ELKTON — The retirement of longtime Cecil County Public Schools administrator Vincent Cariello has set off a range of changes among the system’s leadership team.
Cariello, currently the associate superintendent of administration services, will retire June 30 after 38 years in the county school system. Carolyn Teigland, currently the associate superintendent for education services, will slide over to replace Cariello while Jeff Lawson, executive director of high school education, will move up to take Teigland’s position. Replacing Lawson is Anne Gellrich, currently the principal at Rising Sun High School.
Despite all the changes, Superintendent D’Ette Devine said she’s confident in her team going forward, noting that CCPS makes it a priority to have people ready to step up to leadership positions as needed.
“Part of what the board charges me to do as superintendent is to plan for succession, and that is a major charge of every person in the organization,” she said. “None of us are irreplaceable.”
Cariello’s absence will certainly be felt by many in the school system. During his nearly four decades in Cecil County, Cariello has worked his way up from high school teacher to become one of the two direct reports to the superintendent.
That wide variety of jobs has required an even wider range of skills. Some of those skills, like the ability to negotiate with employee unions or create a complex budget, are generally expected of a school administrator. Others, like his knowledge of foreign languages, are less expected, but have been no less useful.
In 1994, Cariello and Devine were brought in to become the new assistant principals at Perryville High School, which at the time was experiencing a huge increase in students, many of them Hispanic. Devine’s background as a French and Spanish teacher and Cariello’s knowledge of Italian meant they could communicate with each other — and their students — in foreign Romance languages.
“We heard (some students) plotting a truancy they were going to commit and Vince never missed a beat and he said ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’ in Spanish and they were like ‘Oh man, new veep speaks Spanish,” Devine recalled with a laugh. “We had some fun times.”
Those fun times have been tempered by more serious issues too and along the way Cariello has earned a deep respect from people both inside and outside the school system, Devine said.
“He has a powerful capacity to reinvent himself,” she said. “He’s very smart and he’s very analytical, so he can cut through a situation very effectively.”
Cariello’s CCPS career started in 1978 at what was then called Bohemia Manor Junior and Senior High School, where he taught a variety of subjects and also served as football coach, one of the roles he most enjoyed, Cariello said.
After 16 years at Bo Manor, he became an assistant principal at Perryville High School in 1994 and was promoted to principal three years later. After seven years at Perryville High, he went on to Elkton High School for three years before joining the leadership team as executive director for high school education.
He’s now spent the last six years as associate superintendent for administration services.
Cariello said one of his proudest accomplishments is the positive relationship he has with all the CCPS employee groups he meets with to negotiate contracts.
The system’s ongoing Safe Schools initiative is another one of Cariello’s passions. He has grown the initiative in many ways, such as increasing tabletop drills, establishing a communications center for emergencies and strengthening the system’s relationship with local law enforcement agencies through regular meetings.
Kelly Keeton, CCPS administration assistant, has worked closely with Cariello on the Safe Schools initiative for the past six years, but the two have known each other even longer. Keeton was a student at Perryville High when Cariello was principal.
“I met Vince when I was 14 years old and I have been learning from him ever since,” she said. “He’s the kind of mentor that every professional needs in their career, and the type of friend that every person needs in their lifetime.”
Although his retirement is now less than two months away, Cariello said he hasn’t really given it much thought and isn’t keeping track of how many days he has left. He has no grand plans for retirement other than to continue to travel with his wife and spend time with his three grandchildren.
“I’ve had a blast,” he said. “I have enjoyed it and if you enjoy what you do, you don’t go to work. And it’s been like that regardless of what I’ve done in this system.”
After 10 years as associate superintendent for education services, Teigland will transition to the other side of the organization and step into Cariello’s job as associate superintendent for administration services. In this role, she will managing much of what happens outside the classroom, and Teigland said she’s looking forward to working with the system’s different employee organizations.
During her time in education services, Teigland has overseen a lot of changes in the system, including the implementation of new curriculum standards and the switch to an inclusive model for special needs children. She said her new job will be a good way to learn about how the operations side of the school system functions.
Lawson, who has been executive director of high school education for the past seven years, said he’s excited to move up to associate superintendent of education services, a position where he will oversee instructional delivery for the entire district.
Much of his current job has focused on student achievement, and Lawson said he’s particularly proud of his work in increasing the county graduation rate and in the growth in Advanced Placement test-taking across the county. With CCPS currently focusing so much on how to help students excel at the new state-mandated assessments, Lawson said he feels his focus on student achievement will make him a good fit for his new role.
Gellrich, who will be leaving Rising Sun High School after five years as principal, is similarly looking forward to taking on a bigger role as executive director of high school education.
As a CCPS graduate who’s worked for the system for 33 years, Gellrich said she’s loved her time at Rising Sun High and is most proud of seeing the school’s graduation rate rise, especially among special education students. Though she’s excited to take on a more curriculum-based role, Gellrich said she will miss parts of being a principal.
“I’m going to miss seeing kids every day because that’s why you get into this business,” she said. “It’s really been five of the best years of my career here (at Rising Sun High) but I’m looking forward to trying something a little different.”