September 6, 2012
Marathon principals take helm
MARATHON — Students walking into Marathon Junior-Senior High School for the first day of school Wednesday found a man in school colors of black suit and orange tie ready to greet them.
Sometimes Principal Doug Pasquerella’s “Good morning” at the front door was followed by a request to boys to remove their baseball caps. He alternately looked firm and beamed as a steady stream of people in grades six through 12 got off buses and entered.
The school’s new principal also told students about a change this year: no wandering the halls before homeroom begins the school day. Students must gather in or around the cafeteria in the minutes before they go to homeroom.
The 2012-13 school year began in districts throughout the region, with some districts having new principals and one, Cortland, having a new superintendent of schools, Michael Hoose.
Marathon has new principals at both of its school buildings: Pasquerella and Jonathan Hillis at Appleby Elementary School.
They replace two people who served for many years each, David Rosetti and Shelley Warnow, who retired in June.
Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Stone said the leadership change is a lot for a small rural district but she thinks Marathon has the right people in the two jobs.
She watched from nearby Wednesday morning as Pasquerella, who joined the school after two years as dean of students at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, conferred with Student Council officers about how to introduce the new morning routine.
Pasquerella’s job at Cortland was mostly to track attendance and tardiness, and enforce discipline arising from both.
He was part of a team with the three principals, for a building with about four times as many students as Marathon Junior-Senior High School.
Before that, the 38-year-old taught physical education for six years in two stints at Homer High School, with five years as men’s basketball coach at SUNY New Paltz between them. He coached golf and basketball at Homer. He lives in Cortland with his wife, Christina, and their young daughter.
Pasquerella, an Ossining native, said he is excited about his new job.
“Morning, morning, morning,” he said as students, many tan from the summer and casually dressed, popped through the doors.
“Red Bull, huh, to get yourself started?” he said to one boy who carried a can of the energy drink. “I need you to take off that hat.” The boy removed his hat.
A girl approached Pasquerella with a question about finding a guidance counselor.
Senior Jeff Contri, the Student Council president, asked how Pasquerella wanted him to help introduce the new morning policy of not wandering unsupervised through the halls.
“I think he’ll be awesome,” Contri said of the new principal. “I’ve met with him and he seems on the ball. Hopefully he’ll be tough on discipline.”
Across the village, Appleby Elementary School students also found a new principal greeting them: Hillis, 36, who was hired in June after serving as principal for all 13 grades at Jefferson Central School in Schoharie County.
Hillis said he was pleased to be at his new school because he has spent most of his career as an elementary teacher, first in Franklin Central School in Delaware County, then at Jefferson.
“I have mixed emotions, since I had bought a house in Jefferson, but life has twists and turns,” said Hillis, who also wore a black suit with orange tie. He said he wanted a job closer to his girlfriend, Kylee Lansing, who teaches pre-kindergarten at Newark Valley Central School.
“This was the only job I applied for, because I’d heard a lot about the district and the school,” he said.
Buses were bringing students from the high school — the Marathon district has only one bus run for all grades — and students were walking the halls, hanging their backpacks on pegs, meeting their teachers.
Hillis led the school in the pledge of allegiance at 8:21 a.m. and welcomed everyone. He wished three students happy birthdays.
Parents arrived with kindergartners in hand. Hillis planned to meet with them at 9:30 a.m.
He took a phone call from a parent, about confusion on a bus route. He closed his office door for a few minutes to speak with Sue Light, who has been the elementary administrative assistant for 18 years.
“Enjoy life, this is not a rehearsal,” said a sign above Light’s desk. She said it was a gift from a teacher who had survived breast cancer.
Later in the day, Pasquerella said his meetings with students had gone well. He talked to the seventh- and eighth-graders about who he is and the new Student Code of Conduct, with its anti-bullying measures. The seniors then met with the seventh-graders they have been assigned to mentor this year.
“We talked about what they can expect from me and what I expect from them.” he said. “From me, they can expect clear, honest, open communication. I will be consistent and fair. I’ll be passionate, I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve and be their advocate.”
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