In early January, the Vincent Smith School in Port Washington celebrated its 100th Anniversary.
Vincent Smith School, located at 332 Port Washington Blvd., is a co-ed independent special education school for children in grades first through twelfth. The school specializes in students with attention or learning differences such as dyslexia, auditory and language processing disorders, anxiety, school avoidance or AD/HD.
To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Vincent Smith School, the school hosted an event for students, alums, faculty and the community to commemorate 100 years of schooling and learn about the history of the Vincent Smith School. Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jennifer DeSena and Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte presented citations from the town and NYS Senator Jack Martins presented a citation from the senate to congratulate the school.In addition, Mayor of Flower Hill Randall Rosenbaum and Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society members Chris Bain and Robert Lager joined the celebration.
For the anniversary celebration on Tuesday, Jan 9, the gymnasium and auditorium of the original school building was decorated with old and new photos and memorabilia from the years the school has been in operation.
Head of Schools John Baldi welcomed everyone to the school and led the attendees in singing “Happy Birthday” to the school, complete with a cake and candles.
“It’s been a hundred years since the school opened its doors. It’s hard to imagine what life was like back then. But for those of you who know, it seems to stick that this is a very special place,” said Baldi. “Our students have changed, but one thing has never changed: our passion for teaching and the fact that our students continue to receive an amazing education.”
Teachers Nathanial Litchman and Sara Kreskowski were joined by students Yeraldy Hernandez and Ray-Anthony Rose to give a presentation on the school’s long history.
“In September 1923, Sir Gilbert and Lady Eliott, and Miss Adelaide Vincent Smith, with the help of Miss Nellora Reeder and Mrs. Barbara Templin, founded the K-7th grade Harbor School at 59 Bayview Ave. in Port Washington,” said Mr. Litchman. “Sir Gilbert Eliott financed the school with the purpose of guaranteeing a private school education for his children until they returned to England.”
In 1924, Sir Eliott suggested changing the school’s name because there was already a public school in Port named Harbor School. The name was changed to the Vincent Smith School in honor of Miss Smith, the principal and co-founder. The school moved to a new home at 25 Main St. for the 1924-25 school year, then in 1927, Sir and Lady Eliott purchased part of the Lapham Estate at 322 Port Washington Blvd. and built the original yellow two-story building, which still stands today and houses the Lower School.
“After its inception, the Vincent Smith School catered almost exclusively to the children of the affluent from Long Island’s North Shore,” said Mr. Litchman. “The first class of the school included the children of Christopher Morley, LeRoy Grumman, William A. Shea, Harry F. Guggenheim, the Loukenbachs and many others.”
The school received a provisional charter, granted on June 11, 1931 by the New York State Board of Regents. When Sir Eliott died in 1926, his son, Gilbert Eliott, continued to support the school financially. But when the stock market crashed in 1929, the Eliotts withdrew their financial support and returned to Scotland. The 1930s and ‘40s were tough years for the Vincent Smith School, and the teachers and parents made sacrifices to help keep the school running.
In 1951, the NYS Board of Regents granted the school an absolute charter. In 1952, the gymnasium was added to the lower school. Over the years, the school’s reputation grew and its success required acquiring a new building, which now houses the middle school.
“In the summer of 1970, dwindling resources and rising inflation threatened to end the school’s existence, but determined and strongly committed parents raised funding to save the school,” said Ms. Kreskowski. “In 1974, this enthusiasm resulted in the decision to construct a new building to accommodate the growing need for an expansion to the school to include tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade.”
The first high school senior class graduated in 1974. The NYS Board of Regents accredited the school in 1980 and the school expanded again in 1988.
In 1989, the Vincent Smith School received accreditation from the NYS Association of Independent Schools, and that accreditation was renewed in 2000, 2010 and 2020.
The Vincent Smith School website states, “As a New York State Board of Regents registered school, the school emphasizes academic success while simultaneously providing differentiated instruction, college or vocational prep, and social-emotional support, along with on-site speech, reading, and occupational therapies.”
While discussing the lengthy and rich history of the Vincent Smith School, Head of Schools Baldi shared, “The other day, a student asked me about this celebration, and he said, ‘Does this mean that we’re part of the school’s history?’ And I answered, ‘In a hundred years, they can be here remembering us.”
For 100 years, the Vincent Smith School has been dedicated to providing a successful and personalized academic education in a supportive environment for students.
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary, the school formed a 100 Club, where students researched information about each decade the school has been in operation and learned a bit about what life was like for the students who walked the same halls they do now.
The club presented their research on the most popular songs, movies, toys, and even the price of a dozen eggs for each decade from the 1920s up to the 2020s.
Throughout the speeches and presentations, a slideshow was presented with a variety of historical photos of the school’s buildings, students and sports. The black and white photos of the past transformed into recent photos of students conducting hands-on experiments, creating beautiful art and more.
“We have amazing faculty, staff, parents, and most importantly, our students,” said Baldi. “It’s amazing for us to be a part of the Vincent Smith School’s history.”
To learn more about the Vincent Smith School, visit vincentsmithschool.org