Community expresses support for Puccio

Students, teachers, parents speak out on permanent principal decision

Katie Mullaney, Editor in Chief

(Editor’s Note: Smoke Signal reporters planned to attend Monday’s Board of Education meeting. However, due to suggested COVID-19 precautions, they chose not to attend the meeting and instead used the livestream for its reporting.)

During the Board of Education’s meeting this past Monday, Superintendent Erik Gundersen read more than 70 letters that expressed support for Interim Principal John Puccio to become the permanent principal of Pascack Valley. While the community did not find Brian Hutchinson, the Emerson Junior-Senior High School principal who was approved to be principal, unfit for the job, they believed that Puccio was the right choice.

Due to the concerns of COVID-19, the general session of this board meeting was available through a livestream via YouTube. The public was able to call-in during comments from the public, speak at the meeting, or write letters beforehand on a Google Form. Comments from all three platforms are listed below.

Mr. Puccio has been an amazing rock for this community and the students,” River Vale resident De Scacchetti. “He has carried them through without fault. He’s well respected by the students and teachers there. We feel as a community, we did not have the opportunity to share that with you. ”

— De Scacchetti, River Vale resident

I think what you are missing is that what makes PV special isn’t just the high academic standards in which it achieves, as importantly though. It is the school culture and spirit that the former principal and his administrative team have cultivated over the last decade-plus. Mr. Puccio is the last link to that team and community.”

— Maria Blundo, River Vale resident

John Puccio is the only person for the position. He is vital to the success of the Pascack Valley Regional High School District community. The void that would be created would be impossible to fill [if Puccio left].”

— Robert Saul, 2019 graduate

He made a smooth transition into the role when Mr. DeMaio retired. The staff and students don’t miss a beat since he came on the job. He has used the last few months to prove to you that he is a respected, important leader to the staff and students. It is truly a punch in the gut to them. I ask you to step back and realize what you have in Mr. Puccio.”

— Pete Koenigs, River Vale resident

I understand the importance of teachers, administrators, and school leaders. It goes beyond academics. It’s about coaching and developing our children on how they show up, how they treat others and challenging themselves to become better human beings. Since the moment I meant Puccio, it was clear that that was his mission. If the vice president role is not a succession role for principal, then what is?”

— Michael Stephan, River Vale resident

Not selecting John to be permanently appointed to the position of principal is not only mind bobbling, but a tragic loss to all those who attend the school, the faculty, as well as the future students. Are we here for the present and future students of PV or just making a statement of what we want and making the students priority secondary over egos and agendas?”

— Brian McKeever, River Vale resident

The decision of the Board of Education shows that loyalty and dedication does not get rewarded. What type of message does this send to our students? Are you not setting up Mr. Hutchinson for failure with the current student body since the majority of the students want Mr. Puccio as their principal?”

— Lisa Marion O’Reilly, Hillsdale resident

In the interest of transparency, significant justification should be provided as to why a respected, highly qualified interim principal was not awarded the permanent position.”

— Elise Schynder, Hillsdale resident

I’ve always believed that it’s important to find the best person for any position here at PV. Sometimes that requires hiring outside the district. While other times, we have been fortunate enough to have that professional among our PV family. It is very clear that in this case, the latter is the obvious choice.”

— Geralyn Della Pesca, River Vale resident

As a 14 year teacher at Pascack Valley High School, I can unequivocally state that John Puccio has poured his heart and soul into our building. He has attempted to promote inclusion and equity throughout our school and I wholeheartedly endorse him for the full time principal position at Pascack Valley. I urge the Board of Education not to silence the voices and opinions of students, parents, and teachers.”

— Chris Guinta, special services teacher

I have some thoughts around the culture and environment that John Puccio has had a direct hand in guiding. Number 1: college preparedness. Number 2: support and personal accountability. Number 3: listener. Number 4: communicator. Number 5: pride.”

— Hector Martinez, River Vale resident

We all know Mr. Puccio is the eyes and ears of Pascack Valley and the only choice for student morale. Students need stability, now more than ever. Not the dramatic change that this will bring. What if Mr. Puccio decides not to hang around?”

— David Harnett, River Vale resident

While we are sure on paper, other candidates may have similar credentials and experience. John’s current and past roles at Pascack Valley, his relationship with the faculty, students, and families in the community, could not be discounted. They are critical. You have a homegrown talent that has put so much of his time and energy into his role while continuing to seek advancement and responsibility. ”

— Andrea and Kevin Saul, River Vale residents