Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Superintendent With Sincerity: An Interview With Dr.Rossi

Stepping in as Sparta’s new district supervisor, Dr.Rossi is just as excited to be in Sparta as we are to have him. With his infectious laugh, excitement to see student success, and a strong drive in work ethic, Sparta schools have a bright future ahead. The Oracle excitedly welcomes Dr.Rossi to the Spartan family.

Q: Tell us a little about your career path.
A: I’ve been in education for 29 years. I began teaching middle school in Massachusetts, while I taught during the day, I coached basketball at Tufts University for four years. I returned to New Jersey (native-born) and taught in the Randolph district while coaching their basketball program as well. After my time in Randolph, I was a professor at Centenary College as an professor of education, teaching courses to teachers on how to teach! I worked at Roxbury as a principal and then a superintendent. During all this, I was in school myself earning my PhD in education! (Editor’s Note: Dr. Rossi mostly taught social sciences and history when he served as an educator in the middle and high school levels.)

Q: Many of our teachers are currently attending graduate school! It truly shows dedication. What would you say to teachers who are earning the next step in their degrees?
A: Take it one day at a time. You’re a student again, but you’re still a teacher. It can get overwhelming to look at a large timeline. It can be challenging for sure, but it’s all about finding a perfect balance.

Q:What made you choose to get into education?
A: My father and sister were teachers and my brothers were coaches. Some of my best mentors in life were my teachers and coaches! You learn from them and then you make your own position - it’s really a position of leadership.

Q: What is your favorite part of your profession?
A: Meeting all the people - teachers, parents, students. I love supporting the fundraisers and I am big on attendance; attending all the games I can and seeing the musicals. I like to see student involvement (inside and outside of the classroom) in the community. By being present in the school and at school events, you discover new things. You can see a student in elementary school and then watch them graduate from high school - it’s wonderful.

Q: What aspirations do you have for Sparta’s district?
A: For the rest of this year I want to focus on getting to know people - members of the Booster Club, parents in the town, the students...I want to be invested within our community. Furthermore I would like to take a step with technology - get every student their own Chromebook which they can use at school and take home. Overall I want to update and stay up to date with the facilities and promote culture and climate. There are pressures for teachers in having to be prepared and on the cutting edge of things. I want to ensure teachers have everything they will need - in terms of supplies, as much professional development as needed, anything.

Q: What is your best memory from your years in education?
A: In all, to experience a program as it unfolds with the students. To see something through the eyes of a student, to see all their hard work...it really makes for an awesome vibe and pulse of the building.

Q: What is the hardest decision you’ve had to make?
A: It is really hard to deal with a financial struggle where we have to reduce our offerings and staffing. It’s never fun. It affects so many students. It’s a zero sum proposition.

Q: Tell us a story about a standout student.
A: I have many, many students in mind, but one at the top is Kelsey Bailey. It was in 2011 at my time in Roxbury, and we were struggling to get our budget passed. As a senior who would be leaving in a matter of months anyway, she spent five whole weekends putting together and handing out flyers, speaking to groups, getting her fellow students that were of age 18 to sign a petition, wrote letters to the editor - seriously, every time I saw Kelsey, her backpack was overflowing with flyers! I believe Kelsey is the reason why that year our budget was finally approved, for the first time in a long time.

Q: What would you say to teachers in handling all the national, state and local standards?
A: It will all fall into place. The magic is in the teacher, not in curriculum.  I never once worried about the standardized tests. It’s important to have good, caring teachers that make the content relevant. Teachers have to answer two common questions: “why do we need to know this?” and “when will we ever use this?”, if they can answer that, everything will come full circle. On my last day at Randolph, after the final exam I had a student tell me, “You know Mr.Rossi, you tricked us into learning all year.” By getting compliments, you know you have done what you need to fulfill as a teacher.

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