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Sleepy Hollow High Principal Makes Big Impact

When Alan Alterbaum walked into school Thursday morning, there were photos of mustaches on the walls.

A sign reading “Alan Alterbaum High School” was affixed to the entrance door. Posters hung on the walls read “Alterbaum Awareness Day.” The mustached-assistant principal at Sleepy Hollow High was then greeted by a bunch of students—all wearing mustaches.

Alterbaum had no idea it was coming.

“I guess the seniors instead of having a senior prank decided that they would have a day in my honor,” he said.

The tribute was unusual in its execution, but Alterbaum said he’s gotten a lot of thanks over the years. It’s always reassuring, he said.

“When you look at what my job is, which is to discipline,” he said.  “…for them to feel  and to talk to me the way they talk to me is just so reassuring because I’m not a policeman, I’m not a detective. I’m a teacher, and what I’ve tried to do is teach them how to survive in the real world and how to behave in a real world.”

Alterbaum’s been a staple at Sleepy Hollow High School for several decades. For the past 19 years, he’s been assistant principal. He’s retiring at the end of August. Anthony Baxter, an English teacher, will replace him.

“I tell the kids I’m finally graduating high school after 39 years,” he said.

Alterbaum began teaching in Buffalo, New York, while he did graduate work. Eventually he applied for a job as a math teacher at Sleepy Hollow High School. After serving as interim assistant principal, he officially took over the job in 1992.

The most rewarding thing about his job, he said, is the people he’s come in contact with.

“I’m still in contact with so many people that I’ve built relationships with over the last twenty or so years,” he said. “Some of the former students that I had have been parents, and so I’ve stayed in contact with them as parents, not only as students. It’s just been a remarkable run. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

The assistant principal has no plans for his retirement.

“I purposefully wanted to feel what doing nothing feels like,” he said.

Alterbaum’s exit also ends, by his estimation, the longest running Principal/Assistant Principal duo in Westchester County. Sleepy Hollow High School Principal Carol Conklin and Alterbaum have been serving together for about 18 years.

Alterbaum described it as “an arranged marriage,” saying the duo has thrown together. The night he got tenure was the night she was appointed. It’s a good relationship, he said.

“We’ve had our disagreements; we’ve had our ups and downs, but we know each other very well, we work together very well,” he said.

Alterbaum said he wants the kids who are still here to be able to do well in the real world.

“I care about them,” he said. “I want to see them grow up to be what they’re capable of being. What they want to be—which is actually more important.”

Do you have any memories of Alan Alterbaum? Post them in the comments.

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