GEHR Superintendent plans active retirement

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stack of books with an apple HAMILTON TOWNSHIP– Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School Superintendent Steven Ciccariello plans to literally ride into the sunset when he officially retires at the end of the month.

“For the last 11 years I have been riding a Harley Davidson and I belong to the Camden County Harley Owner’s Group – HOG,” Ciccariello said. “When I was a younger guy I rode small motorcycles. When I finished my doctoral work in 2001, and got appointed assistant superintendent, I just wanted to find a way to do it again.”

Ciccariello’s club, a varied group of friends, rides on Sundays.

“We are doing a couple of overnight rides this summer,” he said. “There are superintendents, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, principals – people from a variety of backgrounds. We are all a little older. We just like to ride. It is so much fun to get out on the road and go to places you never knew existed.”

His love of riding is evident, but no more apparent than the love of his 34-year career in education. Ciccariello attributes that to working his way up and learning the specific duties of each position he has held, knowing the staff and learning the needs of the different teachers, staff and most importantly, the students.

Ciccariello, a married father of two, worked in Burlington County’s Pemberton Township School District as an elementary school teacher and as a math teacher, principal and vice principal in the high school before coming to Atlantic County.

For the past 22 years he has made Greater Egg Harbor Regional his home district. He became the vice principal of Oakcrest Regional High School in 2000 and served as principal from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, he became the assistant superintendent of the district until 2010, when he assumed the superintendent position.

“This has been a great career. What has been the most rewarding for me at Greater Egg is I could sit here and honestly say I have had so many opportunities presented to me and I am thankful for that,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in the fact I worked my way up. I feel that has allowed me to have a tremendous amount of understanding and knowledge about the organization, and also a lot of empathy about what goes on in the school district. I know what type of work a vice principal does, and a good school principal.”

Ciccariello said he is fortunate to have had staff members who have made his educational journey that much more rewarding.

“The staff has been outstanding, and I think that is what I am going to miss,” he said. “I have just met so many outstanding people in the years that I have been here. Some folks have been here since ’92, like me. The schools have been great. The kids have been wonderful.”

As he reflected on the positions he has held, he admitted that being a principal and assistant principal were the most enjoyable positions.

“When you work as superintendent and assistant superintendent, it is hard to get that same interaction with the students. You get to do more stuff with the student as a principal or vice principal,” Ciccariello said. “But the one thing that I am happy about as a superintendent is that I think I have wonderful supervisors in the district.”

Ciccariello took a bit of credit for the excellent staff.

“I recommended many of these people to the district. Seeing them evolve professionally and grow from teachers to supervisors to principals is very rewarding.”

On July 1, John Keenan will replace Ciccariello as superintendent. Keenan comes from the Northern Highlands Regional School District.

When asked what advice he would give his successor, Ciccariello pondered a minute.

“It is a complicated job. There are three schools – one in Mays Landing, one in Egg Harbor City and one in Galloway,” Ciccariello said. “Part of the concern is not only dealing with the community and areas they are in, but that they are a district. It isn’t like a K-12 district where the students all go to the same schools.”

With a coverage area of about 300 square miles, GEHR is the largest geographical district in the state, Ciccariello said.

“It is huge. I think that the best advice is to really just come in and learn the schools, learn the communities and meet all of the staff,” he said.

Over the years, Ciccariello said has had wonderful mentors to help him navigate his way through the difficult times in the education world, including John Dugan, the former superintendent who hired him, and Adam Pfeffer, the former superintendent who died in 2010.

But of all his mentors, his biggest inspiration has been his father, Bruno Ciccariello, a former educator who retired back in the late ‘80s but remained true to his craft of teaching others, working as a literacy volunteer in Burlington County. And like his father, Ciccariello said he will also continue to work in the educational field.

Beginning July 1, he will work part-time at Educational Informational and Resource Center in Mullica Hill. He emphasized it is a part-time position, so he will still have a lot of time to dedicate to his family and of course riding.

He is also hoping for a bit of game time.

“I’m a big baseball fan. My dad is my baseball partner. I am hoping that is something we could continue to do together. I have a boatload of tickets right now and I’d love to use them.”

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