There is a proverb that reads, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” If that’s the case, then Garden City High School Assistant Principal Dave Perrotta is awash in smarts—although he’d be too modest to admit that. Having been recently named Administrator of the Year by the Nassau Counselors Assocatiion (NCA), Perrotta’s first inclination was to decline the honor after he was informed that he had won the award by Principal Nanine McLaughlin.
“I was actually with Ms. McLaughlin, the principal. I was in her office when she told me and my initial reaction was not to accept unless they were basically going to give the award to all of the building administrators here. We have an administrative team here and it becomes difficult when anything becomes individualized in that regard,” he explained.
“I work with fantastic people here, starting with Ms. McLaughin the principal, and Kevin Steingruebner, the other assistant principal. We work well together. We’ve been here together collectively as an administrative group for over eight years. I’ve worked with many administrators over the years and there is no substitute for having a good team together. I feel our team is second to none. I work with fantastic administrators between Catherine [Knight] and everyone who is in the office. It’s something that can’t go unnoticed in the sense of the great people we work together with. The guidance counselors as a department are fantastic. They are the ones that nominated me. I’m very humbled and privileged to work with such a fantastic group.”
Having served as an assistant principal in the Garden City School District for 13 years, Perrotta is genuinely thrilled and honored to come to work every day. Born in Brooklyn, he and his family moved to Long Beach from Staten Island when he was 12 so that his family could run a deli/grocery store that they bought. Perrotta continues to call the seaside community home along with his wife and two children. And while he originally earned an engineering degree at the New York Institute for Technology, a dearth of math teachers in New York City and a sterling undergraduate manuscript led to “some guardian angels” advising him to apply for a teaching scholarship to City College. Starting off at Brooklyn’s John Dewey High School, Perrotta got his first teaching job at Oceanside High School before landing his initial administrative post as an assistant principal at Seaford High School. His brief two-year stint was followed by his current position at Garden City High School. For Perrotta, the opportunity to work in such a high-performing district is one that he’s grateful for and also an environment that he continues to be impressed by year-in and year-out.
“The expectations here are for students to excel and the support for that [shows up] in so many ways. The way we get support from the parents in many regards [is exemplary], because parents expect that their sons and daughters are going to get the best education. And while it’s not like they expect it and that’s it, they are so supportive, whether it’s PTA, SEPTA or parents in general. The board—everyone in one or the other, helps us have what we need to make them successful and to make sure that we’re all addressing what they would like to do,” he explained. “For instance, at the high school we have different electives that go in different areas. Helping them succeed in going to college is one way our guidance department is amazing, because we have different AP courses that help them excel. I worked in four different schools before coming here—it’s second to none. It’s just amazing how basically [the students] are not only doing well, but excelling and being the best at certain things is remarkable. It takes an army for that in the sense that it’s many people that are working together for the common goal, starting with the parents and the students and everybody that we work with.”
In working so closely with the guidance department to help students attain such high-reaching goals, Perrotta has quietly garnered quite a fan club, none more than Direct of Guidance Gina Christel.
“In his capacity as Assistant Principal, Mr. Perrotta has been assigned to oversee and act as liaison to the guidance department,” Christel said. “It is difficult to imagine anyone accomplishing that task with the ease and aplomb that Mr. Perrotta demonstrates. He is, by his nature, approachable, collaborative, student-centered and respectful of the opinions of others.”
Having been part of an administrative team for a decade-plus, Perrotta has tried to implement advice he’s received over the years, ranging from the need to learn from the people around you, be they teachers, fellow administrators or students. Or to never let something like the need to work hard or a difficult obstacle be the reason to not try to get something done. But in the end, it’s the concept of teamwork that Perrotta clings to the most.
“Through the years, working with experienced people and learning from them has been one of the things we all benefit from. It’s remarkable what the talents are for some of the experienced people and to watch them in action. It’s something to learn from,” he said. “I just finished my 13th year here as an assistant principal at the high school. There’s no substitute for working together. When you have a team together and continuity for a number of years, it’s so important, especially in great districts like this.”