A Tireless Champion Calls it a Day
By Annette McLoughlin
For the last 20 years at Rye High School, there has been no contest regarding who has been the hardest working person on campus: Patty Taylor, Principal since 2011 and Assistant Principal of Guidance and Student Support before that.
Her steadfast work ethic, perpetual zeal, love of the students, unparalleled industry, and boundless energy are legendary and will be greatly missed; Patty Taylor is retiring at the end of the month.
“Pat is one of the first people to campus in the morning and one of the last to leave,” said Assistant Principal Robert Zegarelli. “She absolutely loves what she does.” Fellow Assistant Principal Suzanne Short concurred. “Patty is one of the most dedicated workers I have ever seen, and she gives all of herself to the job. She works an endless number of hours.”
When Social Studies teacher Kristen Warne helped out on a Midnight Run with Taylor a few years back, she said, “Even though we didn’t get back up to Rye until after 4 in the morning, Patty’s energy and enthusiasm never waned. Without her presence, the entire mission would have been very different.”
And as former School Board President Laura Slack wrote in a recent letter to this paper, “Many times Patty’s call [to a university or college] was the difference in a Rye student ‘getting the spot’. It is therefore no surprise that under her leadership, our students have been accepted into the finest colleges and universities in the country.”
A New Yorker through and through, Patty grew up in the Rochester area, earning degrees from SUNY Cortland, College of New Rochelle, and Long Island University. She began her career in college admissions at Ohio University before going into high school guidance, first in Rye, then Bronxville, and back to Rye when she was hired as Assistant Principal for Guidance and Student Support Services.
While working in guidance, she served for one year as President of New York’s Association for College Admission Counseling and co-chaired a national committee establishing guidelines for Early Action and Early Decision with the National Association for College Admission Counseling. She was awarded the Bernard Ireland Award by the College Board for connecting young people with college and career success. It’s perhaps not surprising that, in 2003, The New York Times wrote an article about her, aptly titled, “Not Superwoman, Just Guidance Counselor”.
Her exceptional work as head of guidance did not go unnoticed and, after a nationwide search, she was appointed Principal of Rye High School in 2011.
It’s hardly a sidebar, and certainly worth noting, that Patty Taylor’s accomplishments at this point were achieved while also raising two sons, one of whom followed in his mother’s steps and is now a professor at the University of Tampa.
Those who have worked with Taylor know that her guiding principle is: “Is this best for students?” Thousands of students have passed through the halls of Rye High under her leadership, and enrollment has swelled nearly 25 percent during her time, from about 850 to over 1,000. According to Zegarelli, “Throughout our time together and in many meetings, Pat has analyzed an initiative, idea, or solution to a challenge with the lens of how it will impact students and whether it is in their best interest. If it is not in their best interest, then another solution needs to be presented.”
It was with an unbending focus that Taylor led the school through big changes, notably the construction of the Science Wing. Assistant Principal Short said, “Patty’s greatest strength is her ability to look at a situation and remember every detail. During the first few weeks of the construction, when we walked around the site with her, she knew exactly what progress had been made and where all of the workers were.”
Mrs. Taylor has also demonstrated a deep commitment to the best interests of her teaching staff. English teacher George Krajca explained that, during the Common Core initiative, “Many people may not realize the work she did to ‘thread the needle’ between meeting New York State’s Common Core requirements, and defending teacher’s academic freedom to use the best teaching practices that were already in place at Rye High.”
When the community faced extraordinarily difficult events and challenges — Hurricane Sandy and the Sandy Hook shooting — Taylor was a strong leader “who oversaw the security changes that the High School needed to make in their aftermath,” noted Slack.
If you ask her, however, Taylor is likely to say that one of the biggest challenges was the recent conversion of the daily class schedule to one that is rotating and designed to maximize productivity, foster community, and improve the quality of life at the school for both students and staff. She was deeply passionate about its potential to improve everyone’s time at Rye High School.
Many of her achievements, of course, were academic in nature. She managed the introduction of several courses, including Engineering, Mandarin, and AP Computer Science principles, and she oversaw curriculum introductions in Math and Writing. And this fall, The Academy, an alternative program within the school, is being introduced.
Under Patty Taylor, education was not limited to the classroom. She hosted engaging and spirited speakers to address relevant topics for the student body and the parent community: overall well–being and the dangers of addiction and risky behavior, including drug and alcohol awareness, drunk driving, texting while driving, vaping.
Her passion for her students was never more on display than when she was in the audience of a concert or on the sideline of a games or meet, shouting and cheering and chatting with parents.
Superintendent Eric Byrne praised her dedication. “Pat has spent countless hours supporting our students and programs by attending just about every performance, athletic contest, and student–initiated event. She has guided parents and students through the many challenges of adolescence providing expert guidance and assistance. We will certainly miss Pat, her commitment to the community and her leadership.”
When asked what she will miss most when she walks out the door of 1 Parsons Street for the last time, her answer is predictable: “The Students! I have loved being a part of so many student’s lives. In Guidance, it was exciting to observe a student’s growth over four years and to see the opportunities they found after high school. As Principal, it was in creating new programs, motivating the students, and supporting their interests in the arts, theater, engineering, athletics. I really enjoyed attending their activities and athletic competitions. I enjoyed working with the parent community; the many parent coffees and meetings helped create a supportive community for the school. I value my colleagues and will miss them terribly. I love their commitment to students and how they challenge them to be the best they can be.”
It is with a feeling of bittersweet gratitude that the Rye High School community bids Patty Taylor farewell. We will miss her passion, warmth, honesty, and integrity and hope that she hits the ball long and straight. Golf is about to get schooled.