Newest Tiger Ready to Change His Stripes

NORTH SALEM, N.Y.-- A 1989 New York Times article reported that workers in mangrove forests of the Ganges Delta in India deterred Bengal tiger attacks by wearing face masks on the backs of their heads. Twenty-eight years later, Mahopac “Indian” Vince DiGrandi voluntarily walked into a den of “Tigers” when he took the helm of North Salem Middle/High School on Aug.15 —sans mask. 

“It’s all about visibility,” he said. “I love to go into classes and teach with teachers or learn with kids,” he said, adding that he will get to 10,000 steps a day on his FitBit “without a doubt.”

After the announcement of his departure from Mahopac Middle School in the spring, where he had served as principal since 2013, he felt compelled to defend the move, telling Halston Media that it is “unheard of in education” for administrators to stick with a district for as long as his North Salem predecessors did and the opportunity to apply was “once in a lifetime.” 

Sign Up for E-News

Dr. Patricia Cyganovich and Dr. George Bovino served as North Salem’s principal and assistant principal for 30 years, and both announced their retirements last spring.

The longevity of their district careers, plus the small class sizes and unique 6-12 age group, attracted him to the role, DiGrandi said.

Having put the rumors to bed, the only thing swirling around him now are the stacks of papers and books he sorts through as he gets situated in his new office. The drivers for his career switch remain the same, as does his loyalty to and esteem for the Mahopac district. 

While others were traipsing through the Ganges in 1989, DiGrandi was graduating from Mahopac High School, which is in the district he would find himself working in years later; an opportunity, he said, that was surreal and unique and one he will always appreciate. The proximity of his old digs to North Salem (about 15 minutes) is comforting, he added. 

Additionally, the switch offers some conveniences, such as a shorter drive from his home in Bethel, Conn. Nor will he have to change his wardrobe to accommodate new school colors, he joked, as Mahopac and North Salem’s colors are similar (Mahopac’s are blue and gold and North Salem’s are blue and yellow). Luckily, due to their drastically different sizes, the school teams are not rivals, either, so he won’t find himself caught in the cross fire. 

DiGrandi said he looks forward to contributing to the positive and passionate atmosphere he sees in the North Salem district.
“I want to be a student here,” he joked, after citing the school’s range of classes and after-school programs. Fortunately, so do the students.

“This is the center of life for these kids,” DiGrandi said. “They always want to be here.”

DiGrandi, who went to the University of Nebraska on a baseball scholarship before finishing his education at Fordham University in the Bronx, said he has an appreciation for the positive influence sports can have on a student. However, he said North Salem offers plenty of opportunities for students to cultivate teamwork skills and learn to navigate wins and losses while following their individual passions.

While 75 percent of North Salem Middle/High School students participate in a sport, there are plenty of other clubs in areas of interest such as music and art, he said. 

“There is something for everybody,” he said, noting the school’s 3-D printer and associated computer graphics classes. 

At Mahopac Middle School, educational tools and events such as Immigration Day, when students research their ancestry before embarking on an Ellis Island-like experience created by their social studies teachers, were prevalent. DiGrandi said he is happy to see that the North Salem district allows students and teachers to flex their creativity via authentic learning experiences versus “rote memorization,” citing the OPTIONS program, where students explore areas of interest through real-world internships, and projects where they’re asked to dream up a memorial they would add to Washington, D.C., and why, after their field trip to the capital.

“To me that’s a huge academic choice for a kid to be so creative,” he said. “The more I can get kids out into the real world, the more authentic the experiences are.” 

DiGrandi said his priority right now is getting to know everyone and building trust with students and teachers. 

“You have to get to know the person, be that the kid or teacher first, before you can teach them or learn from them,” he said. “I need to know them before I can lead them and they need to know me as well.”

All jokes aside about wanting to be a student himself, DiGrandi admitted to not knowing everything and being OK with that. He said he looks forward to what the students and staff at the school will teach him.

“I can honestly tell you I know I don’t know everything. I’ll find somebody who does know something about that topic, and I’ll leverage them,” he said. “There is no place for ego in education, I’ll tell you that.”

