Michael Cicchetti's Easton office flows with books, photos of family in Italy and a collection of antique school bells. His bookshelf is stocked to the hilt with titles including "Great Speeches of Our Time" and "Fail Safe Leadership." A simple oak desk reminds himself and visitors of the importance of solid foundations.
But Cicchetti's decision last month to retire as Region 9 superintendent shocked residents, and accusations against his character flew. Some people considered his stint a ploy to increase his pension, an allegation that Cicchetti vehemently denied.
"There's an internal clock that you know when it's time to conclude your career," Cicchetti said as he arranged his festive red and green necktie. An unnamed mentor from Simsbury told him that, and he said it was difficult for him to understand until his own clock alarmed.
"For me, it was just that internal clock that said, 'This is time for me,'" he said. "This is time for my family."
When he took the job in January, he said he had no intention of retiring. "I made a decision that I felt was appropriate for me," Cicchetti said. "And in my leadership ... I've often had people who came in and sat down with me, and said, 'You know what, it's time for me to retire,' and I've respected their decisions. I have not questioned that. Some were there for a shorter period of time, but I was always respectful of that decision."
His extensive two-hour commute from Farmington had little bearing on his decision, either, Cicchetti said. "I didn't know how I was going to do with the travel," he said. "My commute, really, gives me time to think. I've always worked hard at remaining very reflective about my work. Usually, I'm the one who identifies areas for growth or improvement before anyone has to point them out to me."
The Region 9 school board tasked Cicchetti with improving an already successful school division. "That's the challenge I wanted," he said. "How fortunate it was for me to complete my work here."
Three days after his retirement, Cicchetti will celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary, and he and his wife will be traveling to Tuscany next fall. The two were married in Florence.
"Our job is to lift up students," he said. "Our job is to look at students individually, one at a time. ... The most effective leaders are the ones who never lose touch with what brought them into the profession."
What advice do you have for the Region 9 school board as it sets out to look for a new superintendent?
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