The New Paltz Central School District’s Board of Education this week announced the hiring of Stephen Gratto as its next superintendent. Gratto, currently in his seventh year as the superintendent of the Schroon Lake Central School District, officially starts his job in New Paltz on January 1, 2023 with a three-and-a-half year contract and an annual starting salary of $207,000.
Gratto was briefly introduced during a meeting of the NPCSD School Board held on Wednesday, October 19.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Gratto said. “I’ve researched your district quite a lot and I’m very impressed with all the things that are going on. I’m really excited to be at a district with so much action, so much community support.”
Gratto will replace Interim Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg, who returned to New Paltz for his second temporary stint in July of this year to help keep the district moving forward while the four-month search for a permanent administrator was undertaken. Josefsberg served as interim superintendent in New Paltz for roughly six months between the departure of former Superintendent Maria Rice in December 2019 and the arrival of former Superintendent Angela Urbina-Medina in the summer of 2020. Urbina-Medina was hired on a four-year contract that paid her $197,000 per year, and officially started her job on July 1, 2020. She left exactly two years later.
An educator with nearly 30 years of experience, Gratto earned a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, a Certificate of Advanced Study in Administrative and Supervisory Service, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University.
As a Fulbright Scholar, Gratto spent time as an exchange teacher in Uppingham, England, where he was exposed to a model of social-emotional wellness for students that has since become crucial in working with kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gratto holds permanent certifications as a school district leader, school administration supervisor and school building leader; and a permanent New York State teaching certification in general science, physics and mathematics, all in grades 7-12.
Schroon Lake, roughly 165 miles due north of New Paltz, is a small district of fewer than 300 students. Prior to taking on his role of superintendent in 2015, Gratto was principal of Northeastern Clinton Central High School for eight years, taught physics and science in the Peru Central School District and Mascoma Regional High School, the latter in Enfield, New Hampshire.
Prior to working in education, Gratto was an electrical engineer designing integrated circuit chips for International Business Machine Corp. (IBM) in Burlington, Vermont for six years, a job he said he left because he wanted to be able to work directly with people, particularly young people.
“I felt I was more of a people person’and wanted to see immediate gains from my efforts and felt I would get greater satisfaction from working with kids. This turned out to be true,” Gratto said in an NPCSD press release this week. “IBM was great preparation for teaching, but I am much happier as an educator, and each step I have taken has been a very positive one. I have been very fortunate to work at some outstanding schools, and I look forward to using my knowledge and experiences to serve the students, faculty and staff of New Paltz Central School District.”
Gratto brings to New Paltz a strong belief in the community of school districts, in part fostered while serving as a substitute bus driver in Schroon Lake during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The married father of three sons, Gratto is an avid hiker, camper, canoeist, cyclist, basketball player and coach, and enjoys reading and the theater. He’s also been a professional juggler, unicyclist, rope-walker and comedy performer since a young age and often performs with his sons.
Gratto emerged as the district’s new superintendent following an exhaustive search steered by
Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Charles Khoury, which included a community survey that generated around 800 responses. According to the survey, the most desired professional experience for the next superintendent were experience in attracting, recruiting and retaining teams of outstanding educators; experience as a classroom teacher; and experience as a superintendent. Additional desired experience includes experience as a building principal; experience in a high-performing, high-expectation district; and experience in promoting and evaluating equity and social justice education.
In the top three desired professional skills were establishing a climate of trust and respect; leadership of teaching, learning and curriculum; and fostering high expectations and improving the culture.
Finally, desired personal attributes were also sought, with being skilled in creating and fostering a positive atmosphere in the district; exhibits wisdom, humor and compassion; and inspirational team builder among the top choices.
In the district’s press release, School Board President Johanna Herget said Gratto’s experience was one of the key reasons he was a good fit for New Paltz. But it wasn’t the only one.
“Mr. Gratto’s thoughtful and methodical approach to every aspect of his work impressed us,” Herget said. “His proven track record of using data to make decisions will be vital to moving the District forward post-pandemic in order to meet the needs of all students.”
She added that Gratto is a hands-on administrator.
“His presence and involvement in his current and previous districts really stood out, as did his easy, straightforward communication style,” Herget said. “He was very open, honest, and accessible in his interviews…It was clear that he lives and breathes doing this work. We heard from his previous district that he is at every event, he is in the hallways, and he is fully engaged.”
Gratto said he looks forward to hitting the ground running in New Paltz in January.
“I plan on listening a lot and helping in any way I can,” he said. “I view my job as helping the teachers and the administrators do their job and helping the students grow.”
The NPCSD said it is planning a larger introduction to the district for Gratto in order to give the community an opportunity to meet their new superintendent before he officially takes over.