(NORTH SALEM, N.Y.) --After 44 years in education, 30 of which were at North Salem, Assistant Middle/High School Principal Dr. George Bovino is retiring.
Born and raised in Willimantic, Conn., Bovino attended the University of Bridgeport where he studied health and physical education. In 1976, he went to Columbia University on a graduate scholarship to get his master’s degree in curriculum and teaching. He received his administrative certification at Fordham University and then back to Fordham for his doctorate. Afterwards, he worked as an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Education. It’s something he says he’s considering doing again after he retires.
“I really enjoyed doing that. I enjoyed speaking with and mentoring young aspiring administrators,” Bovino explained.
He started his career in Bridgeport, Conn. He served as director of athletics at Franciscan High School in Mohegan Lake, Dean of Students at Kennedy Catholic High School until 1987, and then moved to North Salem where he has served as assistant principal to this day.
“I am unlike most APs,” said Bovino. “They usually move on, but I decided to make it a career because it kept me with the people I got in the business for, the kids.”
Bovino said remaining hands on in his administrative role at North Salem was key.
“I didn’t want to push paper. I didn’t want to do any of that. Many people said I should go on to become a superintendent, but that’s not what I wanted to be. I wanted to be with the kids. I wanted to do administration, but I didn’t want to be far from them,” he said.
Principal Dr. Patricia Cyganovich has fond recollections of working with Bovino for the past three decades.
“His connection to the community and to students will be the biggest hole that will have to get filled here. He is really a student advocate. He’s got a gift for helping kids, correct their behavior without losing their soul in the correction. And he’s demanding of kids in terms of what he wants them to do and how he wants them to act. They will be hard shoes to fill,” she said.
Bovino explained that over the past 30 years, things have changed dramatically in education, sometimes not for the better. He cited unfunded mandates from the state as being one of the major ones that has had a deleterious effect on school districts. He said the Common Core curriculum, and its “constant testing of students” is another stress that has changed the way administrators and students approach learning.
He said over the years, schools have taken on an additional role, a more disciplinary one now that most families have two working parents.
“Kids in some ways are bringing themselves up,” Bovino said.
However, other things have not changed, according to Bovino.
“But when you really dig deep down, kids are still kids. They’re living in a different world, they’re living in a media world where 30 or 40 years ago that was not true. But going through the bumps of growing up—that really hasn’t changed. They still have to go through the bumps and come through the other side,” he said.
Students still have problems, but they are of a different kind in 2017, he notes.
“In the beginning they had person-to-person problems. Maybe they cut a class here or there. Now it’s all media. The kids who are most hurt are those who have been hurt on social media,” he explained. “That’s the big change. That’s the big difference. They [the bullies] have become more brazen and more courageous because they don’t have to look someone in the eye and see who they are hurting.”
Bovino reflected on what he said was one of the saddest and most tragic incidents in his career in North Salem, the death of 17-year-old student Elizabeth Butler, who was killed by her boyfriend just days before her planned graduation in 2005. After Butler’s shocking death at the hands of her abusive, controlling boyfriend, Bovino promised the family that he would honor her memory by holding regular abuse awareness seminars at the school each year “so that every North Salem student would know the characteristics of a healthy and unhealthy relationship.”
The longtime North Salem administrator is looking forward to his retirement. He’s sold his home in Carmel and plans to move into his home on Cape Cod that’s currently under renovation. Golfing and gardening are expected to be on his new agenda.
While he’s stepping away from North Salem, he’s not exactly fading into the sunset. He said he plans to go back to teaching at one point, most likely to students at the graduate level, something he’s enjoyed in the past.
“I’ve never looked at myself as anything but a teacher,” Bovino said.