James D’Amico Resigns As Staples Principal

New Fairfield High School has a new principal: Staples’ James D’Amico.

The announcement was made last night by New Fairfield superintendent of schools Patricia Cosentino. New Fairfield is a town of about 14,000, in northern Fairfield County.

“He’s done a great job in Westport for 18 years,” she said. “He has a strong background in curriculum design. He’s student-centered, and has developed wonderful relationships with students, staff and the community. He has a vision to make New Fairfield High School the best it can be.”

Taking the podium, D’Amico thanked his colleagues in Westport — especially his Staples administrative team. Together, he said, “We try to move mountains to help kids. I’ll miss them tremendously.”

In 2016, new principal James D’Amico stood in the foyer of Staples High School.

A 1994 New Fairfield High graduate, D’Amico has spent his entire professional career in Westport. In 2001, after earning a master’s in education, he was hired as a Staples social studies teacher. He was named department chair in 2005, townwide director of secondary education in 2014, and principal in 2016.

Following John Dodig, and a one-year interim, D’Amico made his own mark by addressing issues like scheduling, graduation requirements and exam stresses. He championed Pathways Academy, an alternative school-within-a-school that opened in September.

This morning, D’Amico told the faculty of his decision to leave. A staff member who attended the meeting said he called it “a unique opportunity to do a job I’ve come to love.”

He said he loved working with the staff, loved the high school, and had not anticipated leaving. But the opportunity was too good to pass up.

He vowed to be “completely dedicated to the school” until June 30, the end of his 3rd year at the helm of the 1,885-student school. This year Staples was ranked the #1 public high school in Connecticut. New Fairfield, with 904 students, was #91.

Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer said, “We extend our best wishes to Mr. D’Amico as he moves on to his new role this summer, and thank him for his years of dedicated service to our district.”

The search for a new Staples High School principal begins soon.

Last fall, Staples High School principal James D’Amico had a star turn in Players’ production of “Legally Blonde.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

18 responses to “James D’Amico Resigns As Staples Principal

  1. Is this an early April Fool’s joke? I think Mr. D’Amico has done a wonderful job as principal (and with his earlier roles in the school #goJSA). I wish him well.

  2. Terry Brannigan

    Via con Dios friend. That’s a loss for us.

  3. Wow. Definitely a loss for Staples but what a gain for New Fairfield. Best of luck Mr. D’Amico!

  4. We wish him all the best in his new position. The changes going on right now in Westport seem to be all happening at once and it’s a bit unsettling. I hope we can keep it together… and not fall apart.

  5. Brandon Malin (SHS '21)

    What a huge loss for the Staples community, and Westport as a whole. Mr. D’Amico is an incredible principal, and will be missed immensely. It was amazing to have him join in Legally Blonde last year. New Fairfield is very lucky to have him.

  6. Phillip Perri

    Quality person, quality educator and leader. Along with Dr. Palmer, Chief Koskinos and others, championed the much needed School Resource Officer program installation in Westport amid much opposition on many fronts, including members of the Board of Ed. Best of luck!

    • Robert Harrington

      What’s an amazing Principal Staples High School has been lucky to have. 18 years in WEatport Public Schools and a real loss for our district.

      I was sad to see that our School District was slow in getting the announcement out and the announcement was far to dry for someone that has dedicated 18 years to our districts. So many accomplishments and none of them mentioned.

      This is what was said about him by the head of our school district, “We extend our best wishes to Mr. D’Amico as he moves on to his new role this summer, and thank him for his years of dedicated service to our District”.

      That’s it’s? After 18 years. I find that disgraceful.

      Thank you Principal D’Amixo for your 18 years of service, loyalty and leadership. So many achievements and have impacted so many of our children’s lives. Staples will greatly miss you. Thank you.

  7. Stacie Curran

    Devastated. The students will feel your loss.

