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A Tribute as Ox Ridge Principal Rechi Retires

Ox Ridge Elementary is hosting an Open House in honor of principal John Rechi's retirement at the Darien Nature Center.

In 2007, about a week before my children started classes at their new school, , we had a few introductory play sessions on the school’s assorted playground areas.  As the first day of school approached, this introduction to their new environment progressed into informal, self-guided tours of the building and practice runs of how to get from the bus, through the hallways, to their individual classrooms.   

The first time we ventured off the playground and inside the front door of Ox Ridge, we were greeted by a man who warmly smiled at us and introduced himself as John Rechi, the school principal.  I was immediately impressed by his gentle, kind disposition and, in turn, introduced myself as Andrea Cragin and, then, introduced each of my children by their first names.  

To my amazement, John Rechi responded by telling my oldest son Charlie that his fourth grade teacher, Miss Conetta, was in her classroom right now and he should stop by and say hello.  He then told my daughter, Abigail, her teacher, Mrs. Frawley was also in the building but was not currently in her classroom but should be back soon. 

He finished up by apologizing to Sam saying that his Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Trifiatis, was at school earlier in the day but had already left and perhaps he could come meet her sometime tomorrow morning. To say I was immediately in awe of the man would be a gross understatement! 

There were 512 students in Ox Ridge that year, yet John Rechi not only recognized my children’s names upon meeting them for the first time but also knew what grades they were in, what teacher they had, and whether or not the teacher was currently available to meet them.   

Little did I know that day, that my admiration of John Rechi would continue to grow as I got to experience what a remarkable, wonderful, caring person he is.  His dedication to education as well as his openness and compassion make him a wonderful role model and leader for students and teachers.  I feel that my children have been incredibly lucky to have him be a part of their lives while they were in elementary school.  

Much to the dismay of the nearly inconsolable parents, faculty, and staff at Ox Ridge, John Rechi has announced his intent to retire at the end of this school year.

To pay tribute to his long and illustrious career at Ox Ridge Elementary, the school is hosting an Open House at this Friday, June 9.   My husband and I are attending and I plan on bringing tissues since I am sure the many tributes that will be given will bring tears from laughter and heartfelt sentiment.   We will all certainly miss you John.   Have a wonderful first summer of retirement and please come back and visit often!

P.S.  Last year marked John’s 25th year as principal of Ox Ridge and I had the privilege to write an article commemorating his achievement.  I interviewed a wide array of people who had the distinct pleasure of working with John and even one person who had the unique experience of being a student of his and then a teacher on his staff.   I have included this 25th anniversary article below to once again share some of the wonderful attributes that make John Rechi such an outstanding individual.

John Rechi 25th Anniversary as Principal of Ox Ridge Elementary

It is 9:30 in the morning at Ox Ridge Elementary School, the announcements and Pledge of Allegiance have been said, and Principal John Rechi steps into a Kindergarten classroom, “Good morning everyone!  How is everyone doing today?”  “Good morning Mr. Rechi!” the children cheerfully reply.  Mr. Rechi then wishes everyone to “Have a good day” and proceeds on to the next classroom full of students to greet them just as he has done almost every school day for the last 25 years.  

Making the rounds every morning to greet each classroom of students and teachers is just one of the special efforts John Rechi has made over the past 25 years that help distinguish him as an uniquely outstanding school Principal.   Mr. Rechi has even joked that it is common for some of the younger students to believe that greeting them each morning is the main part of his job and, on the rare mornings he is not available to visit them, they wonder what else he could possibly be doing.

Mr. Rechi’s hands-on approach to leading Ox Ridge doesn’t stop at visiting classrooms.  He also has the amazing ability to remember every student’s name and not just those currently enrolled.  Ox Ridge alums feel welcomed back when Mr. Rechi routinely greets them by name and inquires how they are doing.   Ox Ridge secretary Mary Lay affirms that Mr. Rechi “is here for the students first and foremost. He knows each of them personally ... and their families too!” 

