There were no tears or hints of sadness in Joseph Longobardi’s face during his retirement party at the Pelham Middle School Thursday.
It’s easy to see why. After 39 years as a teacher and an administrator with the district, Longobardi has made enough connections and impacted enough people to fill more than one lifetime.
“I’ve never considered leaving Pelham,” said Longobardi, who is retiring from his position as middle school principal at the end of the month. “I didn’t even know what Pelham was when I got the job here. I was a Yonkers boy...but thank God I found my way down here. I was very lucky.”
More than six dozen parents, student and alumni participated in the party, which was sponsored by the middle school PTA. During the celebration, officials announced that they were creating a plaque in Longobardi’s honor and placing outside of the middle school.
The PTA also announced the creation of the first annual scholarship in Longobardi’s name. The scholarship was given to graduating senior Sabrina Candido, who is attending Embry-Riddley Aeronautical University in Florida next fall.
“It means everything,” Longobardi said of Thursday’s celebration. “It’s just so satisfying to see former students. I had young man here who is almost 50 years old who was one of my students many years ago at Colonial school, so to see that they see come around... they appreciate what you did for them, which is wonderful. That’s the bottom line. That’s the most important thing you can get out of this job.”
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Longobardi came to Pelham schools in 1973 after he graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie. He began as the district’s first special education teacher and taught grades 4-6 at Hutchinson Elementary School.
He served as acting principal at Hutchinson from 1982-83 and was appointed principal of Colonial Elementary School in 1983. He held the position as prinicipal at Siwanoy Elementary School for several year before becoming the middle school principal in 1992.
Longobardi is credited with helping to design the middle school building, which opened in 2005.
“He was at a great spot at a great time for us and himself,” said Rober Eicher, president of the school board. “How does it get better than when you’re in the right spot, where you have a great job where you can do really well and there so much that depends on you. He’s done so many different things—He’s had the ability to contribute on so many levels.”
Michael Recca, who was elected to the school board in May’s election, attended the middle school when Longobardi was principal.
“I’ve know Joe since the spring of 1999 when I was in fifth grade and they brough all the elementary school kids to the middle school and he greeted all of us,” Recca said. “From day one, he was somebody who I knew was going to be approachable. He’s a great educator and he’s going to be dearly missed. The one thing about Joe is that he was always fair. He would always listen to all side of sitution, whether it be a lunchroom dispute or a classroom dispute.”
Longobardi will stay on as consultant during the early part of the next school year to help incoming middle school Principal Robert Roelle Jr.’s transition into the new job.
Outside of that, Longobardi said that he hasn’t made any definite post-retirement plans.
“I’m just going to take it very easy,” Longobardi said. “I’m going to take it one step at a time. I’m going to work a little bit in college and take it as it comes.”