Dr. James Brucia, the Massapequa Schools Superintendent for the last 10 years, announced his upcoming retirement at a school board planning session on Nov. 19 at the Fairfield School.
Massapequa Schools Superintendent Dr. James Brucia recently announced he plans to retire this summer.
While the district readies itself to implement the massive construction and renovation project being funded by the recently passed bond issue and as the district also prepares to ensure its students meet the tougher state-imposed academic standards, Brucia will be passing the baton to the next superintendent at the end of the school year. The school board will be responsible for finding his replacement.
The 59-year-old superintendent said he's ready to start a new era.
"I decided to retire because I've been at this for 37 years as a teacher and an administrator," said Brucia. "I enjoy what I do but my interests in other things are starting to become more important to me than what I presently do."
With 10 years of experience to look back on, Brucia identified three district accomplishments he considers to be the highlights of his time as superintendent.
The first is MTRACT, the district's teachers training and computer center. At its inception about 10 years ago, the center was geared specifically toward training teachers to use computers. It has since expanded to include staff development.
Brucia cited the Massapequa's science research program as the second highlight. He said the program, which was implemented last year, is really getting students excited about science. Teacher Paul Lichtman, was hired to run the program full time, which allows the district to focus on the research aspect of the science program on a full-time basis, said the superintendent.
Lastly, the bond issue qualified as the district's crowning achievement of the latter portion of his tenure. Brucia said he is thrilled with Massapequa residents' overwhelming support of the bond and added that it confirmed that the community values its school.
When asked what he'd say to parents and residents who are concerned about the administration changing leadership as the district embarks on $49.9 million worth of renovations and technology upgrades, Brucia said he'd advise them not to worry.
"I know the school board will choose someone who will be able to continue to lead the district," he said.
Meanwhile, it seems Brucia will be leaving the district satisfied that he has accomplished what he set out to accomplish.
"I had one overall goal - to make the district a better place - and I think we've done that," he said. "We have an outstanding instructional program, we utilize the school buildings we have with the greatest efficiency. The tax rate per $100 [of assessed valuation] that we have in Massapequa is the most competitive tax rate of any of the surrounding school districts. During my tenure, the community has gotten great value for its education dollar."
As for the next superintendent, Brucia said he or she will have to face a number of challenges.
"First and foremost is to maintain and improve the instructional program in light of the new standards and secondly, to try to do all this with limited resources," said Brucia.
While the district may be able to find someone to meet those challenges, according to many of Brucia's colleagues, it may be tough to find someone with as great a sense of humor as he has.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Carole Alexander said that although she is not concerned with the district's ability to cope with Brucia's retirement, she believes he will be missed.
"I think he has such a terrific sense of humor, people will miss it for sure," she said.
Board President Christine Nottonson said Brucia always finds the positive in situations and thanked him for his dedication and commitment to the district.
District Attorney Roy Van Nostrand, who has worked in the district for the past 35 years, said Brucia fulfilled the responsibilities of his position with good humor, concern, pride in his profession and a considerable portion of love.
On the other hand, Brucia admits that not everyone has felt as warmly toward him. Being in a position of authority, he said he often found himself saying no to people or not complying with their wishes. One of the hardest aspects of the job, he said, was having to tell someone that they could not do something they really thought should be done.
Brucia said another particularly unpleasant aspect of the job was trying to work through the labor contract disputes the district has had and continues to have with employee groups.
"A process the law requires us to play out took people who normally try to cooperate and made them adversaries. That I find to be very frustrating," he said.
The former teacher said he also missed working with students while he was an administrator. Still, despite that, his motivation to work in administration overrode his love for teaching.
"As a teacher I could make changes in the curriculum that would affect the students I taught," he said. "But if I wanted to make a change on a larger scale I couldn't do it as a teacher."
As superintendent he had the authority to direct changes throughout the district, he added.
Although, Brucia may be leaving elementary and secondary education behind, he said he will be teaching at the college level, which is something he said he has wanted to do for a long time. He currently teaches a law course for the College of New Rochelle and will soon begin teaching a master's course at Molloy College. He added that he hopes to teach at a number of colleges.
The transition from administrator to teacher should not be a difficult one, considering it's where he started. He began his career as a teacher of general science, Regents biology and advanced placement biology in the Lindenhurst school district. Fourteen years later, he began the next phase of his career as an administrative assistant in the district. Brucia went on to be a principal in Babylon, an assistant superintendent for general services in Carle Place, an assistant superintendent for instruction in Massapequa and finally superintendent of the Massapequa district in 1998.
Although, Brucia's career has taken him to number of school districts in Long Island, he described his years at Massapequa as "the most exciting and rewarding," and said that he feels privileged to have worked in the district.
"This is a wonderful community," he said. "The people in this community are caring people and they truly value their school district, want the best for their kids and they are willing to support anything that brings the best for their kids."
Still, Brucia said while he is looking forward to his hopefully "fun-filled" final months as superintendent, he is also eager to pursue some personal interests after his retirement, as well. For example, he hopes to learn to cook gourmet meals for his wife with whom he has raised four grown children. He also hopes to learn to play the piano.
Meanwhile, Nottonson said at the Nov. 19 meeting that over the next couple of weeks, the board would be meeting with two agencies who specialize in helping school districts through the process of selecting a superintendent. She added that the board expects to have someone in place for the position by July.