While no one would disagree that John Rechi is fully dedicated to the education and care of the students at Ox Ridge, the faculty and staff also benefit from his openness, dedication, and compassion.  Mrs. Diana Pritkin, who recently retired from Ox Ridge after working 39 years as secretary, remembers thinking Mr. Rechi looked young enough to be her son when he became Principal.   She has known Mr. Rechi for 25 years and says, “I always found him to be a person that you could talk to.  He is kind, compassionate and helpful.  He is devoted to his family”. 

Ox Ridge second grade teacher Stephanie Frawley also met John Rechi shortly after he became Principal when she interviewed with him for her first teaching job.   Mrs. Frawley is impressed by how “John is an administrator who realizes that his staff members are people too, who have lives outside of school.  He definitely helps with balancing everything out.  It is also nice to be able to go to John for support or to get his thoughts on how to handle a problem; his door is always open.“

Having served as Principal for 25 years, John Rechi has had the opportunity to get to know people who are part of the Ox Ridge community at different stages of their lives.  For instance, Toni-Ann Rongoe has the uncommon experience of having been both an Ox Ridge student and now a teacher.   Toni-Ann (then Toni-Ann Connetta) was a second grader at Ox Ridge around the time John Rechi became Principal and has fond memories of “going to visit him in the office and getting a prize out of the huge, green frog he had.” 

Mrs. Rongoe also fondly remembers when John Rechi contacted her for an interview for her first job out of college, “I picked up the phone and the first thing he did was ask me if I remembered him—and of course I did!  Who could forget Mr. Rechi!  He is truly invested in every single child and teacher in the school.  He is there to support us, make us all feel comfortable and welcome in school, and encourage us to be the best teacher that we can be.  Not only is he an amazing administrator, but he is our friend, someone we all feel comfortable talking with about our lives, in and out of school.”

The Ox Ridge Faculty and staff are not the only ones who appreciate the fact that Principal Rechi is very approachable and his door is always open, the parents and students also feel comfortable coming Mr. Rechi with their problems and concerns or just to say hello.  

Ox Ridge 3rd grade teacher Laura Coup has the truly unique experience of knowing John Rechi from the perspective of a parent, a Darien resident, a teaching intern, and a teacher.   Two of Mrs. Coup’s children went to Ox Ridge almost 20 years ago.  As a parent, Mrs. Coup “found John to be accessible and extremely supportive of his teachers, students and school.”  

Mrs. Coup remembers approaching Mr. Rechi 18 years ago with the idea for an Ox Ridge Year Book.   Mr. Rechi enthusiastically embraced the idea and asked how he could help make it happen.  

The Ox Ridge Year Book tradition continues today.  It was her first positive experiences as a parent at Ox Ridge that later influenced Mrs. Coup to consider a career change from finance into teaching.  She went to Mr. Rechi to get his opinion and found him to be “incredibly supportive and positive.”  After receiving her teaching degree, Mrs. Coup was thrilled when Mr. Rechi hired her as a teacher and to be back at “Ox Ridge where the atmosphere is like a family...the staff and administrators care about each and every person who enters the building.” 

She was extremely pleased to discover that John Rechi is as wonderful with the teachers as he is with the students and parents. 

“As a teacher I see John every day and his open door policy is for everyone...  I can go into his office with a question about a student, how I should teach a particular lesson and even just to chat about the Mets and the Yankees…  All I can say is that after 20 years of knowing John, I consider him my mentor, boss, and friend.  I couldn't ask for a better person to work for and a more decent and caring friend”

Kim Wescott, the Chairperson of the Darien Board of Education, was also an Ox Ridge parent when her two sons attended the elementary school around 10 years ago.  Mrs. Wescott credits Mr. Rechi as inspiring her to join the Board of Ed.  "John Rechi has been a ‘go-to’ educational leader in Darien for many years.  Thousands of Darien children have benefitted from his academic and administrative expertise. On a personal note, I am very grateful to Mr. Rechi for his encouragement of parent volunteers.   I started volunteering at Ox Ridge School and found so much satisfaction in those experiences that I ran for the Board of Education."

