ELMSFORD, N.Y. - Just days into his new position as Elmsford School Superintendent, Joseph Ricca says he enjoying his "education" in the village, its residents, children and schools.
Ricca, who replaces outgoing Superintendent Barbara Peters after five years in the job, was most recently Superintendent of Schools for the East Hanover Township School District in New Jersey, where he served since 2009.
"Getting to know the Elmsford school district has been fantastic," Ricca said. "It's really been a tremendous experience. I've had the opportunity to meet with many members of the faculty, administrative team and community. So far, everyone has been warm and welcoming. The first thing any leader needs to do is learn, and I'm listening and learning as much as I can."
Ricca said he especially enjoys being hands-on and spending time in the community where he expects to find the pulse of the village and its educational needs.
"This is a very close-knit and caring community committed to the children," Ricca said. "(Saturday) I was so happy to participate in the opening of the new Sports Authority in Elmsford. We had members of marching band and student athletes there and Sports Authority presented us with a check for $1,000. It was a great experience for me - being part of the community."
The new superintendent has spent all of his career in New Jersey schools where he focused on the relationship between the school system and the community. He created and maintained award-winning community partnerships, established grant-funding opportunities for the district and improved its technological infrastructure and capabilities and was on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Task Force on Anti-bullying.
Ricca said he understands the continuing financial challenges to mostschool districts, including Elmsford, and believes the district Board of Education has done a good job in keeping budgets in line.
"It is the responsibility of any school system to be careful stewards of the tax dollar," Ricca said. "I'm personally fiscally conservative and try to build budgets based on what we need and not necessarily on what we want. Expenditures should be in the classroom and related to the children.
With the school year less than a month away, Ricca has already conducted 10 interviews with prospective teachers, evaluated the buildings and grounds and is looking forward to the next Board of Education next meets on Aug. 21.
"I find the engagement and joy of the position in being on the ground and being part of the operational procedures," Ricca said. "Everybody from kids to parents to people without kids in the system appreciate when you say, 'I am hear to listen to you'. I hope to continue doing that."