Second career success

13 Jan 2016 | 12:23

By Laurie Gordon
Susan Santore is the principal at The Reverend Brown School. Highly applauded for what she's done and continues to do for her students, few may know that education is actually her second career.

Santore grew up in North Arlington, NJ and went on to study chemical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. Then, while working as a manufacturing engineer for ITT Avionics, she received her M.B.A. in finance from Seton Hall University.

“At that time, the company was manufacturing Radar Jammers for various branches of United States military,” she said, “I began my career at ITT as a chemical process engineer and later became involved with printed circuit board assembly and process development. My ability to find cost-effective and innovative solutions to manufacturing problems resulted in my eventual promotion to manager of a Quick Reaction Assembly Area. I managed a team of engineers and assembly line workers responsible for insuring a smooth transition of new products from the engineering stage into full production.”

After taking time off to raise her irst two children, Santore reentered the work force as a project engineer. “My time as an engineer was cut short when I became pregnant with my third child,” she said, “And I feel truly blessed that I was able to take time off from my career to spend time at home raising my children.”

During this time, Santore became concerned with the rising number of middle school-aged children having difficulty mastering mathematics in school. “I began tutoring friends of my children at home and quickly discovered that I had a talent for explaining complicated mathematical concepts in a fashion that teenagers could understand.”

This led to Santore to enter the NJ Pathways to Education Alternate Route Program to obtain a middle school math certification. “I submitted my resume to Reverend Brown School and was immediately hired as a teaching assistant and assigned to work in middle school math and science classes," she said. At the end of the school year, Santore accepted an offer to continue her employment at Reverend Brown School as a full-time middle school math teacher.

Two years later, Santore's career path took an unexpected turn when she was approached by her leaders and asked to step up to fill the assistant principal’s position. “After careful consideration I accepted and enrolled in an Educational Leadership program at Seton Hall University where I received my Ed.S. During my time as assistant principal, I also had the privilege of working under the leadership of Dr. Catherine Duncan. As co-principals, we were able to achieve academic success and become recognized as a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School for Academic Excellence.”

Dr. Duncan retired in June of 2013 and Santore was hired as principal for the 2013-2014 school year. “Ever since I have proudly served in that role, continuing and expanding on the vision that we created together,” Santore said, “I am committed to infusing technology throughout the school curriculum to prepare our students for the challenges that they will face as 21st century citizens.”

Over the past three years, Santore has coordinated the upgrade of the school's infrastructure to support the 600+ mobile devices that are in the building on a daily basis. “In addition I have implemented a one-to-one computing initiative in grades five through seven, increased time on math, and formed a partnership with Discovery Education to deliver online resources to students across all grade levels."

She has also restructured the school's Early Childhood Development Program to include world language, science, yoga, art, and music, created a middle school enrichment curriculum focused on the newly released Global Goals for Sustainable Growth, and expanded the after-school programs to support over 25 enrichment programs.

In this time, where getting a job immediately upon graduation from college is much harder than it was in the past, Santore said, “Technology has made a big impact on recruitment of employees. Employers have immediate access to information about prospective candidates. It is all about making yourself stand out in the crowd.”

Santore has lived in Sparta for 23 years where she raised her three children. All three attended The Reverend Brown School and Pope John High School. Her oldest daughter, Lauren, graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 2014 with a degree in Chemical Engineering and is employed by Kerry Foods as a Continuous Improvement Specialist. Her son, Dylan, graduated from Yale this past May and is currently working as a broadcast assistant for the NBA, and her youngest daughter, Jenna, is currently a freshman at Pope John High School.

Her advice to students is to use technology wisely, and keep social media updated and free of images and content that can cast a negative light. And most importantly, "Become comfortable with creating video and Skype experiences as many interviews take place in a virtual environment.” She added, “Students need to prepare themselves and be able to adapt quickly.”

Santore said that the challenges she faces as the principal of Reverend Brown School are the same as those that face educational leaders across the nation: declining financial resources, the demands of meeting more rigorous academic standards, recruiting and retaining excellent teachers, and staying abreast of the ever-changing face of technology.

“I am a problem solver by nature," she said. "Facing these challenges head on and finding innovative solutions is what drives me. It has been fulfilling to be able to implement technological changes that have transformed how students learn and prepare them for the challenges that they will face as global citizens.

Santore said the most rewarding aspect of her job is to be able to educate children in a faith-based environment focused on development of the whole child. "We live in a world filled with chaos and uncertainty," she said. "It is my hope that we are developing future leaders that are not only driven by success, but are also compassionate and caring. Leaders who understand that innovative solutions are necessary to supply water and food to those in need, create affordable and clean energy, promote economic growth and reduce the inequalities that exist in the world.”