As an experienced educator with most of his background in music, Dr. Peter Rufa said one of the biggest things that attracted him to the position of Glen Head Elementary School’s new principal was the community’s emphasis on the arts.
“Part of what I think music and the arts really does for people is it can kind of establish a sense of discipline where you’re able to manage your own self,” he said. “When I look at having to complete a dissertation or prepare for a variety of different presentations that I’ve had to do, those same skills that I developed in music are really those same skills that transcend to completing those other tasks.”
Born on Sept. 20, 1977, Rufa’s passion for music and education started when he was a child growing up in Massena, a small upstate New York town just minutes away from the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian border. His parents, Paul and Joan, were teachers, and the teachers he had in elementary school helped him overcome the struggles, which came along with his dyslexia.
After graduating high school, he studied music at SUNY Potsdam, the first of his many educational endeavors. Rufa owns a pair of master’s degrees, the first of which is in musical performance from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. He went back to graduate school soon after, earning a master’s in school administration from Touro University. Finally, he received his doctorate in educational leadership from Hofstra University.
“I really wanted to be an elementary principal,” Rufa said, “because I really felt that it was because of those teachers that I had in elementary school that taught me a lot about perseverance, persistence [and] learning how to manage when things weren’t coming easy. I think that those life skills were what helped me complete all of the formal education that I completed.”
Rufa’s entire teaching career has taken place on Long Island. He began as an elementary music teacher in Hempstead and then became a chairperson for music in Division Avenue High School in Levittown. Most recently, he spent seven years in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District, first as the supervisor of fine and performing arts and then becoming an assistant principal at Oyster Bay High School for the past school year.
OB-EN Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Seinfeld said Rufa is a perennial problem-solver who is always willing to help children and colleagues with compassion and a strong sense of leadership. She said he is very approachable and always keeps his door open.
“Dr. Rufa is a child-centered, intelligent, compassionate individual who established excellent relationships with all constituent groups,” said Seinfeld. “We thank him for all of his contributions to our district and we will miss him.”
Mia Ramirez, a math specialist at Glen Head Elementary, said she is both happy and sad about Rufa arriving at the school. She is excited to work with him, she said, but as a mother with two children in the OB-EN School District, she is sad that he will no longer be working with them.
According to Dr. Peter Giarrizzo, superintendent of schools in the North Shore School District, Rufa was chosen out of almost 100 applicants. After a long series of screenings and interviews in front of administrators, teachers, parents and students, Giarrizzo decided to recommend Rufa to the Board of Education.
Giarrizzo said he was impressed by Rufa’s strong work ethic and modesty, as well as his student-first mindset. He said he believes Rufa will bring a new level of excitement and energy to his students and will engender the trust of those around him quickly.
On what he thinks the community can anticipate from Rufa’s arrival, Giarrizzo said, “I think they can expect an open-minded leader who has strong communication skills and will care deeply about their children and teaching and learning.”
Rufa said that he and other members of the district are working on implementing an exploration and enrichment block into elementary students’ schedules. This is a multifaceted program, he said, which will enable students to work with school counselors and engage in lessons designed around mental health. He also said they are looking into moving lunch schedules around to give students more opportunities to play outside.
“I’m just so excited to be a member of this learning community,” said Rufa, “because of the philosophy that they have and the beliefs they hold on how to best educate kids. It just resonates with me personally and I’m extremely proud to be the new principal of this school and to be here to support my students, our faculty and staff and work with our families to ensure that we give the best education we can to our kids, because that’s what it’s all about.”