Darien Schools Superintendent Steve Falcone also extols John Rechi’s leadership in the Darien education system.  Mr. Falcone acknowledges, “I am struck by his commitment to building a spirit of community and collaboration at Ox Ridge and across the district.  At Ox Ridge, every person has a voice—from the 1st grade student, to the teacher, to the parent, and to the visitor. 

That spirit generates a sense of warmth and connectedness that reflect John's vision.  That same commitment to connectedness is evident in his district leadership as his passion for what is best for Ox Ridge is only surpassed by what is best for all of the students in Darien.  This past year, John visited DHS as part of professional growth project and the students' response to John's presence was both heartwarming and energizing.  It was obvious that the tone that he set for those students when they were at Ox Ridge gave them the confidence necessary to be successful students and people. “

Rita Ferri is currently the Principal of Hindley Elementary School, however, she was working at Ox Ridge when John Rechi became Principal 25 years ago.  When asked the question, what makes John Rechi such a great Principal, Ms. Ferri’s response seems to perfectly summarize his outstanding qualities:  “When addressing the Ox Ridge community of parents, John Rechi stated his belief in that the children are our future, let them lead the way.  

He stated those words 25 years ago when he entered Darien as the new principal of Ox Ridge School.  Throughout the years, he has held to this conviction, keeping children the main focus throughout his daily performance as principal of Ox Ridge School for a quarter of the century! 

Mr. Rechi possesses the qualities that are inherent in many strong leaders.  He is highly visible, and well known for visiting each and every classroom on a daily basis circulating among the staff and children.  This is not a trend, nor is he following a district’s initiative.  This is what he does, providing direction, leadership and friendship during his tenure. 

Over the years, Mr. Rechi has built strong alliances with his students and parents.  He is a master in the art of public speaking.  He can be direct and get his point across, as well, as being discreet and subtle when necessary.  His understanding of people is remarkable.”  

Thousands of Darien children over the past 25 years have had the privilege of knowing John Rechi as their first principal, where he continues to successfully impart the values summed up in the school’s Kid Code: “At Ox Ridge we are kind and accepting, honest and responsible, safe and peaceful, respectful to all.

