Friends, co-workers and staff crowded the main meeting room at the Pearl River School District's new administrative offices on Crooked Hill Road for Tuesday's tenure meeting.
Many stood at the back of the room as the meeting was about to start, prompting Pearl River Board of Education President Michael Clohessy to joke about a room full of teachers needing encouragement to fill the first two rows of seats.
Pearl River Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Morgano recommended two administrators and three teachers for tenure and acknowledged foreign language teacher Miriam Speight, who was granted tenure in February.
The five newly-tenured employees honored Tuesday are:
- Lincoln Avenue Elementary School Principal Kathleenann Cool
- Pearl River Director of Athletics and Physical Education Todd Santabarbara
- Pearl River High School math teacher Kelly Lawrence
- Pearl River High School foreign language teacher Kelly Paciaroni
- Pearl River special education teacher Capra Saccardo
This is actually the third time Cool has attained tenure in the district. Cool was initially hired as an English teacher in 2000, then tenured in 2003. She was hired as assistant principal at Pearl River Middle School in 2007. She was tenured in that position in 2010, not long before being hired to her current position at Lincoln Avenue.
"Kathleenann is somebody speaks her mind," Morgano said. "I'm not sure where she got that from. She is not hesitant to take charge of a situation. She makes hard choices and is an advocate for her children and staff. She is always there to take whatever time is needed for parents."
Morgano also noted a special talent of Cool's.
"She has the ability to give kids that look, which reminds me a bit of what my father used to do," Morgano said. "Just look at you and you stopped in your tracks and said this is not going well. That is a skill."
Among Cool's accomplishments at Lincoln Ave. has been a green initiative to go paperless at the school.
Santabarbara is in his second year as the district's director of athletics and physical education, taking the place of long-time AD Tom Collins. Before that, he was a physical education teacher and coached football, girls lacrosse and baseball at Clarkstown South.
"Todd demonstrates a demeanor of someone much more experienced than he has," Morgano said. "I've seen Todd handle difficulties with individual students during sporting events and other situations in a calm and firm way that treats students fairly, but they know who is in charge.
"He has the respect of the students. The coaches look to Todd as a leader, as does the physical education staff. I have received many compliments about hiring Todd for parents and staff."
A large portion of the crowd at Tuesday's meeting was made up of the district's coaches.
Morgano said that Santabarbara has started a number of new procedures for the district's athletic department, including a concussion management protocol and tracking field maintenance.
"I am 100 percent confident that our athletic programs and physical education programs are in excellent hands," Morgano said.
The Pearl River High School Italian teacher completed part of her graduate studies in Milan. Morgano talked about observing her with an eighth grade class.
"We all know eighth graders have the potential for a lot of interesting behaviors," Morgano said. "I was quite impressed with how mature the students interacted with each other. I told Kelly that was a credit to her. Kelly is a teacher who gets it in terms of interaction with students."
Morgano read part of the recommendation from Pearl River Principal William Furdon, who credited Paciaroni for her "non-threatening manner in eliciting responses and checking for understanding." This helps her adjust for students who may have trouble with the subject matter."
Lawrence is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in special education. Morgano said he was impressed by her ability to get all of her students to volunteer to go to the board to answer problems.
"It's not just the students who are excelling in math who are comfortable going to the board and giving answers," Morgano said. "It's all the students. That's always a great credit to the teacher."
Formerly working in the insurance industry, Saccardo also taught in the North Rockland School District before coming to Pearl River.
"Each time she impressed me with her calm demeanor and very detailed planning," Morgano said of his observations of Saccardo. "Her lessons are differentiated for each student, with each student getting what they need."
Speight came to Pearl River after retiring as a teacher in New Jersey. Morgano pointed out that she tried group work with a particular group of students for the first time during an observation.
"It worked out very well," Morgano said. "Taking those kinds of risks as a teacher is what teaching is all about."