Who: Julie Larsen, outgoing principal of the Jesse J. Kaplan School in West Nyack, which serves students from ages 5 to 21 with a range of disabilities. She had led the school for nine years and just oversaw her final graduation ceremony.
Why she’s done it: “Since I was a little girl who used to teach my dolls, my passion has always been to teach children with special needs,” Larsen said. “I was always drawn to children, but especially those who need extra love and support.” She said that people often assume that it’s difficult and depressing to work with children who may have severe disabilities. “It’s the opposite,” she said. “I don’t think you’ll find a more joyous school, full of smiling, bubbly people. We take so much joy in the smallest accomplishments, like a child using a fork for the first time.”
Why it’s time for a change: “I’m really excited about getting to know our other programs better,” she said. “BOCES serves so many children, including high achievers. I’m looking forward to working with them all.”
Hard-earned wisdom: “Always keep learning. I tell that to my staff all the time, that our business is no different than any other business. If IBM and Apple didn’t innovate, they wouldn’t be where they are. I have to always be learning.”