___________________________________________________________________________

Editor's note: See also: "" with photos from the open house event held in his honor at the Darien Nature Center.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Susan Vogel June 07, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Thank you for posting this Andrea. I too was impressed that he knew every child's name, and even more impressed that he knew every parents! prayed every year my children were at Ox Ridge that it wouldn't be the year he retired! He has led Ox Ridge with integrity, caring, fairness and kindness and I have the utmost respect and admiration for John, and know that he will be greatly missed. Thank you John Rechi for making so many children's introduction to the wonders of learning so special, rewarding and enriching!
Siwanoy June 07, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Amazing post, I had the pleasure of being in Ox Ridger for k-2, then 5th grade, I then visited the school as a highschool senior and Mr. Rechi still remembered my name! I'll never forget being in that school for my birthdays, where you would get called to the princples office and he'd give you a toy wooden (balsa wood I believe) plane to assemble and then play with during recess and take home. I honestly can't remember what the girls would get, but all the boys would get those planes. What an amazing man and Principle.
Cynthia Gorey June 07, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Andrea has done a wonderful job of putting into words what we all feel about Mr. Rechi. He has such an amazing talent for remembering names and in doing so making every student and parent feel valued. He listens and hears what we all say, and helps teach the same values. These are gifts that every Ox Ridge family has received for the last 25 years from John. Thank you from all of us!
Gretchen Brooks June 07, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I don't think I could do a better job than Andrea in her praise of Mr. Rechi! As my youngest child graduates from Ox Ridge this year, I feel incredibly fortunate to have had him in our family's life. While his retirement will be a sad day for our community, his legacy and spirit will hopefully linger on for generations of children to come.
KRA June 07, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Awesome post!!! My oldest, Emily, is graduating Ox Ridge, the same day as Mr. Rechi, however under two very different circumstances. I'll never forget during her first week of Kindergarten, I saw him in the hallway (mind you we had not officially met yet) and he asked me, "How is Emily adjusting to Kindergarten?" I almost fell over that he not only already knew my daughter by name, but knew I was her mother!! I believe it was only the 3rd time I had ever stepped foot in the school. What wonderful man, with his open door policy and all.... I will cherish the time he spent as principal of Ox Ridge. I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.
Karen stamoulis June 07, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I think I may be in a bit of denial that he is actually leaving. To us, Mr. Rechi and Ox Ridge are one and the same. How lucky we have all been to have had him to lead the school with such warmth and kindness. He will be missed! Thanks Andrea for a lovely and fitting tribute!
Ryann Pegler June 07, 2012 at 07:29 PM
John Rechi not only remembers the name of every student and parent, but every grandparent as well! I have had the pleasure of working with John on the Ox Ridge Veterans Day celebration for the past six years. My father has participated each year, traveling from Canada for the ceremony which is attended by about thirty vets. Over the years John and my dad have become friendly- chatting about golf when they see each other and even exchanging the occasional letter. John never fails to ask after my dad when I see him at a meeting or in the hallway. It was of no surprise that when my father found out about John's retirement he decided to come visit for the weekend and stop by tomorrow to wish him well. The impact John has had on my family and others cannot be measured. We wish him well in retirement but he will be deeply missed!
Andrea Cragin June 07, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Thank you Susan! Every parent at Ox Ridge over the last few years has crossed their fingers hoping John would stay until their last child left Ox Ridge. You could practically hear a collective NOOOOO!!!! resonate through the town the morning John's retirement was announced.
Andrea Cragin June 07, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Thank you for sharing your great memory Siwanoy. I imagine Ox Ridge might not have had around 500 students back in the day John was giving birthday gifts to each child but you never know... he is truly an amazing person!
Andrea Cragin June 07, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If only i had one tenth of John's incredible ability to remember names and faces.... it is truly remarkable!
Andrea Cragin June 07, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Ryann, I can't even imagine the Ox Ridge Veterans Day celebration without John Rechi ! Where are my tissues? I need one already...
allison June 07, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Andrea - thanks for a well written post - John is truly a wonderful leader - as is evident by three of his Vice Principals now serving as Principals in town (once Luke takes the reins). His caring personality and ability to remember names is second to none. I feel blessed to have known him and I know my children were lucky to have him in charge. He has set the tone of Ox Ridge as being a wonderful place to learn and parents are more than willing to help out. I'll never forget my son coming home not long after starting kindergarten and telling me they had to tell the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Expecting the traditional fireman, policeman, doctor response...he wanted to be a Principal! John - you will be missed - but never forgotten. Thanks for all your years of service to Ox Ridge. Come back and visit often!
Andrea Cragin June 07, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Allison I love that your son wanted to be John Rechi when he grew up! I can't think of a better role model. If for some reason reincarnation happens to be true, I would like to come back as an Ox Ridge student with John Rechi as my principal (I guess time travel would also have to be true in order for this to happen...)
