The Origin of South High’s Name: Dr. William A. Shine


Ryan Chen

When we see or hear “William A. Shine,” we likely imagine the blue signboard in the school parking lot that displays the official name of our school in big, bold golden letters: William A. Shine Great Neck South High School. Dr. Shine was a very influential former Great Neck Public Schools Superintendent whose work still has a lasting impact today. 

When the school was created in 1958, it was simply called Great Neck South High School. Because of his dedication to the District after serving as superintendent for 22 years (1982–2004), South High was named after him in 2006, shortly after his 2004 retirement.

During his time as superintendent, Dr. Shine made a multitude of changes. One of his most prominent accomplishments was his advocacy for a shared decision-making (SDM) committee. Shared decision-making, originally known as goal-setting, invites all school stakeholders—students, teachers, parents, and administrators—to collaborate in the process of making various improvements to the school. From the question of whether or not students should be ranked to how the curricula should be adjusted, SDM addresses a variety of concerns. During its early years, shared decision-making proved to be so beneficial that New York State eventually adopted it as a law for schools to use to improve their own education systems. 

Another crucial change that Dr. Shine made was the implementation of a policy manual, which essentially outlines every rule, regulation, and policy of the District. It covers topics such as student behavior, staff behavior, and even whistleblowing. The policy manual tackles virtually any issue that a district might face in order to help resolve any problems fairly and efficiently.

Aside from his primary position as Superintendent, Dr. Shine also filled in several other temporary positions. To him, the students were to be prioritized at all times. On separate occasions, Dr. Shine served as interim principal at both North and South High and as a long-term substitute teacher several times. Dr. Shine relished these opportunities for direct student interactions. “He was very child-centered. Those instances gave him the greatest pleasure in everything that he did,” said Board of Education Vice President Ms. Donna Peirez. 

In terms of Dr. Shine’s personality, he “was one of a kind,” according to Ms. Peirez. In addition to being child-centered, Dr. Shine was a gifted and articulate speaker, which kept his co-workers on their toes. “You did not want to get on his wrong side… There was no winning an argument with him,” Ms. Peirez remarked. 

Dr. Shine also enjoyed visiting the schools within the district. He was known to take walks from the Phipps building, which is in between South High and South Middle, and rotate between the two schools. Whether it was just for a stroll or to observe the students and teachers in classrooms, he familiarized himself with the learning environments as much as possible. The visits he made were usually unannounced to get a genuine view of the school’s environment. He also attended music, art, and sports events to further his interactions with the community.

The decision to name South High after Dr. Shine was both easy and difficult. Initially, a Board of Education policy stipulated that schools could not be named after anyone who was still living. However, many believed that Dr. Shine’s dedication to the district and community warranted special consideration, so when the Shared Decision-Making Committee brought the idea to the Board of Education, they decided to make an exception. Ever since then, every time Dr. Shine drove past the signboard in the parking lot at South High, he was deeply touched and humbled. “He deserved it, not just because he was here for twenty-two years, but also because he really gave his blood, sweat, and tears to this district, to this community,” concluded Board of Education President Ms. Barbara Berkowitz.

Although Dr. Shine is no longer with us, it is still essential to acknowledge the person behind the name of our school as someone who worked tirelessly to bring about change. In doing so, we retain his legacy and preserve the honor of our school’s namesake.