‘Mr. C’ steps down at Washington
Principal retiring from D-11, but hopes to return to education as a teacher
“Mr. C.,” as Principal Pete Cicatelli is affectionately known at Washington Elementary, will retire after this year.
He will be be replaced by Terry Martinez, a Westside resident who had served as the summer school principal at Washington last year and will again this year.
During his six-year tenure, Cicatelli led the formation of its Core Knowledge magnet program, which emphasizes gathering information about the world as part of developing learning skills. The program will continue under Martinez. The two have been meeting weekly to ease the transition.
“He's been a great support for me,” commented Martinez, an 18-year teaching/administration veteran who has simultaneously served as assistant principal for Rudy and Henry schools in District 11 this year.
Cicatelli has been in education for 31 years, starting in his home state of New Jersey. “Thirty-one years is a long time,” he said, when asked what prompted his retirement decision.
But he's not ready to quit education altogether. One of his goals, after taking a break next year to “reflect and self-evaluate,” is to get back into teaching at the elementary level. “I'm challenged to know what a class I teach could do on the CSAPs,” Cicatelli said.
It's been 19 years since he's taught in a classroom. He's served in different administrative capacities in that time, in District 20 and 11. Being a principal is closer to the kids than when he was assistant director of student services for District 20, but it's still like being an “educational accountant,” Cicatelli said.
Partially proving this point, he unveiled promising year-ending statistics for Washington: Out of 78 at-risk fourth-graders (about half the students enrolled at that grade level), 49 advanced their performance levels by more than one year, based on before and after testing this school year. “So we're closing the achievement gap,” he said, proudly.
The school has one of the highest percentages of children from needy families in the district - a statistic that translates into flesh- and-blood challenges. “We have some kids who've never seen a book before they walk through these doors,” he said.
He knows he'll miss Washington a great deal. “My greatest challenge in education was coming here and helping it heal,” he said. Without getting into specifics, he said that the “community, number one, wants to feel that the students are being cared for,” and this feeling was not positive six years ago, when he came on board.
He'll also miss the school because it reminds him of his own childhood, attending non-fancy New Jersey schools. “I wasn't read to at home,” he said. “It took me a long time to learn to read. I had tutoring. I went to summer school. When I came to Washington, it was like coming home.”
Cicatelli's departure is the second by a District 11 Westside school principal this spring. Alan Rasmussen of Buena Vista also is stepping down (see Pioneer, April 28).
Westside Pioneer article