By Lindsey Clinton, Editor-In-Chief
After three years and three new superintendents, the New Paltz Central School District is ready to see Mr. Stephen Gratto stick around.
“It’s time for a change,” Mr. Gratto said, when The Maroon interviewed him in January, “I’ve been working in this school district [Schroon Lake] for over 7 years, and my son is a senior, going to graduate from high school, so I decided to take on the new challenge as opposed to continuing to do what I’ve been doing.”
Creating a positive change may just be what Mr. Gratto does best. No matter the situation, whether it be interacting with his students in class or performing circus acts like juggling and riding a unicycle, Mr. Gratto always strives to brighten someone’s day.
“Kids come to school to learn, but we also want everyone to have a good time,” he says with a cheerful smile growing from ear to ear. “I’m all for expanding opportunities there.”
Even before starting in his position as New Paltz’s new superintendent, Mr. Gratto made it a point to get to know the students and staff, attending club meetings like Student Government and Drama Club. He believes that forming strong connections within the schools will help benefit the community, creating vibrant school atmospheres where every student can flourish.
“The first thing I have to do is listen to what people have to say. I look forward to doing that in a variety of different ways,” Mr. Gratto begins. “My job is to support teachers, students, and parents to make their jobs easier.”
Although Mr. Gratto has been in the administrative scene for quite some time now, working as a principal for eight years at Northeastern Clinton Central High School and most recently as the superintendent at Schroon Lake Central School District, this is not where his immediate path out of school took him. In fact, he did not go into education at all.
“I went to college to be an electrical engineer. I worked for IBM. It was a good job, and it was kind of fun,” Mr. Gratto explains. “But I didn’t care whether or not IBM made a lot of money. I wanted something that would be gratifying every day.”
This is when he decided to switch paths and teach 8th grade science and physics. For him, it is the everyday interactions with students, families, and staff that allow for a gratifying work experience.
“You learn a lot from good people. I have seen some outstanding teachers do their thing and incredible students. I am very impressed by their work,” Gratto shares. “If I were to go back in the classroom now, I would be a much better teacher than I was because I have learned so much. People make me a better person.”
From the hundreds of people he has met during his time in schools as well as being a father of three himself, Mr. Gratto has seen the education system from every angle, understanding the challenges some may face in school. He plans to form an accommodating and connected community so every student, parent, and faculty member feels supported and can thrive.
“Life is tough, and we want to give our students every possible opportunity they can have. We want to treat them as individuals and make sure everybody leaves New Paltz with a plan.” A plan that is unique to each student. Mr. Gratto emphasizes the importance of finding the perfect track for the individual. He continues saying, “This doesn’t mean they have to go to college, it doesn’t mean they have to go to technical school, but the goal is that everyone leaves New Paltz with their own plan.”
Mr. Gratto’s hopes of creating new and ever expanding opportunities do not stop in school. His work as a Fullbright exchange teacher, teaching science and physics in England, made him a more “centered educator,” learning new ways to educate and form bonds with students. He explains, “It’s not all about academics, it’s about building relationships and meeting kids where they are.”
Mr. Gratto’s time spent building relationships on a personal level within many different communities will aid in his goal of creating unique and individualized plans for all New Paltz students.
Ranging from changing career paths in hopes of finding one that best suits his desire to create positive change all the way to spending his free time teaching his children to juggle, Mr. Gratto’s ambitious and sociable personality shines through in everything he does.
“I really care about each and every individual student. It will be hard to learn every name but it’s the ambition, it’s the goal.”Mr. Stephen Gratto
What will the future bring while Mr. Gratto is superintendent? Who knows, but he’s clear he’s ready to give New Paltz a shot.