EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Imagine you are a student waiting at your bus stop and when the bus arrives, out walks the superintendent.
For some, this might be alarming, but Superintendent Kim Gruccio said it was all in the name of forging relationships with students.
“I think it’s very, very important to get a real good idea of what goes on in the district, not just in the classroom but behind the scenes,” Gruccio said Friday morning, standing before a line of buses at Fernwood Avenue Middle School.
This is Gruccio’s first school year as the head administrator in Egg Harbor Township. She has worked 17 years in the district, first as an assistant principal and most recently as assistant superintendent.
She is hoping to make a good impression, and riding the buses, she said, is something other administrators have never done.
In another unconventional move, Gruccio welcomed back teachers this year with a pep rally, sporting gym clothes rather than a pantsuit. She said she encouraged the teachers to greet every student with a smile and make school a welcoming place.
Gruccio has adopted a motto of “embrace, engage and educate.”
“You want to build relationships with students and people,” she said. “That’s the foundation of what we’re doing this year.”
Last week, Gruccio rode six different bus routes on the first and second days of school and met with students, parents and bus drivers.
“Each (grade) level had different reactions,” she said. “I’ve learned so much from the bus drivers’ perspective. They are very confident in what they do. They have their routines down, and they are passionate about what they do.”
Alder Avenue Middle School students waiting at a stop off Delilah Road were surprised to learn their superintendent would be riding to school with them Friday.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking since the kids are crazy,” said Brianna Leecastro, 11, of Egg Harbor Township.
Parent Juan Sanchez said he was happy Gruccio was on the bus, interacting with the students, because parents and students can get to know her.
“Usually they’re in the office. When there’s a problem, that’s when you find out who they are,” Sanchez said.