Suzanne Domenici June 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
On the morning in January when I saw the Ox Ridge Hoot special blast in my email inbox, entitled "Please Read the Attached Letter from John Rechi", I left it unopened for awhile. I knew what it was, and I thought that by not opening it, it would somehow not be true. John has been a true gift to each of our children who have been fortunate enough to have him as principal, as well as to all of us parents. I first met him at kindergarten orientation in the Spring of 2007, right before my oldest son entered Kindergarten. Like many parents, I was a bit apprehensive about my little guy (and firstborn) going off to school all day and managing so many new things on his own. John was so warm and approachable that my fears were immediately put to rest. I knew I was leaving my son in good hands. He knows students' younger siblings' names long before they ever enter Ox Ridge, which made my daughter's transition to Kindergarten in 2010 seemingly effortless. I only wish my preschooler would have had the chance to experience Ox Ridge under John as well. Even though John is leaving, I am thrilled that Luke is going to be our new principal. No one else coming in from the outside would ever truly understand the unique and special culture that John has fostered at Ox Ridge. Thank you for everything John--we will miss you!
Edmund Schmidt June 08, 2012 at 01:48 AM
John- You really made my daughter Darya feel at home at Ox Ridge. Thank you. Her brother Jonas attended Hindley and his favorite teacher was Luke. I know he will be a great principal. Many thanks. Ed Schmidt
Susan Vogel June 08, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Every child gets an Ox Ridge birthday pencil on their special day. Our girls still have one or two of them, and treasure these pencils dearly.
Missy almy June 08, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Missy Almy John is an amazing person and wonderful principal. The tribute that first comes to mind( because there are several even though my firstborn is only in first grade) is when my son had to be taken to the ER via ambulance from Kindergarten due to an allergic reaction. John and Barbara Spielman patiently waited for my arrival because we were in the midst of a home renovation and were staying with family in Greenwich. The traffic on 95(of course) was horrendous and it took much longer for me to arrive than it should have. Once there, these two caring angels personally drove my daughter to a neighbor's house so I could climb in the back of the ambulance with a terrified little boy who was struggling to breathe. The best part came later that evening when John tracked me down at relative's home in Greenwich to check on me and make sure Richie was " resting comfortably in his bed".... This concern brought me to years and warranted my unending admiration. Only one of the many reasons you will be missed, John! All the best!
Andrea Cragin June 08, 2012 at 11:45 AM
I agree Suzanne, I too am very pleased that Luke will be Ox Ridge's next principle. He seems to share many similar qualities and is well like and respected by our children (and by us parents).
Allison Melich June 08, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Gretchen is right Andrea, you have summed up how we all feel about the remarkable Mr. Rechi! He spent an hour on the phone with me discussing the pros and cons of pre-K before we even closed on our house in Darien (in July)! Once, the week before my 5th grader started kindergarten we met two women in Nordstrom's restaurant at The Westchester Mall. They told us they were teachers and asked Margaret how old she was and, then, where she was going to Kindergarten. When she replied "Ox Ridge School," both women smiled and gasped. And, one of the women said "I would give anything in the world to work for John Rechi. He is one in a million." If that didn't calm Margaret's first day jitters it certainly put any fears Greg and I may have had to rest. Now that we've spent six years basking in the light that he sheds on Ox Ridge, I truly understand what she meant. John's unfailing support and guidance as a Principal, a parent, and a friend is something I treasure--and Ox Ridge and the Town of Darien have been truly blessed by him. Thank you, John, from the bottom of our hearts--you are one in a million!! xoxo
Andrea Cragin June 08, 2012 at 04:08 PM
John is so legendary in the education field that I am not surprised two random teachers you ran into in the Westchester Mall would rave about him. Thank you Allison!
andrea warble June 08, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Mr. Rechi is amazing! It is because of his love and caring that all of us- children and adults have had such a wonderful elementary school experience. Mr. Rechi is wonderful with our children, he knows how to handle the adults and has found the most amazing teachers to guild and educate our children. We will miss you so much but know that you deserve to begin the next phase of your life. We all have wonderful memories of our time with Mr. Rechi and I feel so lucky to have had 8 years with you and know that my last 2 years at Ox Ridge with Mr. Forshaw will be just as amazing! Thank you Mr. Rechi!
Stephanie Frawley June 08, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I guess this is really happening. I think I have been in denial since hearing the sad news. I knew the day would come but it didn't make it any easier. John has been a wonderful boss and I so appreciate all of his support over the years. I feel lucky to be part of such a wonderful staff of people and fortunate to have had John as our principal for over 25 years. He will be truly missed!
Andrea Cragin June 08, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I think you have not been alone Stephanie in the "denial phase" of dealing with John's retirement. I am still in denial that they school year is almost over...
Jennifer Trifiatis June 20, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I think it will finally hit me when I go into school in August. I will always remember his ability to keep the children first. Our jobs is all about children. They are the most important! Personally I will always remember his warmness and compassion. My first day at the school, he gave me a personal tour and a big hug. On Friday, I asked John for one last hug before we left for our meeting with tears in my eyes. I wish you the best retirement and please come back to visit.
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