Slow, Smooth Transition for Middle School Head
Jill Gihorski and Robert Accardi have been working closely together throughout summer and plan to continue doing so through the fall.
In some schools, two principals might be one too many. At Chatham Middle School (CMS), however, outgoing principal Robert Accardi and incoming principal Jill Gihorski happily coexist in the principal's office.
"It's made it a lot better for me," Accardi said. "When I was contemplating leaving, not knowing who was going to take my place, it was a little bothersome. So this is great news for us, and wonderful news for the school."
Gihorski's first official day as principal is Jan. 2, 2013, but throughout the summer and fall she plans to spend as much time as possible at CMS, getting to know the faculty and students and seeing Accardi work up close and personal—literally.
"I just pull my chair right next to his," Gihorski joked when asked if she plans to move a second desk into the principal's office. "That was one of the great things about already being here in the district. We were able to start the transition slowly, and as things came up over the summer, we were working together."
As the supervisor for World Languages, Gihorski has worked with Accardi and the administration at CMS for the last five years. The two sit side by side, easily conversing and laughing together.
The easy camaraderie between the two is echoed with the rest of the staff, according to Accardi and Superintendent Michael LaSusa. When Gihorski was unveiled to middle school employees as the new principal in June, LaSusa said the news was welcomed by staff members.
"As people entered," LaSusa said, "people would come in and say, 'Yes!' And then another person would come in and say, 'Oh, thank God!' I think the culmination was one staff member who came in, dropped her bags, ran over and hugged me, and said, 'Thank you.'"
Gihorski has big shoes to fill, and not just with the administration. Since he started teaching at Chatham Middle School in 1993, Accardi has taken pies to the face, volunteered for the dunk tank at the year-end Fun in the Sun carnival and led student assemblies from the roof of the middle school building.
Gihorski verbally committed to the dunk tank, but when it comes to going on the roof, "some traditions might have to be changed," she said. Still, she understands that "things like that go such a long way with the students."
In his letter to the staff this summer, Accardi said Gihorski will spend time observing their classroom instruction. "We have about 120 adults in this building, including 85 certified teachers," Accardi said. With so much time before Accardi officially retires, "I'm going to use the fall to get to know everyone," Gihorski said.
Gihorski earned her bachelor's degree in Hispanic Studies at Brown University and her master's degree at Teacher's College at Columbia University.
More New Staff
Besides Gihorski, students and parents at CMS will have nine new staff members to get acquainted with, seven replacements for staff members who left the district and two new part-time teachers.
Alison Caravano will take over as the new Choral and Music teacher at CMS. Nicole Sarsano will join the staff as a seventh-garde counselor. Gabriela Vintimilla will join as a full-time Spanish teacher.
Christopher Duval will transition from Chatham High School to CMS as a seventh-grade science teacher. Mary Szoke will return from maternity leave to teach art.
Lauren Janicki and Linda Yang will join the staff as part-time world language teachers, thanks to expansions in the program. Janicki will teach Spanish at CMS and Lafayette Avenue School, and Yang will teach Mandarin.
Megan DiOrio, herself a former CMS student, will join the staff as a Special Ed teacher in the sixth grade.