Pavia Pumped to Return to SHS

Rebecca Rakowitz and Paulomi Rao

Stamford High School, “The School on the Hill,” has been just that for a long time. It first opened its doors in 1874, and has accumulated a rich and expansive history since then. The latest dash on the “SHS Timeline” is the news that Tony Pavia will return to Stamford High as interim principal.

“It’s going to be fun coming back and being with everyone.”

Pavia, a Stamford native, started his Black Knight journey in 1986 when he became a history teacher and the head of the department. He left in 1992 to become the dean of students, and later the assistant principal, at Darien High School, but four years later Pavia returned to “The School on the Hill” to be a principal for the first time. Pavia served as principal at Stamford High from 1996 until 2002, when he left to become the principal at New Canaan High School. Pavia retired at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, only to come out of retirement to serve as principal of his alma mater, Trinity Catholic High School, from the fall of 2011 until the spring of 2014, when he retired once again. Or so he thought.

tony pavia trinityPhoto courtesy of Trinity Catholic High School

Following the arrest of Principal Donna Valentine in October, retired administrator Rodney Bass was brought to SHS to serve as interim principal. Bass never intended to stay as long as he has, but wanted to help the district out. Stamford Public Schools reached out to Tony Pavia to see if he would take on the role as interim principal, allowing Bass to return to his retirement. Pavia said he was hesitant, and had a lot to think about when making the decision. First, did he want to come out of his second retirement? Second, considering he and his wife live in Florida, what impact would this have on his family? Third, and the hardest thing to work through according to Pavia, was his close ties to Trinity. He commented, “I feel like I have families in both places.”  In the end, Pavia decided that he would come out of his retirement, that his wife would stay in Florida (minus the occasional visit to Pavia and their three sons in the Northeast), and that he would lead Stamford High until a permanent leader is found. As a result, Bass will be leaving on February 12, and Pavia will be starting on February 23.

Pavia looks forward to his return and said, “It’s going to be fun coming back and being with everyone.” Much of the SHS faculty either worked under Pavia when he was principal or had him as a teacher, and so the excitement is palpable.

Pavia is loved by faculty and former students because of his lasting impact on students’ lives. In the 2002 issue of The Round Table that has the story of Pavia’s decision to leave SHS, staff writer   Nancy Ringel, sister of current Round Table advisor Jon Ringel, said Pavia “brought countless smiles to the faces of students, brightened the hallways with his friendly attitude, and influenced the lives of innumerable individuals with his tireless efforts to improve the school.” Even students who he disciplined respected him because he was such an advocate for and supporter of students. Pavia believes that “you have to care about everybody.” He said, “I’ve had students, even ones that I’ve disciplined, that I’ve kept relationships with. And I hope they understand that I did it for their best interest.” Pavia believes that discipline “is not for the good of administration, but for the good of students.”

“I hope to help find the next great leader.”

While Pavia was always a passionate supporter of the arts, and while he has fond memories of campus cleanup projects (of which he said we will have in again in the spring), his favorite part of Stamford High is its “rich history.” He has always been very interested in local history, and said that as a history teacher you always felt an “added dimension” or a “force on your shoulder” when walking through the halls of SHS. He even likened the school to the Smithsonian! He loves the “Wall of Fame” on the first floor that is covered with old photos of SHS classes and sports teams, and noted that it gave students a connection to former students from this “diverse and rich institution.”

Pavia will act as principal until a permanent one is found, and his goal is to, if possible, “help find [SHS] its next great leader.” According to him, Stamford High deserves as much. He feels strongly that the school “needs a good long-term principal that understands the community” of which he hopes to be a positive force in. Pavia feels confident that “students, faculty, and the community will work together to make SHS the very best school.”