In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Malverne Union Free School District annually recognizes members of the district for their contributions. This year, Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund and Malverne High School PTA President Sheila Lake were honored with the district’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.
“It’s recognition of what we accomplished in the last 10 years together,” Hunderfund said. “I accept it on behalf of our entire school community, and it’s a testament of what we’ve accomplished.”
The district has received numerous accolades during Hunderfund’s 11-year tenure. Malverne High was named a New York State Rewards School for the first time during the 2014-15 school year, it made the National Achievement Honor Roll for Advanced Placement, and it was the only school in Nassau County to earn the National Policy Center’s Gold Award as a School of Opportunity. Hunderfund said he hoped the district would continue to build on its success.
“Nothing happens in a day, a week or a month,” he said, “but after one year and several years of continued growth and continued achievements, I really do believe that there’s something embedded in that psyche within our kids and our community that says, ‘we can do even better.’”
Hunderfund, who previously served as an educator in the Commack School District for almost 40 years, had retired in 2006. In the hope of staying active, he decided to keep working as the interim superintendent in Malverne the following year. When the district offered him a full-time position, he couldn’t refuse.
“There’s just so many things to like about this district,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of a school system where there’s so many positive growth factors, and it’s nice that we get to celebrate them.”
Lake began taking part in district activities when she moved to Malverne in 1997. A mother of four, she regularly attended PTA meetings. She eventually served as PTA president for every school in the district.
“It just became fun for me,” Lake said excitedly. “You get to know the kids well, you get involved in their lives, and you get to love them. I’ve made lifelong friends through the PTA … and we just became one big family.”
Over the years, Lake has also served as secretary for the Malverne Wildcats Football League, and has helped coordinate annual events such as Ladies Night at Maurice W. Downing Primary School and the Haunted House at Howard T. Herber Middle School. Along with her duties as the high school’s PTA president, she also serves as secretary of the scholarship committee and for District 12’s Central Council, as well as treasurer of the Booster Club. All of her service, she said, is for children.
“It’s the little things that matter the most,” she said. “It’s a great thing, and I guess you have to be a part of it to really appreciate it.”
Through their efforts, both honorees said, they hope students will recognize the meaning of MLK Day.
“We’re all about family here,” Hunderfund said. “We don’t care where you’re coming from, who you are or what’s the color of your skin. You’re a part of this family, and as long as you’re willing to do your part and pitch in, then we’ll work together. A lot of that has been something we’ve built over time.”
“MLK Day means a lot of different things to me,” Lake added. “The biggest thing that students can take away from this day is that it’s all about service to your community. Even when they get older and move on, they should always remember where they came from and where they’re going so that they share the same values with their families and new communities.”
The district will hold its annual celebration on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. in the Howard T. Herber Middle School auditorium.