Tol­man’s Savas­tano named top prin­ci­pal

Calls Rhode Is­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Prin­ci­pals’ High School Prin­ci­pal of the Year award ‘hum­bling’

Pawtucket Times - - BLACKSTONE VALLEY - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­ Follow Jonathan Bis­son­nette on Twitter @J_Bis­son­nette

PAW­TUCKET — For his ef­forts in trans­form­ing the cul­ture at Tol­man High School and for his grace and hu­mil­ity, al­ways will­ing to credit the work of oth­ers be­fore him­self, Tol­man Prin­ci­pal C. Christo­pher Savas­tano was hon­ored on Wed­nes­day as the Rhode Is­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Prin­ci­pals’ High School Prin­ci­pal of the Year.

School Su­per­in­ten­dent Patti DiCenso said Wed­nes­day's event served as the sec­ond grand cel­e­bra­tion at Tol­man in as many years, fol­low­ing last year's an­nounce­ment that the high school had shed its state­man­dated “pri­or­ity” sta­tus af­ter grad­u­a­tion rates climbed sig­nif­i­cantly. When Tol­man High dis­carded the sta­tus of pri­or­ity, it be­came the first high school in the state to do so.

DiCenso said that get­ting rid of the pri­or­ity sta­tus hap­pened thanks to the tire­less work of a team of lead­ers at the school. Chief among them, she said, was Savas­tano, who last year went be­fore school of­fi­cials and spoke of the pos­i­tive work of teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and the Tol­man team.

Savas­tano cred­ited every­one but him­self, DiCenso said, call­ing him a “hum­ble leader but a strong leader … Not once did he take credit.” The su­per­in­ten­dent said that rep­re­sented per­haps the most im­por­tant mo­ment in her his­tory of lis­ten­ing to speeches.

Savas­tano has spent most of his ca­reer with his “boots on the ground,” DiCenso said, as he knows “the most im­por­tant people don't sit in an of­fice but work as a team.” Call­ing him a man of great in­tegrity, re­spect, and ac­tion, DiCenso said that Savas­tano is at Tol­man High for “the right rea­sons.”

Don­ald Re­bello, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Rhode Is­land As­so­ci­a­tion of School Prin­ci­pals, ex­plained that Savas­tano's honor was a “very mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion for Tol­man High School and the city.” He de­scribed the process of se­lect­ing a prin­ci­pal to be com­mended, not­ing that no­ti­fi­ca­tions are sent out an­nu­ally to ad­min­is­tra­tors, su­per­in­ten­dents, stu­dents, and fam­i­lies around the state to nom­i­nate the best school lead­ers de­serv­ing of recog­ni­tion.

While the as­so­ci­a­tion re­ceived nu­mer­ous nom­i­na­tions last year, Re­bello said, he was “very, very proud and very priv­i­leged” to say that the as­so­ci­a­tion's Board of Di­rec­tors had deemed Savas­tano as de­serv­ing of the pres­ti­gious honor.

Paw­tucket School Com­mit­tee Chair­per­son Ger­ard “Jay” Char­bon­neau said that the def­i­ni­tion of lead­er­ship doesn't ad­e­quately fit Savas­tano, as his vision of the fu­ture of Tol­man was much more, prov­ing in­spi­ra­tional and “truly trans­for­ma­tional.”

Mayor Don­ald R. Gre­bien cred­ited Savas­tano for his hard work and lead­er­ship but, most im­por­tant, he said, is the prin­ci­pal's hands-on ap­proach – whether he sees a stu­dent strug­gling or suc­ceed­ing, he's al­ways there to of­fer as­sis­tance or en­cour­age­ment.

“Lead­er­ship be­comes about hav­ing the right people on your team. It's about be­ing loyal and build­ing a cul­ture to live and learn,” Gre­bien said.

Gre­bien also told the as­sem­bled stu­dents that Savas­tano “does this for you.”

Tol­man High math teacher and Paw­tucket Teach­ers Al­liance Vice Pres­i­dent Christina DiPrete said that Savas­tano al­ways lis­tens and is open to ideas, which has made Tol­man a place that pre­pares its stu­dents for success. Savas­tano's lead­er­ship guided Tol­man through “dark times,” but DiPrete said that she was pleased to be able to cel­e­brate the school's success which has come to fruition un­der him.

When Savas­tano fi­nally took to the podium on the stage inside Tol­man's au­di­to­rium, in front hun­dreds of cel­e­bra­tory and con­grat­u­la­tory stu­dents, he joked “I feel like I'm re­tir­ing!”

“This is very dif­fi­cult for me be­cause I'm not used to be­ing rec­og­nized,” Savas­tano said. How­ever, he said it was an honor to have the sup­port and con­grat­u­la­tions from the city, state, and school of­fi­cials alike on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

He said it was “very hum­bling” to have Gre­bien on hand and he ex­plained that when he was hired, the School Com­mit­tee asked him what it was that brought him to Tol­man, and he said that he wanted to work with DiCenso.

Savas­tano was quick to show­case his trademark mod­esty, saying that the praise be­ing heaped on him Wed­nes­day, saying he would not be re­ceiv­ing the award with­out the staff and fac­ulty at Tol­man High. He also said that he was most proud that when stu­dents come to Tol­man High, they know they are com­ing to a high school where they can re­ceive an ed­u­ca­tion and go on to be suc­cess­ful.

“It's my plea­sure to rep­re­sent you,” Savas­tano told the stu­dents.

Pho­tos by Ernest A. Brown/The Times

Above, Tol­man Prin­ci­pal Chris Savas­tano, cen­ter, is ap­plauded by, from left, Paw­tucket School Com­mit­tee chair­man Ger­ard Char­bon­neau, School Su­per­in­ten­dent Patty DiCenso and As­sis­tant Prin­ci­pal Richard Per­rotta, as he an­nounced as Prin­ci­pal of the Year in a cer­e­mony at Tol­man High School Au­di­to­rium Wed­nes­day. Top photo, some Tol­man stu­dents stand and applaud as Savas­tano ac­cepts his award.

Prin­ci­pal Chris Savas­tano is con­grat­u­lated by Tol­man High School se­nior Neikialah Andrade dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s cer­e­mony.

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