At their recent regular meeting on Tuesday, February 6, the Highland Central School District Board of Education unanimously appointed Thomas M. Bongiovi as the district’s new superintendent of schools. Initially hired last October as interim superintendent while an exhaustive search was conducted to replace retired Superintendent of Schools Deborah Haab, Bongiovi’s status was changed with the appointment made during the board meeting to a term as superintendent commencing that evening and terminating June 30, 2021, with an annual compensation of $172,250 established through June 30, 2019.
Bongiovi was formerly superintendent of schools for the Port Jervis City School District, from 2013 through July of 2017. He began his educational career as a social studies teacher, advancing to assistant principal, middle and high school principal and assistant superintendent for instruction before moving into the superintendent’s position at Port Jervis.
A Long Island native, Bongiovi earned a BA in history with a minor in education and political science from LeMoyne College and a master of arts degree in liberal studies from SUNY Stony Brook. He holds a school administrator and supervisor professional diplomas from Dowling College and a school district administrator certificate from East Stroudsburg University.
Highland Board of Education President Alan Barone said Bongiovi was selected for the job because of his well-rounded experience and expertise in both curriculum and financial matters. The interim superintendent also impressed the board with his proactive approach to the job from day one, Barone said. “When we brought him on board back in October, he hit the ground running. The board had a lot of issues at the time that needed to be addressed, and Tom took charge and ran with it, getting resolution for some of those issues. Moving forward, I believe he will be able to move the district forward in the right direction; in a positive direction that will benefit the students of this district and the community.”
More than 40 applicants were considered for the position in a six-month search process led by Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Charles Khoury. The job was advertised broadly and community input was solicited early on in the process. Barone noted the many hours that Khoury devoted to the search and his “invaluable” role in guiding the board through the hiring process, which narrowed down the initial applicant pool to 12 candidates before a committee of school and community stakeholders was asked to help review the six finalists.
Bongiovi’s immediate goals include maintaining a positive work environment and instituting an “Academic Score Card” to track the district’s progress toward student achievement along with continuing the awareness and prevention efforts he initiated as interim superintendent with regard to opioid and heroin abuse in the community.
Upon his appointment as Highland’s new superintendent, Bongiovi noted that the theme of a recent “Not My Child” drug abuse awareness program – education, community and family – applied equally to the Highland district and community as a whole, with his plan being to focus on that theme in creating a lifelong impact on the students and families of the community. “It takes a team,” he said. “Any successful organization must be run like a team, with team spirit. And I’m privileged and honored to be designated the leader of that team.”
Ending on a light note, with tongue firmly in cheek, Bongiovi added that he was pleased to be entering “Highland’s Hall of Fame” in the same year that his cousin, Jon Bon Jovi (née John Francis Bongiovi, Jr.) will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Quoting the lyrics of Bon Jovi’s 1986 hit, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Highland’s new superintendent ended his comments by promising the assembled group at the meeting, “If you take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear…” (No word yet on whether he can play guitar.)