RANDOLPH, NJ- After dedicating the past 43 years of her working career to the Randolph School system, RHS principal Debbie Iosso is spending her final days in the halls of the high school. In early August, Iosso announced she would be retiring from the district, effective September 30, 2020.
“This decision was a difficult one for sure, it literally happened overnight,” said Iosso. “One day I wasn’t retiring and the next I was. It was just time to listen to my heart. As much as I have loved my career and the team I have worked with in the high school, I just knew it was time to figure out the next challenge.”
Iosso was a local kid, who grew up in Mine Hill and attended Dover High School. She then studied undergrad at Bloomsburg (PA) before returning to NJ to attend Seton Hall for her Master’s and an E.D.S. degree.
“Mrs. Iosso has selflessly served the Randolph School Community for more than four decades, and her commitment to students as both a teacher and administrator have been invaluable,” said Superintendent Jenn Fano. “I know she holds a special place for this school district in her heart, and she will always have a home in Randolph.”
Ironically, Iosso started and ended her career at RHS, with her first stint coming in September 1977, as a Special Education Teacher.
“I was pretty much an island as special education was just becoming under the guidance of federal and state legislation,” said Iosso. “I teamed up with the teacher at RMS at the time and together we created essentially a life skills curriculum for our students involving everyday practical needs such as shopping, cooking, and taking care of personal needs.”
After taking some time off for her second maternity leave, Iosso returned to work at Shongum School, where she spent five years and started up a handicapped 5/6-year-old class.
Iosso called her time at Shongum an “Amazing experience,” and further stated “It gave me an incredible perspective on the life of an elementary teacher, and I will forever have a huge amount of respect for the work they do.”
Then, it was back to RHS to help start the Transition Program along with Evy Falcon Duran. In 2004, she was hired as assistant director of special services. After a one-year stint in that position Iosso then moved on to Center Grove in 2005, where she became principal for the next five years. Her time there also had a big impact on her.
“The bonds that were created are still in place today, and I am so fortunate and will be forever grateful that I was given the chance to experience the wonders of Center Grove,” said Iosso.
From there, it was back to RHS in 2010 as the schools Principal. “I felt like I was returning home, and it has been an absolute joy to be here for the last 10 years,” said Iosso.
Iosso has been a constant presence at all types of RHS events over the years, regularly showing up after school or on weekends as a spectator to support her students for school plays, concerts, academic events, club activities, and many sporting events.
When asked where her favorite spot in Randolph is, Iosso stated, “A seat at whatever event our students are performing at.”
Over the years, Iosso has compiled an impressive resume of awards, and was recognized as a National “Best Practices Award Winner for Character Educational Partnerships” and a “State Teacher of the year” award form NJ Arc.
“Mrs. Iosso is a tireless champion of all students, and her dedication and life-long service to Randolph will surely be missed,” said Michael Sorge, RHS Vice Principal. “We thank Debbie for her leadership, wisdom, and authentic approach, and wish her nothing but the best in her retirement.”
Over her career, Iosso has delivered presentations at various education conferences not only locally in NY / NJ, but also in Boston, Texas, and California. She also spent some time as a JV basketball coach, Cheerleading advisor, and Girls Track coach.
“It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to work with Debbie, her passion for education and her care for student and staff safety will not be forgotten,” said Harry Ruiz, Director of Security for Randolph Schools. We received a national award from the School Security Advocacy Council for our efforts in enhancing school security during her time as principal. Debbie, your ‘Ramily” will miss you, enjoy your retirement.”
Having spent so many years in the Randolph school system, one certainly would expect Iosso to have an endless list of memories.
“The wonderful thing about my memories, is that they are many, and they will forever warm my heart for all my days to come,” said Iosso. “The most precious are those that have come from former students and staff who have shared how our interactions together have made an impact on their lives.”
Iosso went on to describe a few – such as the young man she had in Shongum as a 6-year-old, who found her in the HS to say goodbye to his “favorite teacher” before being deployed. Another was a letter she received from a former student that said her message to him “He was destined for all good things” was so important to him. At the time his parents were going through a divorce and those words were exactly what he needed to hear and helped to propel him into a career in social work. Then there is the birthday card she gets every year from a student she had in her very first class.
“Debbie has impacted an incredible number of lives and has always been an advocate for students,” said Fano. “Her visibility was remarkable, and she always chose to show up for the students. Our school community is fortunate to have had such a passionate person advocating for this amazing profession. We all wish Mrs. Iosso much happiness in her retirement.”
While Iosso said right now she doesn’t think she will “Hang up the cleats for good”, her short term plans include a long road trip south to connect with some warm blue water, sand and sun. She stated that what she will miss the most is “Relationships created with staff, students, and families,” further stating, “They are precious and will stay with me always.”
Iosso said she expected her final goodbye to be filled with a mixture of excitement and fear, and tons of tears. She was then asked if she had a final message to the community.
“Being the principal of RHS has been an absolute privilege and one that I am so very fortunate and blessed to have held for 10 years,” said Iosso. “I will be forever grateful to be part of such an amazing school community. My career has been wilder than any dream I could have ever imagined.”