School & District Management

Torch Passes at Elementary Principals’ Group

By Bess Keller — June 23, 1999 2 min read
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Samuel G. Sava and Vincent L. Ferrandino have some important things in common.

The outgoing executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, Mr. Sava, and the incoming chief, Mr. Ferrandino, speak English as a second language. Greek was Mr. Sava’s first and Italian, Mr. Ferrandino’s.

Both have worked as teachers and principals. And both held executive positions with multimillion-dollar enterprises before coming to the NAESP. Even more striking, the transition from one leader to the other means little is likely to change in the course of the 28,000-member organization.

Samuel G. Sava

“There wasn’t a sense that the association was headed in the wrong direction; things are moving along quite well,” said Mr. Ferrandino, 49, who will take over July 1. “My job is to continue to move the organization forward, take it to the next level.”

By all accounts, the popular Mr. Sava, who is retiring, leaves a legacy that will be hard to match. Executive director since 1981, he is credited with raising the profile of principals in policy circles while keeping the organization’s focus on children. He pulled the group out of the debt that threatened it when he arrived, saw its membership more than double, and oversaw the financing and construction of a new headquarters in Alexandria, Va. He added professional-development programs and publications for the group’s members, who head elementary and middle schools.

Valuable Experience

Still, Mr. Sava’s mind seems always to return to the interests of children. “I’m most proud,” he said last week, “that the association has made itself the representative of the young children of this nation, especially those from economically deprived backgrounds.”

Mr. Sava, 67, came to the job from the Flint, Mich.-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, where he was a senior vice president. He had formerly served as the director of elementary, secondary, and higher education research for the U.S. Department of Education and as an elementary principal in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Samuel G. Sava

Mr. Ferrandino also comes to the association with diverse management experience--a crucial point in his selection last fall, according to Lynn Babcock, the NAESP’s president-elect. “He has vast experience that we can appreciate and respect,” said Ms. Babcock, the principal of Grant Elementary School in Livonia, Mich.

Since 1994, Mr. Ferrandino has been the executive director of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits some 1,700 public and private schools, colleges, and universities. He served as Connecticut’s commissioner of education from 1992 to 1994 and before that as the superintendent of the Weston, Conn., schools. He began his career as a high school teacher and principal.

Mr. Ferrandino said the NAESP job attracted him because it offered him access to the real action in education. “Because when all is said and done,” he said, “if it’s going to happen, it will happen at the individual schoolhouse.”

Focus on Children

Mr. Ferrandino and Mr. Sava agreed that many of the toughest challenges the new director will face stem from the expanding demands on elementary and middle schools.

“Look at the demands made by the public around standards and assessments,” Mr. Ferrandino said. “The principal needs to be an instructional leader in school, meet the needs of a more diverse and needy student population, address community needs, lead fund-raising efforts, even take responsibility for security.”

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A version of this article appeared in the June 23, 1999 edition of Education Week as Torch Passes at Elementary Principals’ Group

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