James Crenshaw, who was appointed East Hampton High School principal last week, said that while he will miss his job as principal of the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services Westhampton Beach Learning Center, “I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to return to high school.”
Mr. Crenshaw will replace Adam Fine when Mr. Fine moves up to the position of assistant superintendent on July 1. Mr. Fine has already been selected to replace Superintendent Richard Burns when he retires next year.
“First thing, job number one, is to understand the community,” Mr. Crenshaw said. “You can have the best ideas in the world, but if you can’t get the people on board, it’s fruitless. So that’s my mission for year one.”
The East Hampton position appealed to him, he said, because the school “is not too big or too small, there is strong board leadership, it’s a tight-knit community, and there is some diversity. There are not many that fit that criteria.”
Mr. Crenshaw said he is interested in career training and said he was excited about East Hampton’s plans to create a commercial kitchen at the high school to expand its culinary arts curriculum and reserve a portion of its new bus depot building for automotive classes.
“There are so many opportunities, and we are just scratching the surface,” he said.
At BOCES, Mr. Crenshaw oversees a wide range of special education programs for students who have social and emotional behavioral issues, are delayed developmentally, or are nonverbal and nonambulatory. “I’m sad to leave,” he said of the position he has held for three years.
Mr. Crenshaw, 43, grew up in Coram and attended the State University at Albany as an undergraduate. He said he landed his first job as a teacher in a middle school in the south Bronx in 1999 before he was even certified.
He said he discovered a vocation for working with students with social and emotional issues. “I felt like being a teacher wasn’t where I wanted to be,” he said, so he left the job to obtain a master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University. He later obtained his administrative degree from the College of St. Rose and is completing a doctorate in education at St. John’s University.
Mr. Crenshaw worked as a social worker and later an assistant principal at Longwood High School before moving on to a position as principal at Bay Shore Middle School and then to BOCES in Westhampton Beach.
“I’m a social worker at heart,” he said. “You want to give kids as many opportunities to make good choices as possible. Although they are almost adults in high school, they still need guidance. When I reflect back, I know I had people who were there for me.”
Mr. Crenshaw lives in Manorville with his wife and two daughters.