A Superintendent For All Seasons

The designation of “superintendent” is taken from the recognition of the English lawyer, judge, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance philosopher Thomas More of the 16th century. He was the Lord High Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII from 1529-1532. More challenged Henry’s right to declare himself the head of the English Church over that of the Pope. Henry wished to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. More was executed for treason for not taking the Oath of Supremacy which gave Henry sole authority over the Church of England. More placed his loyalty to God and the church over the king.

Certainly this was a different time and place in history, but Superintendent Defendini has exhibited the same kind of strength, courage and loyalty to the Farmingdale schools, students, community and district over COVID, followed by the terrible bus crash which took the lives of two very beloved staff members. He displayed the strength and courage to help the community weather these crises.

I was fortunate to get to know Paul Defendini when he assisted me in coaching the Farmingdale soccer team. He was a former soccer player for the ‘Dalers, displaying the skills and knowhow to help lead our team to an undefeated season.

Coach Defendini went on to become an administrator at Farmingdale Public Schools and eventually became superintendent. His achievements are proof of his abilities and commitment to the district is a lifetime one. It is important to remember that Superintendent Defendini risked his wellbeing and perhaps his life when he unhesitatingly helped the crash victims who were in the bus on that fateful day, leaving his own bus to help in the rescue of the traumatized and injured students lying in the ravine below. It is not surprising to me that he behaved this way, recognizing him to be the person I got to know when we coached together.

I was a colleague of Bea Ferrari’s, as we both taught in the Social Studies department for 30 years. She was an excellent teacher with amazing student performances on the regents exam. We shared a mutual respect for each other. Bea was admired and very much loved by all the staff at Farmingdale High School. I miss and think of her often.

As I look back on my 36 1/2 years at Farmingdale High School and all the fond memories and experiences, I reflect on how fortunate I was to get to know so many good students, parents, colleagues and programs I taught in.

My best experiences were during the years that the district was administered by people who lived in the district and had lived and / or gone to school in Farmingdale. They understood the spirit and mindset of the community, as was so beautifully displayed during the COVID and bus crash crises. Superintendent Defendini understands and embraces that spirit and leads the district with that in his heart. He embraces the love the students and residents had for Bea and Gina, and will ensure that love and spirit will continue.

All I can say is Bob Hope’s most lasting thought about his career experiences as he sang “thanks for the memories!” I will always cherish those memories and people as I reflect back on them. Thanks, Farmingdale.

—John Papayani, former FHS teacher and coach (1968 – 2005)

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