NAUGATUCK — As athletic director at Naugatuck High School, Tom Pompei has led the Greyhounds to numerous sports championships over the past six years. He is currently in his first year as president of the Naugatuck Valley League.
And this year, he is responsible for the discipline and general well-being of about half the students in the school, which enrolls more than 1,300.
“Being more immersed in their lives as students has been a good thing,” Pompei said.
Pompei was named Dean of Student Life this year, working alongside John DellaCamera, who has served in the same position for five years. Pompei continues to serve as athletic director and oversees the English and physical education departments, but gave up directing the borough’s adult education program this year.
The promotion completes a shift in the school’s leadership that began when former Principal Fran Serratore retired at the end of last school year.
The former associate principal, Janice Saam, took Serratore’s place, and the former dean of academic programs, Eileen Mezzo, took Saam’s place. That left one vacancy for a dean, but Mezzo as associate principal was to continue her work on the school’s curriculum and test scores.
“What we needed was to have someone to take the burden off the existing dean,” said Saam, who handled student troubles in the senior class until she was promoted to principal. “The whole building is too much for one person.”
The deans of student life handle disciplinary issues as they arise, from late students to fights, work with students who are struggling to keep their grades up and communicate with parents. Pompei was chosen for the position last summer, although others applied, Saam said.
“I think Tom has the perfect personality,” Saam said. “He is firm but fair. He can drop the hammer when it’s needed, but he is also someone who can be kind and friendly.”
Students often talk to Pompei about their problems before they end up in trouble, Saam said. After students are punished, Pompei follows up with them to see how they are doing, Saam said.
Pompei, 36, began his career in borough schools in 2001 as an English teacher at the high school. He lives in Oxford with his wife, Tracy, a teacher at Hillside Intermediate School, and three children.
Last year, as director of athletics and adult education, he earned about $110,000. This year he makes about $117,000.
As adult education director, Pompei was in charge of those who came to school at night and student-athletes who attended classes during the day. In his new role, Pompei also oversees clubs and organizations at the school, which involves one-third of the student body when combined with athletics.
“I see them from seven to seven, a lot of the kids,” Pompei said. “I’m really lucky in my ability to really build relationships with the kids in that way.”
This year, the deans are enforcing two seemingly minor policies that administrators say are having a big impact. Students who arrive late to class must now spend the period in their dean’s office and be counted as absent. The school is also cracking down on those who cut class, imposing detention on the first offense and escalating consequences thereafter.
Having Pompei to split the job with is a big help, DellaCamera said. Now deans can communicate faster with parents and police if they need to, and a newly enacted state law requiring schools to handle Facebook and Twitter disputes between students will keep both deans busy, DellaCamera said.
“Outside situations become part of school life,” DellaCamera said.