How long have you been an educator?
I was a history teacher at Randolph High School and eventually I was the assistant principal at Randolph High School for three years. I was in Randolph altogether for about 10. I left Randolph to take the assistant principal job here when it was Easton Junior High School. Shortly after I arrived was the start of the construction project, which was a three year project throughout this building.
So, I’ve been here since 2004. Although I’m new to this position, I’m not new to this district.
Are you an Easton resident?
I live in Easton. I lived in Easton since before I worked here. I used to be an offensive line coach at Stonehill when I was a history teacher at Randolph. At the time I lived in Canton and was trying to make the commute easier.
I liked Easton. I knew of it from Stonehill and when I was looking to buy a house, this is what I thought was going to be the best location. Shortly after I bought the house I stopped working at stonehill and I took the assistant principal job at Randolph.
What do you enjoy about living in Easton?
I just like the town. It’s a nice quiet town. It’s little things like the NRT event and little community events: the holiday parade and things like that I always get a kick out of .I grew up in Norwood, so it’s a pretty similar feel and I just liked it.
Did you play college football?
I did. Nothing to brag about.
Where did you go to school?
I started at Western Connecticut and ended up finishing at Bridgewater State.
You were a history teacher before this. What made you want to get into more of an administrative role?
When I first moved to administration I didn’t do so thinking that I was making a life changing choice or anything like that. It was more of a concept of working with a team. I was working as a teacher at the time. In Randolph we had four teachers that were responsible for handling low level student discipline at each grade level so I was one of the four teachers at the high school, and when the assistant principal – Mr. Giuggio – left, they needed somebody halfway through the school year . So, I did so not realizing at the time I was making some kind of giant life-changing choice.
I did enjoy the ability to have an affect on the entire school population as opposed to just the 25 kids who were in the classroom. I also enjoyed seeing what was going on around you besides just your classroom. It was really enlightening.
In the end, I made that move without really thinking about it and without much closure in terms of leaving teaching, but I never looked back and enjoyed the interactions I made with staff and kids and parents from that point on.
This year, what has been the biggest challenge for you, transitioning from an assistant principal role to an interim principal?
That answer could be different in a few months. But, the preparation at the start of school was a challenge. There’s a learning curve to that. There are a few things that I had been a part of but now you’re changing simple things like stuff on the website and letters.
There are a lot of just administrative changes and things that had to get done over the course of the summer. So, it was a pretty busy summer and a school opening from a principal’s perspective and an assistant principal’s perspective are pretty different. So, I had to adjust to my first time through getting school started. The day school started was the happiest day so far. The preparation stopped and it was more getting into a routine of what happens during a school day.
The easiest thing is we have a really good school with great teachers, great parents and really great kids. So, it’s an ideal situation to adjust to a learning curve in a new position because everyone is so supportive.
You worked under Mr. Giuggio for a long time here and back in Randolph. Do you see yourself doing things similar to the way he would have done things?
He hired me out of college. John is amazing - what an unbelievable person he is. He’s one of the nicest, most professional, caring people you’ll ever run into – and, it’s hard to try to fill someone’s shoes who is loved by everyone.
I did learn in Randolph that you can’t try to be someone else. You’ve got to be yourself and the rest will take care of itself. That’s the way I’ve approached it then. That’s the way I approach it now: just try to do the best job you can, to work hard every day and communicate effectively with people and try to make sure everyone’s on the same page, happy and working hard for what everyone’s goal is - the learning of the students and the success you want them to have. From that end of it, everything else is easy once you realize you all have the same goal.
Any tangible differences this year as opposed to years past at EMS?
This building runs very well and it’s a very good school. The biggest mistake would be to come in and change this, and change that.
We’ve made some minor changes. We’re trying to increase our emphasis – and I say increase because the emphasis was already there – but we’re trying to increase our emphasis on character development - on encouraging students to make their mark.
We have paw prints on lockers that identify team hallways. We have paw prints on teachers’ doors that identify the different teams based on color. The paw prints are also tied in with our student of the month program, which also ties in with our character education piece to encourage kids that every single day they can make their mark. Every single day they can do something positive for their environment, that they can do something helpful around town. It’s not just a school thing, but it’ a community thing.
The teachers on the second day of school all wore black t-shirts that said ‘make your mark’ on the back. Right now teachers really seem to be enjoying it and I think the kids are enjoying it. There has been a little bit of a difference because it has been a renewed emphasis. It was always there but we’re putting a little more of a spotlight on it.
We also had 40 pieces of artwork that we’ve had that we’ve always wanted to get framed. John [Giuggio] really liked it and when he was retiring, one of the things he was given was a gift from National Junior Honor Society was these 40 pieces of art that we had. They funded the framing of all these pieces of art that are around the building, so you can literally take a walking art tour which we call the ‘John Giuggio walking art tour.’
Schedule-wise, in 6th grade we always had recess. We eliminated it to have an every-other day phys-ed schedule in Grade 6 which puts us consistent with what the state would like us to do. It replaces an unstructured time with more structured class activity. Of course, when you make one change like that it affects others, so we went to every-other-day phys ed in Grade 7 as well and that changed up all of our special subjects.
What’s your favorite thing about working at EMS?
The kids, without a doubt.
The kids are amazing. They’re middle school kids – they’ll make you laugh one day, they’ll make you cry a different day. Every story is comical in its own right. Every teacher got into teaching for the same reason – because they like kids and they like working with kids. I don’t think I’ve ever lost sight of the fact that that’s what I enjoy the most.