He said he is glad that the new assistant principal, the former chair of the science department, Kathleen Murphy, has worked at the school for 11 years, and can help him learn the ropes. She assumed her role Aug. 14, and the two will be navigating their new positions in tandem. Both said their aim is to get their bearings, versus come in shaking things up right off the bat.

“It’s a high-performing district, so my mindset is how do you move from good to great?” he said. “They’re very good, so how can we tighten up some things, and be creative, and [improve.] That constant mindset of improvement I think is what excites me the most,” he said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

North Salem

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Sat, March 24, 3:30 PM


Easter Egg Hunt at the farm!

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, March 31, 10:00 AM

Jefferson Valley Mall , Yorktown Heights

Yorktown Indoor Farmers Market

Food & Drink Health & Wellness

Winter's Ending

Thank God March is already underway. And with it, pristine snowdrops and teeny fields of crocuses. For the last three weeks, here or there, as I drove through town, I have also spotted some witch hazel blossoming in full golden glory, the earliest tree to flower each year, a herald of the coming spring. Such a relief to the eyes and the senses when the color returns to the ...

Stop Gun Carnage

The 18th mass shooting in the United States in the first 45 days of 2018 took the lives of 17 students and teachers.

What is going on? Why are little kids and devoted educators being murdered by maniacs with guns? Tell me why these brutal attacks appear to be happening primarily in the United States.

Gun attacks against civilians are nonexistent or rare in any country which isn’t ...

It's Good to Cheat!

OK, you know that I am working on losing 10 pounds before summer vacation and every weekend I cheat on my diet. I felt a little guilty about that and invariably yelled at myself every Sunday night. I found out that this is not unusual and may actually help us wannabe skinnies stay on our program in the long run. 

Two trusted authorities told me that it’s actually GOOD to cheat! A ...

To Harrison, L'Chaim!

At long last, the smile of spring approaches, as an angry winter recedes into good riddance. Our spirit is ready to be re-charged. Damn the power outages, full speed ahead!

For my wife, Elyse, daughter, Elissa, and me, this otherwise exuberant time of year brings a confusion of mixed emotions. In 2003, on the opening day of spring, March 20, which happens to be my birthday, our 15-year-old son ...

Anytown USA's Reality TV Show

Nowhere is the raw power of our Constitution’s First Amendment more earnestly practiced than in thousands of town halls across the land every time a citizen steps up to the podium to say his piece.

That also is where reality television can be seen at its rawest, as town meetings are televised to the local populace. All the familiar production values of reality TV are there in full color: ...

When It's Not OK to Ask If Everything's OK

There is this thing that I do that annoys the heck out of my family. Well, to be honest, there are a lot of things I do that annoy the heck out of my family, but I am thinking of one thing in particular.

Whenever someone is in the bathroom for what I determine to be an abnormally long period of time, I stand outside the bathroom door and yell,


I ...

I'm All Pumped Up

This time last year, I struggled with my New Year’s resolution to go to the gym.

This year, I have made significant progress. I am going to the gym on a semi-regular basis. And by semi-regular, I mean, I go often enough that I actually remember where it’s located between visits.

The bad news, however, is that my workouts are just, how would you say it? Lame. Yes, they’re ...

'Gun Laws Need to Be Changed'

March 14, 2018

To the editor,

In response to last week’s article on North Salem schools’ reaction to the Parkland tragedy, we respectfully disagree with the school’s official statement that North Salem’s students are not interested in standing up for change in gun control laws. To be clear, many of us are standing up for our belief that gun control laws need to be changed. We are ...

Winter Weather Cuts Through North Salem

March 12, 2018

NORTH SALEM, N.Y.-Operating under a state of emergency, the town opened up a warming center at the North Salem Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Saturday, March 3, welcoming in from the cold those who lost electricity.

Supervisor Warren Lucas voiced his frustration over the power outages several times over the weekend, unable to provide residents with adequate information.

On Saturday, Lucas drove ...