After a nationwide search for the next principal of Staples High School, the top candidate turned out to be a very familiar face.
A few minutes ago, the Board of Education approved the selection of James D’Amico. He was one of 3 finalists for the position.
D’Amico is intimately familiar with Staples. A highly regarded social studies teacher there from 2001-2009, he also served as grade 6-12 social studies department chair from 2005-2014.
In 2014, D’Amico was named assistant superintendent for secondary education. His office was in Town Hall, but he remained a familiar presence at the high school.
Superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon made the decision after weighing several factors. They included understanding “the very complex culture of Westport”; experience in a large high school with excellent academics, arts, athletics and extracurriculars; experience as a department chair and district administrator, and respect from colleagues.
D’Amico’s “knowledge of our high school is incredible,” Landon said. “And his background and record are exciting. He has intelligence, patience, a reflective mind and an incredible vision for the future.”
Board of Education chair Michael Gordon echoed Landon’s praise.
D’Amico is “brilliant academically, but also very human. He has a big heart, is a great listener, and is balanced and thoughtful,” Gordon said. “He’s a strategic thinker, but also willing to make hard decisions. Staples will be lucky to have him, now and for the long term.”
Accepting the position, D’Amico called Staples “our crown jewel. We will do extraordinary things. This is great honor — and responsibility.”
He pledged that the high school will be “a role model for what public education can be.”
D’Amico certainly knows the school he’ll be leading. As a faculty member, he earned high ratings — 4.35 out of a total of 5 — on a sometimes-snarky teacher rating website. Among the comments:
- Cool teacher. Cool guy.
- Really cool teacher, lets you be yourself in class and does not attempt to steer the class dynamic….He thinks of really fun activities for the class. He is a good grader and he will always listen to you for your opinions or thoughts.
- awesome. hes funny, clear, fair grader.
- Mr. D is AWESOME. hes really funny and a good teacher
- Mr. D is pretty cool and does fun activities with class
- HE IS SO AWESOME…really good at explaining things…just sometimes the test questions are tricky
- He’s really funny and an excellent teacher. Follow directions and you’ll do really well in his class.
- Mr. D is awesome. Ask him to sing you his song, it rules. AP US is unreal…everyone should take it…
D’Amico majored in educational leadership and administration at the University of Connecticut. He worked in the office of orientation services, as a resident assistant, and was active in the marching band.
After graduating in 1998, D’Amico earned a master’s degree in secondary education and a 6th year in education administration, both also from UConn.
At Staples he was advisor to the Junior Statesman Association. He is also an assistant den leader for his son’s Cub Scout pack.
D’Amico succeeds his former boss, John Dodig, who retired last June after 11 years at Staples’ helm. Mark Karagus has served as interim principal for this school year.
D’Amico assumes his new post on July 1.