Best in the city. Best in the county. Best in the state. The Nevada Parent Teacher Association has named Richard H. Bryan Elementary School prinicipal Steve Piccininni as the top school principal in Nevada.
Piccininni received the Lynel Cunningham Site Administrator of the Year Award April 26. For the past seven years, he has been at the helm of Bryan Elementary, 8050 Cielo Vista Ave. The school’s mascot is the bulldog.
“Running a school is like running a kingdom. You’ve got between 500 and 800 kids; you’ve got 30 or 40 people working for you,” said Christi Rogers, who has been teaching second grade at Bryan since it opened in 1995. “A lot of people would go on a power trip … but he’s wonderful. He’s fair and supportive to teachers and empathetic to parents. He understands that we all have families and that families come first.”
School office manager Kathy Hamman sees firsthand how he deals with the everyday challenges of running a school.
“He always has his wits about it, and that’s not always easy to do,” she said. “I always tell him, ‘I want some of what you’re taking.’ He’s always about the kids, whatever crosses his desk, he considers the kids and his staff before making any decisions.”
It was comments like those that led PTA president Tammy Smith to nominate him.
“He is a man of integrity, a man of determination, and a man who does not back down easily when action needs to be taken for the better of our school and our students,” she wrote in her nomination letter. “… I have a memory of him still wearing his tie from the work day and pushing a broom to clean up trash after a messy but very fun Harvest festival. He is a participating principal with a ‘good sport’ attitude. He wears a chicken suit when needed, takes a pie in the face to motivate, and has allowed water balloons to be thrown at him … all in the name of supporting the PTA and our goals of supporting the whole school.”
Natalie Perdomo, a fourth-grade reading teacher at Bryan, helped Smith write the letter, which also relied on input from Shelly Burns, the school’s learning strategist.
As for Piccininni, he is focused on the needs of the Clark County School District. What did he see as the most pressing issue?
“The challenges have been budget cuts, primarily,” he said. “And we’re seeing at our school some growth within the last year, at least 60 students, which is a lot for us. It’s overcrowding us. Our first-grade class is 28, 29 kids. It should be 19 kids.”
How does Bryan Elementary deal with that?
“With great teachers,” Piccininni said, adding that he relies on his staff a lot. “They’re a wonderful staff. It’s really a team effort. Next year, things look a little bit better as far as our staffing goes. I think we’ll be able to, because of our enrollment, add a couple more teachers. My wish list? Lower numbers, for one. Of course, when you wish for more staff, you have to find a place to place them. Right now, we don’t have room for portables or things like that.”
Piccininni earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1993. He was a technology teacher and computer specialist for eight years at four different schools.
He became a project facilitator for science, math and technology at the district’s Curriculum& Professional Development Division before being appointed assistant principal at Kahre Elementary School, 7887 W. Gowan Road. In 2007, he took the helm at Bryan.
There, he’s known for greeting families by name as he takes on the role of crossing guard each day. He’s worked to find ways to save jobs at the school.
Piccininni makes a point of being at PTA-sponsored events as well as parent meetings.
“His goal has always been the same as our goal, for all of us to be team players in bettering the school for the lives of our bulldog families,” Smith said.
Under Piccininni’s guidance for modeling new programs, the school was named a five-star school. He encourages staff members to write for grants and supports ambitious goals, recently including the push to raise money for new technology.
Piccininni said being on a flex budget enabled his school to get a little inventive with how money is spent. He said the PTA has been invaluable in picking up the slack in the past but that the school was still feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
“Many of our parents, a lot of PTA members, who had been stay-at-home parents had to go back to work,” he said.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.