Sparta's New Superintendent Prepares to Hit the Ground Running

Dr. Michael Rossi with his wife Deb and daughter Lily. Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ –Recently Sparta’s newly hired superintendent took time from his scheduled tour of Alpine school to sit down with TAPinto Sparta for an interview.

The top question to Dr. Michael Rossi was “Why are you coming to Sparta?”  Rossi is leaving the Madison public school district mid contract to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Dennis Tobin. 

Rossi said, “There are a lot of great similarities in Sparta that fit with my 29-year career in education.  I am looking forward to sustaining the level of excellence the district has come to expect in academics, athletics and co-curriculars.”  

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Rossi has begun meeting with the district administrators and staff and is “finding I have a lot of connections here.”  He also said it is important to him to “get connected with all members of the learning community,” and has laid out a “six-month entry plan.”

When asked if anything stands out as an issue or initiative he would like to immediately address Rossi said in addition to meeting with principals, assistant principals, supervisors, directors and teachers he plans “from there to sit with members of the board of education and meet and network with PTO’s, booster clubs, the Mayor and Chief of Police to get a sense of what the priorities should be.” 

He stressed the importance of a strong relationship with the community.  “As a leader of instruction, I can’t do it without volunteers and parents.”

Bringing the discussion back around to “why Sparta” Rossi talked about the district’s technology.  Knowing the move toward a 1:1 (student to computer) initiative had to be abandoned, he is hoping to get it started again.  “I am in the second year of implementation of a 1:1 program,” in Madison and can bring his experience as to what works and what was not successful to Sparta. 

Rossi brings creative fiscal thinking to Sparta as well.  While at Roxbury he began a grant writing initiative that started simply as an exercise but turned into $500,000 for the district. In Madison Rossi said they currently have 17 tuition students paying $15,000 each to attend their public schools.  “That can pay for a lot of teachers,” Rossi said.  Sparta can also accept tuition students but the program has not been well publicized.

Additionally, Rossi brings his experience as having been the Gifted and Talented Supervisor at Hillsboro school district. “Typically Gifted and Talented takes form in math and language arts,” Rossi explained, but asked “what about the arts?  What about our students who excel in music or the fine arts?”

Rossi received his doctorate from Seton Hall where he remains active in the Superintendent Study Council.  The Study Council is a professional organization of about 120 New Jersey superintendent that focuses on professional development and collegiality. 

Rossi has three children.  His daughter Kate is a senior at Moravian College.  His son Michael is a student at Juniata College in Hunting, Pennsylvania. Rossi had brought his daughter Lily, a student at Hackettstown and wife Deb to the special Sparta Board of Education meeting in October at which he was unanimously approved. 

He will be bringing a strong track record educational professionalism to Sparta in less than a month.  Rossi is to officially begin in Sparta on December 1 but has scheduled several days in the district to get acclimated before then.

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