  8. I am shocked by this. As an elected official, resident of this community, graduate of our school system, it’s time for some answers to some simple questions.
    1. Why would a 42 year old Principal who has been with us for 18 years leave the number 1 school district in the state for number 91?
    2. Why would a father of four set to make $207,157 in 2019-2020 take a substantial pay cut to $181,219?
    3. Besides losing our talented young Principal James D’amico, why have we lost other talented administrators ?
    Andrew Hill- Big salary cut to go to Brookfield
    Mike Rizzo- Special Education Administrator to Weston
    Julie Droller- Education Administrator to Darien
    Jen Allen – Administrator left also.
    I’ve lived in this community for over 50 years. My parents were both graduates of Staples. No one in our family over the years can recall these kinds of resignations in our school district. This has always been a community where educators like to “LAND” not “DEPART.”
    I know many of you are concerned about CMS and BMS and all that has challenged us over the last 10 months. Remember, they are just facilities- we will get that done.
    The real “Westport Education Brand” is our teachers and administrators who everyday work their butts off to keep us number 1.
    Leaving 1 for 91?
    $207K -180K with 4 kids?
    None of this makes sense. It’s time for some answers.

    • David J. Loffredo

      Median home value in Westport = $1,216,119. 207,157 / 1,216,119 = 17%
      Median home value in New Fairfield = $387,284. 181,219 / 387,284 = 47%

      So apples to apples its an almost 3X cost of living improvement, not to mention it’s his alma mater. And maybe instead of worrying so much about school regionalization and kids from other towns coming to Staples, we should be happy one of our finest is going to try to take #91 to somewhere way better than that.

      • David, Mr. D’Amico already lives in Bethel (NOT Westport), where the Median home value is $314,900, less than New Fairfield. NOT the reason he’s leaving. Refer to Mr. Izzo and Ms. Cion’s posts. Connect the dots.

        • William Strittmatter

          Maybe being able to avoid the commute from Bethel and being able to spend time with his kids? Still somewhat housing cost/cost of living related though lifestyle a big part. A lot of folks make that choice which (along with taxes) is why one used to be able to pay less to recruit someone in Stamford versus what they made living in or commuting to NYC.

          Or maybe he’s just tired of having to deal with Westport parents.

          Even an exit interview may not explain why he is really leaving.

        • William Strittmatter

          On the latter point about not knowing true reason from an exit interview, as a generic matter, you often get nothing substantive from an exit interview. No thinking person wants to burn bridges. Who knows, he may want to come back or apply for the job of school superintendent someday.

    • It is good for districts to ask questions such as these to see, if valued administrators and teachers are leaving, why this is the case and try to address root causes. The reasons educators leave specific positions or the profession entirely (leaving a district is at times just a stepping stone onto a seemingly greener lawn before leaving the profession) are complex and diverse. Having traveled the country to conduct research into teacher’s challenges, I can tell you that educators feel under more pressure more than ever, and there are some common themes that lead to dissatisfaction beyond compensation: a lack of autonomy/failure to be treated as professionals and unreasonable expectations/a lack of support from those they report to are key ones.

  9. Has the Board of Education done an exit interview with any of the administrators who have left the district recently? That is the way to get the kind of answers that Mr. Izzo and the rest of the community deserve.

  10. Agree with Marge and Jimmy. This departure, and the others as well, hurt both the reputation and the stability of WPS at a time when our students are in more need than ever. Is the BOE planning to explore, via exit interviews, the reasons for these departures and how we can make any necessary changes in the future? It would be deserving of the community to get more transparency behind this situation.

  11. Marjorie Almansi

    Losing Mr. D’Amico is a huge loss for our district. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and ask what we are doing wrong that we would lose him. I am sure the answer has multiple layers. There is no doubt that it will be a tremendous upgrade in terms of his quality of life to be in a different district. I am sad for our kids and worried about all the talent that we have lost in the past few years.

  12. Amanda Parrish Morgan

    I think it’s also important to look more closely at why so many long-time, highly-qualified and well-respected teachers are leaving the district. It would be worth observing how many applicants Westport gets for given teaching (or administrative) openings compared to what was the norm a few years ago and the norm in other similar districts.

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