For the past eight years, Joe Ciccarelli has enthusiastically led Four Points Middle School to achieve much success in a short time. He announced his retirement as FPMS principal a few months ago.
Ciccarelli earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and his master’s degree and doctorate from Texas State University.
He has witnessed first hand the explosive growth at Leander ISD, and now after more than three decades in education, Ciccarelli plans to shift roles and stay involved in the profession he is so passionate about.
1) What was it like opening FPMS in 2010?
Opening a new campus is always exciting and a big challenge: hiring all new staff and planning the professional development together; the staff to gel and embrace the vision; establishing all processes and systems. It’s always fun to be in a new building — everything shiny and new.
2) What career stepping stones that led you to becoming principal of FPMS?
I taught for 16 years in LISD, 14 at middle school and two at high school. When I began, LISD had four schools total. My first few years I taught 40 percent of all of the kids in LISD each year. I moved to Leander ISD central office in 2000 and was social studies coordinator and also trained and provided classroom based support for first-year teachers.
I’ve worked with 1,000+ new teachers in LISD.
I moved to assistant principal at CPHS from 2006-2010. Principal of FPMS 2010-2018.
3) Some of the most important things you accomplished at FPMS during your tenure?
A lot of great things happened: Band one of three best in the US-Midwest Showcase. Dance Grand Champions three years, two invitations to Macy’s. Three UIL theater champions. Dozens of medalists at the Junior Visual Arts Scholastic Event. Choir program has grown from 20 kids to 130 next year. Can’t recall all of the athletic championships but maybe 16? Eighteen Texas Education Agency distinctions (most of any middle school in LISD). Happy kids. Supportive community. Strong community-school relations.
4) Share a couple of your favorite memories.
Lots of memories. When we opened we had recurring problems with rattlesnakes. It gave me a lot of material for the Insiders (communications) to the community. Only one time over the years did I get a complaint. I wrote one teasing about denying anti-venom to kids who were digging out the foam injected into a former snake den. The article was written on April 1 and entitled “It’s the First of April and Some of the Kids are Acting Foolish.” I thought that might have been a clue that it wasn’t a serious proposal.
5) Share one of your very challenging days with us?
In the spring, the city accidently cut the power for 90 minutes on a STAAR testing day and the metal divider door dropped blocking us from easy access between the gym, band, cafeteria and the rest of the building. Everyone was hyper vigilant because of the series of school attacks that we had to react, make plans, and try to calm parents all at the same time. Parents want info so quickly but administrators have to solve problems before communicating about the problem.
6) What lasting impression do you hope to leave with the students who passed through your halls?
It’s been neat to see how many of my former students have gone onto teaching. More than 20 kids have or are teaching in LISD. Six are administrators in LISD. Thirty-plus former students reached out to me on Facebook when I retired to let me know that my teaching had a lasting impact.
7) What is your hope for FPMS in the next chapter?
Bigger and better things. It is remarkable to see the way this community gathers around its schools. It’s like a small town feeling right in the middle of this city of one million plus people.
8) What will you be spending your time doing in the days ahead?
Keep engaged in education as an adjunct professor and as a supervisor for new teachers and assistant principals. I’ve applied with Texas State University if they need a prof at the site in Round Rock. My wife is nagging me to write a funny book about my experiences.