School board hires new athletic director, interim dean

Gianni Perugini

NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck Public Schools is adding one new and one familiar face to its team of administrators.

The Board of Education appointed Gianni Perugini the district’s new director of athletics, activities, K-12 physical education, health and wellness — a position that oversees athletics and physical education and health and wellness curriculum — at its Nov. 14 meeting.

Perugini is a physical education and health teacher at Waterbury Arts Magnet School, a position he’s held for the last seven years. He’ll start his new role at Naugatuck High School on Jan. 2 and his initial salary will be $89,828.

Perugini said he’s humbled and honored the board chose him.

“I want to continue to uphold the successful reputations of both the athletics as well as health and PE departments in the district,” Perugini said. “I want to continue to positively impact student success in the classroom and in athletics.”

Perugini, 36, grew up in Waterbury and attended Holy Cross High School, where he played soccer. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education and health, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Central Connecticut State University, where he is working on his sixth-year degree.

Perugini, who lives in the Northfield section of Litchfield, has also served as the head boys soccer coach at Wilby and Sacred Heart.

Perugini said the opportunity to oversee Naugatuck’s competitive athletic programs and follow in the footsteps of Naugatuck’s previous athletic directors — Brian Mariano and Thomas Pompei — attracted him to the job.

“I have been well aware of the long-standing history of success of Naugatuck athletics throughout my life,” he said. “I have come to respect and appreciate the athletic programs, first as a student-athlete and then as an educator and coach in the Naugatuck Valley League.”

Perugini added he’s also excited about the educational leadership role of the position.

“I have been very passionate about teaching health and PE. It has been my life for the past 20 years,” he said. “To be able to oversee a well-known health and PE staff such as Naugatuck’s is truly an awesome responsibility that I look forward to. There are some dedicated educators here I look forward to collaborating with.”

Perugini was one of 19 applicants, 10 of which went through three rounds of interviews, officials said.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said officials were looking for someone with grit and passion to develop good character, integrity and good sportsmanship in students.

“Gianni was the whole package,” she said. “He was everything that we’re looking for,” Locke said.

Perugini will take over from Mariano, who was named a dean of students at Naugatuck High in August. Mariano has still handled athletic duties since his appointment to a dean.

Michele Russell

The school board also appointed Naugatuck High math teacher Michele Russell as an interim dean of students at the high school.

“Michele bleeds for Naugatuck. She is a champion and a cheerleader for everything that happens in Naugatuck High School,” Locke said. “I couldn’t think of a better person to fill the position.”

Russell’s appointment will help fill the void left when former Associate Principal Kristina Wallace resigned early this month to take the assistant principal job at Avon Middle School.

Locke said officials will start their search for a new associate principal in the spring with the intention of having someone in place by July 1.

Russell’s appointment gives the high school a third dean of students while the associate principal position is vacant. Russell will begin her new role once her teaching duties are covered and her interim salary was being finalized last week, officials said.

“She takes very good care of our kids. She has that quasi-administrative experience. She has experience with supervision and evaluation,” Locke said. “She is highly regarded by her colleagues at the high school.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article reported former Naugatuck High School Associate Principal Kristina Wallace is now the principal at Avon Middle School. She is the assistant principal at Avon Middle School.