Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School Superintendent William DeRosa will retire at the end of the school year after 34 years in education.
DeRosa, superintendent for eight years, informed the Whittier School Committee during an executive session this week. Committee members are expected to accept his resignation publicly at their next meeting. He oversees a staff of 150, more than 1,300 students and a budget of $21.7 million shared by 11 cities and town.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Whittier School District,” he said. “I would like to thank all of you for your hard work and dedication. You are an incredible group of people that I am so proud to have served with.”
DeRosa’s career at Whittier, 115 Amesbury Line Road, Haverhill, began in 1991 when he was hired as coordinator of student services. He was promoted to assistant superintendent in 1995 and succeeded Karen Sarkisian as superintendent in 2008. He came to Whittier from Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School, where he was director of special needs from 1988 to 1991. He was a special needs teacher at Northeast from 1985 to 1988, a resource room teacher at Chelsea High School from 1984 to 85, and a special needs teacher for Shore Collaborative’s SHEP at Danvers State Hospital from 1982 to 1984. His first job in education was as a special education teacher at Lakeside School in Peabody from 1981 to 1982.
In retirement, he expects to teach future school administrators at the college level. “I enjoy having the chance to influence future leaders and the direction they take in their lives,” he said.
He is a member of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Massachusetts Vocational Association, Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, Merrimack Special Education Collaborative Board, Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, Haverhill Rotary Club, Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and a corporator on Haverhill-based Pentucket Bank’s board of directors.
The biggest change, DeRosa said, he has seen after 24 years in vocational education is the public’s perception of vo-tech schools. “Most people understand now that our schools are much more technical and have more rigorous demands than they did 20 years ago. We really are preparing students for the jobs that are out there.”
Carpentry Teacher Earl Corr, who was hired in 1994, said, “Bill and his team of teachers and administrators have done a very good job of getting our students ready for the next steps in their lives, whether it be work, college or the military. He has set the banner high for student achievement and I think everyone involved with Whittier would agree with that.”
“He’s always been easygoing and pleasant to deal with, “ said Joe Darrigo, a maintenance employee who has worked with DeRosa for 23 years. “If we needed anything to do our job he was always there to get it for us. This year it was a new snow blower. After these huge storms when we had massive clean ups, he would always thank us and even offer us breakfast.”
Physical Education Instructor Roxanne Grover, who has known DeRosa since he began working at Whittier in 1991, said she has always appreciated his commitment to her program.
“He’s been very, very supportive to all the health and physical education initiatives to keep staff and students on a path to lifetime fitness,” she said. “I’ll miss him as a superintendent and as person. He’s friendly and always interesting to talk to. I wish him the best on his retirement. He certainly deserves to open a new and exciting chapter in his life. “
DeRosa listed among his accomplishments at Whittier:
- Building improvements: Replacing the school roof, updating the wastewater treatment plant, renovating the school gym, cafeteria and lobby, redesigning the school’s front entrance and parking lot.
- Reaching a positive placement rate of 96 percent which shows the number of students who enter their vocational field or college after graduation
- Sending 70 percent of graduates to college
- Maintaining a low drop-out rate of .02 percent
- Placing more than 100 students each year in co-op jobs
- Student completion of hundreds of community service projects in the Whittier District
- Adding vocational-technical programs: Design and Visual Communications and Hospitality Management
- Achieving Level One status as a school due to consistently high MCAS test scores