Submitted by: Rob Kinc
Rahway High School Principal John T. Farinella arrives at school each day with one thought foremost in his mind. “Today will be better than it was yesterday.” To that end, he continues to strive to create “a professional and thriving environment which enables faculty and students to realize their full potential.” From leading the district’s high school to become a “Rutgers Future Scholars High School” to his creation of an innovative high school freshman transition program, Mr. Farinella has focused his energies on providing optimum opportunities for students and staff alike to achieve their personal best. For this dedication, he has been awarded the title of “Visionary Principal of the Year (Secondary Level)” by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association. This award has also entitled him to represent the state of New Jersey as candidate for the “Principal of the Year Award” sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
While devoted to honoring the respect and dignity of all who contribute to the education of Rahway’s youth, Mr. Farinella has successfully transformed the culture and academic programs of RHS to the point where it now offers 18 Advanced Placement Courses and maintains a high school student induction and transition program that is among the most comprehensive of any type offered in American high schools. These accomplishments have enabled the Rahway Public Schools to partner with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, to offer fifteen RHS students per year for the next five years the opportunity to attend Rutgers University tuition free. Selected students must satisfactorily gain admission to the University after participating in the Rutgers Future Scholars Program which begins in grade 8, runs through the high school years at RHS and culminates in a four-year degree from Rutgers University. Rahway Academy 8th grader Andres Barco was especially pleased to be selected for the program, offering that it is “a dream that has given me hope for my future.” He is quick to promise, “I shall not disappoint!”
Although the Leadership Award carries his name, Principal Farinella is adamant that “it belongs to the school.” He believes that it is a “reflection of what all the people here do to ensure the futures of our students.” With the implementation of a school-wide freshman transition program six years ago, Rahway High School sustains a college-going culture for the “Millenial” generation. “Freshman Seminar/Financial Literacy,” a full-year transition course, is directed by lead teacher Maria Hennessy and guides freshmen in the development of college, career, and life planning. Students set both short and long term goals for themselves while developing their “10 year plan” and discover much more about themselves on their journey. Among the many positive aspects of the program, Ms. Hennessy cites “decreased overall failure rates, decreased disciplinary issues-lessening suspension and detention rates, increased overall attendance rates, along with increased post secondary awareness and enrollment opportunities in college, trade schools, military, and the work force.” High School 9th grader Tanasia Godwin credits teacher Anna Winters with teaching her “how to save money wisely so it can be beneficial to me in the future.” She adds, “What I’ve learned in class has made me have very positive conversations at home as well. It’s great to me and my family that I can tell them things they didn’t learn growing up about such things as money.”
Rahway Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia Camp explains that “in K-12 school districts the flagship school is often the high school.” She believes that, “Mr. Farinella has led the high school staff in focusing on every student leaving RHS being prepared and college-ready.” She acknowledges that his receiving the award is “a result of his strong leadership and a testament to the educational foundation our K-8 programs provide to our students so that they can achieve at RHS.” Dr. Camp also echoes Mr. Farinella’s sentiment by stating that this award is also a tribute to “the dedication of the RHS staff in supporting all students in their chosen path to adulthood.”
As Secondary Principal of the Year, Mr. Farinella will be receiving an award of $7,000 for his school as well as a personal award of $1,000 which he intends to pass along to the high school, citing that “students and faculty have needs that our budget constraints have been unable to support.” He firmly believes that RHS should benefit from these awards for all it has done to shape the futures of its students. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Christine Salcito recognizes Principal Farinella as “an advocate for nurturing and sustaining a school culture that helps develop the intellectual, creative, and social potential for all students.” She affirms that, “John shares his leadership and decision making with the staff, empowering them to grow as individuals and as leaders.”