Piscitelli named new principal of Guilderland High School

The Enterprise — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Michael Piscitelli 

GUILDERLAND — Michael Piscitelli, who has been Guilderland High School’s instructional administrator for math, science, and technology for 16 years, will assume a different role on July 1: school principal.

Piscitelli replaces Thomas Lutsic, who will retire on June 30.

As principal, Piscitelli intends to continue the culture that he says now thrives at Guilderland, of collaboration among building principals, instructional administrators, assistant principals, as a leadership team, “with no one person running the ship,” Piscitelli said.

During his years as instructional administrator, Guilderland has introduced a number of math and science courses designed to show students how those subjects can be applied beyond high school.

“It’s not career-driven,” he said. “It’s allowing kids to explore where some applications are that may spark passion in kids.”

So, in math, the course offerings now include, a programming class, a game-design class, a mobile-app design class, and a general computer-science principles class that explores the history and the future of computing.

Likewise, in science, courses have been introduced in nursing, physical therapy, biotechnology, pharmaceutical sciences, nanotech, and materials science. Next year, classes in meteorology and natural disasters will also be introduced.

“The reason why I started doing that in my department,” Piscitelli told The Enterprise, “was I saw a lot of students who were choosing college majors and then saying, ‘It wasn’t what I thought,’ and that cost kids time and money.”

Piscitelli believes that the approach the school has taken over recent years in the areas of math and science can be applied to other subjects as well. The art department already collaborates, he said, with the math department on teaching game design. Next year, the art department will offer a course on art in game design.

Spearheading inclusion

Piscitelli has also been spearheading inclusion at the high school — where students of different abilities are taught in the same classroom — and the expansion of the school’s co-teaching model. “That’s the biggest focus of what we’ve been doing over the last three years,” he said.

He anticipates continuing to expand the inclusionary model that tries not to “separate out any students,” he said. And he’ll continue to see how to best make use of time for students of all levels.

Superintendent Marie Wiles said in an email that the district interviewed six strong candidates for principal, but that Piscitelli stood out because of “his considerable experience as an administrator (16 years at GHS), the depth of his understanding of and commitment to Guilderland High School, his highly professional demeanor during the interview, and the thoroughness of his responses to our questions.”

She added, “Mike has also played a key role in our effort to create co-taught courses in the high school. He has a lot of well-deserved credibility among the faculty and staff at GHS and will be very able to lead the high school to even higher levels of excellence.”

What Piscitelli is proudest of, he said, is the team of outstanding teachers that has been developed at the high school. His goal for the future is to create a culture of constant improvement.

“We have a lot of teachers that do this already, who are constantly reflecting and saying, ‘How can we do it better?’” Piscitelli said.

Vita

Before becoming a teacher, Piscitelli studied engineering at Clarkson University and started his professional career as, first, a mechanical engineer and then an industrial engineer.

He spent four-and-a-half years working for Harris RF Communication in Rochester, a producer of military communications equipment, before heading to the University at Albany’s master’s program for teaching math. His first year of teaching was in Guilderland, as a replacement for a teacher on medical leave.

He then went on to work at Shaker High School and spent four years there, before returning to Guilderland to replace the late Dale Westcott, who was then retiring as instructional administrator for math and science.

Piscitelli lives in Malta. His wife, Karen Piscitelli, is a school psychologist at the Hadley-Luzerne Central School District. His son, Evan, is a junior at Ballston Spa High School, and his daughter, Allie, is in the eighth grade at the district’s middle school.

Guilderland is currently searching for a replacement for Piscitelli in his post of instructional administrator for math, science, and technology, Wiles said.

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