PELHAM, N.Y. - Current Pelham schools assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and personnel Peter Giarrizzo recently was announced as the district's next superintendent, succeeding Dennis Lauro, who retired Dec. 31.
Giarrizzo is expected to be appointed by the school board Jan. 28, and officially begin the job July 1.
Former Pelham Superintendent Charles Wilson currently is serving as the district's interim superintendent.
The Pelham Daily Voice asked Giarrizzo some questions about his new job.
What are you most looking forward to in the position and why?
Public schools are now operating under unprecedented conditions. The tax cap legislation, Common Core, new assessments, APPR, and other federal and state mandates that force us to do more with less. So what's to look forward to? I'm an eternal optimist, and I love a good challenge. Given all of these external forces, we are so lucky in Pelham to have an enormously talented teaching, administrative and support staff.
We also enjoy a great deal of support from the community, and our student body is simply outstanding. Many schools districts don't enjoy all of these luxuries.
As superintendent, I will have the unique opportunity to lead and work to overcome these challenges within the very best of circumstances. Can we do things more efficiently? Perhaps yes, but we won't know if we don't have the necessary conversations with the right people. Pelham has been on a long journey, and there is excellence everywhere you look.
My challenge is figure out what we need to do to take the next step(s) -- regardless of their level-- to raise a high bar even higher so all of our students have access to a rich, sustainable educational experience that prepares them academically, socially, physically and intellectually.
What are your goals and why?
I touched on this above, but my immediate goals include engaging in a series of interviews with stakeholders and residents across the district to understand the strengths and opportunities for growth that will inform our development of a strategic plan in the fall. This plan will set the course for our work in the broad areas of operation across the district -- from the teaching and learning process and student outcomes to facilities, finance and my work with the board of education as a governance team.
I believe strongly all students must have access to the most rigorous, challenging program we can offer them. My optimism for our student body couldn't be higher, and we will be ready to ensure our programs are designed to encourage and support every student to achieve at higher levels through the enrichment, extension and remedial programs we we will offer.
I also look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the Pelham Education Foundation and Pelham Civics Association to enhance our programming, pilot new and exciting tools and support our more vulnerable students.
What interested you in the position and why?
I've been in Pelham now for a year and half, and I have grown to just love the place. I said in my interviews that I was sort of uniquely qualified for this position as both an inside and outside candidate. While I come to Pelham with a fresh perspective on a set of successes from the other places I've worked, I also know the culture of Pelham. I've been able to foster relationships rooted in trust with our teachers, community members and administrators.
One of things I love the most about working here is that we are a high-performing district that is diverse in every way possible. Our diversity makes us stronger. As the superintendent of schools, I get this humbling opportunity to lead a school system, where our primary focus is the best interests of our students.
In some places, that needs to be cultivated, and it is grueling work. That culture already exists here, so we can keep this good work going and bring it to the next level. I'm a lucky guy.
What is your background?
I began my career as an English and special education teacher in the Valley Stream Central High School District. I also headed up the the high school special education department there.
I was then a director of pupil services in Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island before coming to Westchester, where I served as director of instructional services in the Mount Pleasant schools.
Before coming to Pelham as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and personnel, I was the deputy superintendent in the Elmsford Schools.
I currently am a candidate for a doctorate in educational theory, policy and adminstration at Rutgers University. My dissertation is focused on studying the standing practices within public schools that make them socially just for all students. I have my masters of science degree in curriculum and instruction from Long Island University and my bachelor of science degree in education from SUNY Geneseo.