School Superintendent Making the Grade Keeping District Unified
During a time when social distancing is preached to help combat the spread of the coronavirus, White Plains Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ricca has chosen to go face-to-face on a daily basis with students and parents—on social media.
Ricca, 42, who has led the district of approximately 7,200 students for the last three years, pops up twice a day on Facebook—at 8 a.m. to read a story and then at noon for a Q&A session—to help keep students engaged and parents informed.
Like Governor Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings, Ricca’s appearances have become a must-see for many, with thousands of views.
“My approach has always been to communicate about everything in the district,” Ricca said. “It’s important to give people accurate information. I’m trying to give people the information I know that is factual in our community and our state.”
Ricca said he takes requests for the books he reads, which are geared for elementary and middle school students, and is always thinking of ways to make the interactions more fun, noting he hasn’t introduced any props yet.
“To hear and see me sing is funny!” Ricca quipped. “It’s important for me to be with my team and be out there. I never stopped being a teacher. That mindset has been advantageous. It’s helped me in the decisions I make.”
Ricca praised teachers and staff in the district who have adapted to the on-line teaching methods most districts have been forced to utilize.
“Teachers have truly taken an unprecedented situation and figured it out. I’m in awe. We have amazing teachers and support personnel,” he stressed. “I’ve never been more proud to be a teacher.”
One of the most challenging tasks for Ricca and has staff has been trying to keep up the morale of seniors whose end of the year activities and celebrations are in jeopardy as the pandemic continues.
“I speak to it every day in my updates. My heart is breaking for the kids who may be missing those once in a lifetime moments,” he said. “My message to our seniors is don’t worry. We’re thinking about them. The high school team is working on backup plans.”
Besides being superintendent, Ricca is president of the Southern Westchester Superintendents Conference, which represents 25 to 30 districts, and president-elect of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, which encompasses 79 districts in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties.
He is hopeful classrooms will open again this year but cautioned about any knee-jerk reactions to unlocking doors before society is ready.
“I’m internally optimistic in all areas. I want to make sure we get this right—as a community, as a society, as a state and a planet,” Ricca said. “This disease is a killer. I don’t think there’s ever a good reason to risk a life. I hope we’ll be back.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/