Meet new Rye Lake Lower Campus Principal Julia Dolan!

Principal Julia DolanJulia Dolan has always had a passion for serving students with special needs that she has pursued across 16 years in schools in New York City’s District 75. Southern Westchester BOCES has provided her the opportunity to continue that passion.

“I’ve always loved special education, but I wanted to take that next step,” said Ms. Dolan, who was appointed principal of the Rye Lake Lower Campus on July 1, 2021. “The city is so large. I wanted to make a change, have a greater impact and sense of community.”

Ms. Dolan began her career as a substitute paraprofessional while pursuing her undergraduate studies at SUNY New Paltz. Upon graduation she took a teaching position working with students with various disabilities. She later became an instructional coach, supporting teachers and administrators, mentoring, and ensuring student needs were met.

Eventually, she “took a leap” and moved to another school in the district to become an assistant principal, working with students from kindergarten through high school. After several years she looked anew for opportunities to pursue her passion for special education.

At Rye Lake, she immediately found a sense of community.

“Everything for me is student-centered,” Ms. Dolan said. “Every decision that’s made has to be made around the students.”

A resident of Pearl River where she was raised, she likes camping, traveling and loves dogs, especially the Boxer breed. She also appreciates fashion and is already known for her matching masks and dresses.

As a school leader new to her role, she intends to take a step back and see what’s working well at the Lower Campus, which includes the Decagon and the huts.

She and new Assistant Principal Leah Zilich work closely, and communication is a priority. They’ve started by revamping their website, launching an Instagram account to share news and events, and launched newsletters that go out to staff and parents weekly.

The aim is to bring the community together, to bridge gaps and to focus on school-to-home connections.

“One of the things we put in our newsletter is, ‘Every student matters. Every moment counts,’” Ms. Dolan said. “That’s really where I’m at.”

That message is reiterated to staff and to families, with whom she intends to focus on transparency and accessibility. “You’re never going to make change if you’re not transparent, if you’re not communicative, and if you’re not present,” she said.