This year’s eighth grade students are the last class Vincent Giuliano will send off to .
After a 23-year run as principal at , Giuliano will retire at the end of the school year.
“It’s been a great career,” he said, giving much credit to “terrific kids, terrific staff, and good parent support” throughout his tenure.
“It’s gone by quickly," he noted. "I feel good about retiring.”
Giuliano, 64 and also a Middletown resident, has been an educator for 41 years. In 1969, he began his career in the classroom teaching science and eventually moved into administration.
By 1987, he was working as a principal at Ponaganset Middle School in Foster when he accepted the position at Gaudet Middle School in Middletown.
Giuliano’s decision to retire was announced officially at the most recent Middletown School Committee meeting, but news of his decision had already been circulating among his staff, he said.
“If anyone asked if I was really retiring this year, I told them that yes, I was,” he said.
About a year ago, he and his wife decided they wanted to retire together, Giuliano said. He said the decision was “not at all" a difficult one.
“When you’re in the profession 41 years, you know when it’s time,” he said.
In his four decades teaching Rhode Island's pre-teens, Giuliano has seen the education system undergo many significant changes. Very early on in his career, he witnessed the introduction of Special Education into the public school system. “'Special Ed' in 1969 was not part of the school environment. When that was passed, that was a major change,” he recalled.
More recently, there was “No Child Left Behind,” a product of the Bush Administration that put a greater emphasis on standardized testing assessments and has polarized critics and defenders nationwide.
“I think in principle, having accountability—where our kids perform, how they perform—that’s all been good," Giuliano said. "It becomes a paper chase, but I think it’s made us better."
Locally, one of the bigger changes has been the integration of the town’s Grade 4 students into the middle school campus, a move necessitated in 2009 by the closure of the JFK Elementary School and consolidation of the two remaining elementary schools. Some concerned parents were outspoken about integrating the younger students with the pre-teens and the school district formed the Gaudet Learning Academy for the fourth grade students at the middle school campus.
“It was smoother than I expected. I expected it to be a rougher road,” he said. Students and teachers seemed to have adapted well in the transition, Giuliano said, but he noted that he still senses many parents would prefer to have the younger children back in an elementary school setting.
As for what the future holds, Giuliano said he might consider working part time, but hasn’t made any specific plans yet.