West Islip Board of Education President Steve Gellar is one busy man. In addition to his position on the board, he is the co-chairperson of the West Islip Summit Coalition, an electrical engineer, a husband and a father. He has also served as an educator. "I taught Principles of Engineering to college freshman, and I developed a passion for education," he said. "I really felt like I had something to offer to the process, to the kids so I ran for the West Islip Board of Education in 2006."
Gellar has been just as busy during his tenure on the board. In his first year, he was a trustee and then he became vice-president for his next two years before becoming the board's president.
He and his wife moved to West Islip in 1996 and they have two children. Gellar grew up in Brooklyn where he graduated from South Shore High School. He received his Bachelor's Degree and his Master's Degree in electrical engineering from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn.
One of his proudest accomplishments on the board is helping to make West Islip High School a International Baccalaureate (IB) school. "It is a college prep program related to the AP program, but where the AP program is more focused on results, the IB program is more process-oriented. It teaches students how to think, which helps them to do well in all courses," Gellar said. "Students can take individual IB courses or matriculate towards an IB diploma. It enhances the college application and helps students do better in college."
The IB courses in English and social studies will be available this September. Eventually Gellar hopes to expand the IB program to the middle schools. "What I'm really after is for the West Islip schools to be a leader, to keep pushing," he said.
Gellar is pushing hard not just for the West Islip Board of Education, but for the community itself. "West Islip is sort of the forgotten hamlet in the Town of Islip. We got to a point where we needed help. The other towns get quite a bit more help and attention than West Islip does," he said.
In December 2008, he and current board of education vice-president Annmarie LaRosa co-founded the West Islip Summit Coalition to bring the attention and help to the community they live in and serve. "We always had such great volunteer organizations — the Beautification Society, the Historical Society, the youth organizations — but they were all working very hard towards their own objectives," Gellar said. "We didn't speak as a unified voice. The Coalition is a way of having us all pull in the same direction."
With Gellar focused on the education and financial issues of West Islip in his roles on the board of education and the coalition, the days of West Islip being the forgotten hamlet could very well be numbered.