School is out for the summer, and one longtime educator is saying goodbye to the hallways of a Massachusetts high school for the last time.
Mike Scarpitto is a beloved assistant principal with a personal touch that's made an impression on generations of students and teachers. He began his four-decade career as a teacher in Reading and found himself back in the district as assistant principal of the high school for the last 15 years.
In that time, he's been a mentor and motivator, starting the High Five Club and Excellence Luncheons.
"I've always felt that it's good to recognize people and to generate spirit," said Scarpitto.
He also takes time to make sure freshmen feel like they're right at home.
"Our area code is 01867. And we have a tradition at this school where at athletic events, different functions, kids start singing, '0-1, 0-1-8, 0-1-8-6-7.' So we teach the 8th graders the cheer," he said.
"He's contributed a lot to make the school a place that's welcoming and inviting to students and to the community," said Michael McSweeney, the Reading Memorial High School English Department Head who's taking over as assistant principal next school year.
It's that inviting attitude and personal touch, like sending hand-written thank-you notes, that have made him a favorite among students and staff at the school.
"He's rarely in his office. He's out on the third floor greeting kids, saying hi," said recent graduate Joe Dibacco. "It was always good to drop into his office if I had a problem or if I had a question, any type of thing. We'd sit for 30 to 40 minutes and he would just talk to me."
Now, Scarpitto is retiring. There's one physical reminder of his time in Reading: The victory bell, rung to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the school community. That bell played a key role in a surprise send-off from students and staff.
"Bell is ringing all this time, they're all high-fiving me and cheering and chanting. I was overwhelmed," Scarpitto said.
"People are really going to remember that (the bell). It rallied everyone together to get his final year to be as great as possible," said Dibacco.
It's a fitting legacy for an administrator making the grade and inspiring generations of students and educators.
"One quote that i know that i adhere to. something along the lines, Confucius said it, if you choose a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And I think that's been my career," said Scarpitto.
Scarpitto's career inspiration came from his father, a successful school superintendent in nearby Stoneham who also spent 43 years in education. He said his father told him this career path, surrounded by kids, would help keep him young, and he says it certainly has.