February 28, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 45

Love of classroom helps Ray Picicci earn state award

Most people think of the role of assistant principle as disciplinarian in chief. While there is some of that, Cheney High School assistant principal Ray Picicci believes the role is much more – focusing on teacher development as well as student growth.

John McCallum
Cheney High School assistant principal Ray Picicci takes part in a team building game with AVID students clockwise left to right Denise Sharkey, Cheyenne Marchand and Alyvia Huntley.

“At the end of the day, we’re really trying to improve relationships and impact lives,” Picicci said. “That’s part of our work as teachers. We never stop learning.”

Picicci has played key roles in helping spearhead development of curriculum, instruction and assessment at the school, and for that was named Washington’s Assistant Principal of the Year for 2013 by the Association of Washington School Principals. Picicci was the guest of honor at the association’s annual leadership conference luncheon Feb. 7 in Seattle, and will later this year join other award winners in Washington, D.C., to lobby and take part in the National Assistant Principal of the Year program sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“He’s an accomplished assistant principal who is very much focused on empowering building staff to be instructionally intensive,” AWSP director of high school programs Bob McMullen said in a news release. “If the adults in the building are on track and fired up academically, then that translates to student achievement.”

Since coming to CHS in 2007, Picicci has been involved in a number of projects that benefit students and teachers. At the district level he is involved in committees on literacy, math and science and has helped increase the number of high school students entering the advanced placement, or AP program for which CHS was one of 539 high schools to be named to the AP national honor roll.

Picicci also played a role in bringing the AVID (Advancement via Individual Development) program to the high school and Cheney Middle School, helping open doors for underachieving students to focus on improving skills necessary to gain entry into colleges and universities. According to the news release he “organizes all the school’s state testing programs, created an after school homework center with tutors from local colleges,” and was the driver behind Cheney’s summer school program.

One program Picicci points to with pride is the creation of inclusion classes for special needs students, enabling these students to advance to a level capable of attending regular classes in geometry, biology, algebra, physical science and ninth-grade language arts instead of receiving instruction in a resource room environment.

“(There’s been) a lot of work and a lot of collaboration time by the teachers,” Picicci said in accomplishing this.

Picicci also serves as a mentor for new teachers, increased attention to learning targets and helped create a student survey to assess how teachers did over the course of the academic year.

A Spokane native, Picicci earned a zoology degree from Washington State University, a biology degree from Eastern Washington University and a master in teaching degree from Whitworth. He completed his principal certification from WSU and has taken coursework toward a doctoral degree in educational leadership, also from WSU.

Prior to coming to Cheney he taught science and biology at North Central and Shadle Park high schools in Spokane, and it’s this experience he points to as inspiration for his desire to help teachers grow in their profession as well as students success.

“My passion and love is to be in the classroom,” Picicci said. “That’s the most important thing we do.”

As part of the award Picicci serves on a committee with other principals from around the state, meeting to discuss best practices in education. In Washington, D.C., he said he will meet with Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray along with 5th District Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers on education issues.

Picicci is quick to point out that the state award isn’t really about him.

“It’s an individual award, I guess, but really it’s as much a testament to our teachers and kids and the work they do,” he said.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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