An old friend has returned to Liverpool High School.
After spending four years as executive principal at Westhill High School, Grenardo Avellino, who goes by Greg, has returned to Liverpool. Avellino had previously been an assistant principal at LHS for seven years. He replaces interim Principal Thomas Helmer, who was filling in after the departure of Terry McNabb.
“I applied for this position because when I was here, it was a position I always wanted,” Avellino said.
As a youth, Avellino never would have guessed that he’d end up principal of a high school.
“If you asked my mother, she’d say that God was punishing me,” he said with a laugh. “I definitely loved high school. I loved the extracurriculars and the sports, but I wasn’t exactly a model student. I had a lot of fun in high school.”
After graduation, Avellino did his undergraduate work in early childhood education at SUNY Cobleskill. He recently received an award from the school as a distinguished alumnus.
“At Cobleskill, they really taught me to understand and see that education could be fun,” he said. “I could see the connection between the classroom and working as a teacher.”
After two years, Avellino transferred to SUNY Cortland where he finished his degree. He then taught sixth grade at Meachem Elementary in Syracuse for five years.
“In my fifth year, I met my wife there,” Avellino said. “I thought it would be best for our relationship if we didn’t work in the same building. At that time, I also started getting interested in administration.”
Avellino attended Syracuse University while doing his administrative internship at Lincoln Middle School. After his second year there, he was moved to Corcoran High School.
“I didn’t want to go to high school,” Avellino said. “My background was in elementary and middle school. I fought it with the union. But I guess they saw something in me that I didn’t. I fell in love with high school students there.”
While at Corcoran, Avellino had the daughter of then-LHS Principal Anne Marie Spadafore. “She liked what I was doing,” he said. “I was very visible with the students. She asked me to apply at Liverpool.”
Avellino was an assistant principal at the school for seven years before taking the principal position at Westhill. He jumped at the chance to apply when the same position opened up at Liverpool, much to the pleasure of the committee appointed to select the new principal.
“We had well over 40 paper applications,” said Maureen Patterson, assistant superintendent for curriculum for the district. “We narrowed it down to three to be interviewed.”
Those three were interviewed by two committees: the cabinet committee, which consisted of several members of district office staff and three administrators from LHS, and the building committee, made up of the other three administrators and any teachers and staff from the high school who wanted to participate. The candidates also met with a student committee, which gave each applicant a tour of the building. Each applicant completed an entry plan, analyzing and interpreting data provided by the district on the high school and explaining what they would do with that data.
“We were really impressed with Greg’s entry plan,” Patterson said. “It was obvious he did his homework. His plan looked at the whole district, K through 12. He believed, as we do, that every teacher throughout the district is teaching a graduate.”
The district knew it had its new principal.
“He fits into all of the pieces we believed needed to be enhanced,” Patterson said. “He had the same goals we did for the high school.”
Among those goals are a more personalized education for all students and a high school that’s more connected to the other schools in the district.
“We need to look at ways to make this place more personal for our kids and our staff,” Avellino said. “And the high school can’t be an island by itself. We can’t act in isolation. We need to work on the connection between the high school and the middle schools, as well as the district office. Communication and collaboration are key.”
Avellino is interested in hearing from the community on what they think the high school should be and what changes need to be made. He is very open to making the school the best place it can be.
“My belief is that you can never stop learning,” he said. “You can never be good enough.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club’s Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.