Men of Elmont group was created in 2021 after the students created a video designed to bridge the gap between their community and local police.

“It’s rare you find any faculty member let alone a principal that truly genuinely cares about his students and the community. So if we lost that, we lose everything,” Marc-Anthony Tuo, an alumnus of the school, said in September.

The assistant superintendent took over as acting principal but will return to her role when Dougherty is back next week.

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