New principal has Watertown roots

Search committee chooses Joel Giacobozzi of Boston Latin from three finalists


Raider Times photo / Raider Times staff photo

New Watertown High School principal Joel Giacobozzi (right) poses with Raider Times reporters in the lecture hall on Jan. 30, 2020, during his daylong interview sessions when he was still one of three finalists

During the last week of January, the scene replayed itself three times. In the Watertown High lecture hall, a ready committee of students sat around a table eating lunch, while a candidate to become the school’s next principal conversed with nervous excitement to WHS staff members.

As current principal Shirley. Lundberg is retiring in June, WHS was looking for a new principal. The final decision wasn’t going to be made until everyone had met the candidates.

The three finalists were Jennifer Hamilton from Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Joel Giacobozzi from Boston Latin, and Matthew Poska from Beverly Middle School. They each came to WHS and spent a day meeting with interested groups, starting with the students over lunch. From there, they went on a tour, then met the PTO and Site Council, as well as coordinators, staff, faculty, and parents.

Two weeks later came the decision. Superintendent Deanne Galdston announced in a letter to the community that Joel Giacobozzi will be the next principal of Watertown High. He will start July 1.

“After an extensive search process .. it became clear to me that Mr. Giacobozzi will be a great principal for WHS and a valuable addition to our WPS leadership team,” the superintendent wrote.

The superintendent’s note explained how Giacobozzi’s mother and five aunts and uncles attended Watertown High School, and how he was an assistant principal at Gates Middle School in Scituate before becoming assistant headmaster at Boston Latin, where he is the program director for special education and facilities.

“Throughout the selection process, Mr. Giacobozzi demonstrated his commitment to Watertown, his passion for education and leadership, his ability to relate to all stakeholders, his vision for equity and excellence, and an overall excitement about being the WHS principal,” the note read.

In the lecture hall while talking to students, all three candidates showed their excitement for the potential job and their passion for education. As part of the process, the candidates were asked the same questions by Raider Times reporters.

Jennifer Hamilton was the first candidate to visit on Wednesday, Jan. 29. She was well-dressed and forthcoming. She had a smile on her face the whole time she was being interviewed. She said that in her current job as Dean of Curriculum and Program in English Language Arts and it is much like a principal position already, so she felt qualified.

Raider Times photo
Jennifer Hamilton (top center) was one of three finalists to become the next principal of Watertown High.

The first question was what the first thing she would do for students. Hamilton said she would like to “hang out” with the students, find out what is important to them, get to know them better, and get a feel for the community. she said she wanted to take the time to connect with the students, teachers, and staff.

Asked what is the first thing she would do for teachers, she said she would talk to the teachers and find out what they would like from her as a new principal. She said she has an “open-door policy” and that the first weeks she would be “in classrooms a lot” getting to know the teaching styles, getting a feel for the school.

She was asked what she knew about Watertown. She said she likes the tight-knit community and commented on the “kick-ass” field hockey team. She knew how important the team is for Watertown and what it means for us as a school and community. She also knew about the plans for the new high school and elementary schools.

She said she loves working with kids, and it’s the best part of her day.

“This is why I do this!” she said.

Overall, she seemed to have done her research and actually really likes Watertown’s school system.

The next day, Thursday, Jan. 30, was Giacobozzi’s turn to meet everyone. He was well dressed, wearing a suit. He looked neat and put together. He also seemed very sure of his choice to apply for the job, and what he wanted. He also knew about Watertown from his family. He said he wished he was raised in Watertown and that he recently called his mother to complain to her about the fact that he wasn’t.

When asked what is the first thing he would do for students, he said he would “find out what needs to be tweaked, what you like.”

Giacobozzi said he would first get to know the students. He wants to have “real authentic time” with us, trying to get to know who his potential future student population is and what it is like, since, according to him, the students are “the most important part of the building.” One way of doing this he says is meeting with students in the lunchroom.

He grew up in Needham and went to Needham High. He earned a bachelor’s in economics from UMass Amherst and a master’s in education from Harvard.

He was not afraid to joke around a little bit during the interview. When a water bottle fell, he said “we’re just throwing things around here.” He asked if the reporters would get to eat, then said, “You can have mine if you want.”

He said he loves being around kids and said the Watertown job was the only one he was applying for.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said of the Watertown job.

On Friday, Jan. 31, was Matthew Poska’s turn in the lecture hall. Not surprisingly, he also was well dressed and was excited about the job.

For students, he said, it’s important to meet as many different student groups — student government, captains of sports teams etc. — and see what changes they would like to see. It would be similar for the teachers and staff. He said it is important to meet all stakeholders and learn what they’re looking for.

Poska said he came from a family of educators. “It’s kind of a calling,” he said, adding, “Working with high school kids is exciting” Although he has been a middle school principal for 14 years,”I always thought I’d be at a high school. That’s where I always pictured myself. . … Being a high school principal is what I always wanted to do.”

The WHS search committee spent the next week discussing the candidates and going on site visits, before offering the job to Joel Giacobozzi. He will start July 1.

–March 3, 2020–