Sue Achille, Perkins Elementary School principal since July 2000, is retiring at the end of June.
“But I’m not counting the days until I’m done here,” said Achille. “I feel so lucky not to feel that way because I really love my job. I love working in Newark. I have driven nearly an hour to and from work for the 25 years I’ve worked in Newark because I love what I do. It’s been worth that long commute. I love this school and this district. Even though I don’t live here, I feel I’m a part of this community because I’ve really spent more of my waking hours here than in Webster where I live.”
But because she’s given so much of life so far to her career, Achille wants to have a greater balance between work and her family life. Achille’s daughter Abby is a junior in high school, her son Jake attends college and her husband, Ralph, has worked for Citizens Bank for over 30 years.
However, since she loves her field, she hopes to continue some kind of work in education — possibly supervising or mentoring students who are pursuing educational careers — but working less than the time and energy it takes to oversee the 322-pupil pre-K though second grade Perkins School with its 73 staff members.
“I feel very lucky to be able to retire at this age,’’ said Achille. “I have a lot of things I want to do with my family and things I think I can share from my experiences with others pursuing careers in education.”
While she’s happy about the changes about to take place in her life, Achille said leaving staff and students is bittersweet. But she is heartened by the choice of the person who has been hired to become the new principal at Perkins.
“The district has hired a great person in Rhonda Underhill to step in and be the new leader of our school. Her hire helps me to feel even more comfortable with my decision to leave at this time,’’ said Achille.
“Sue is the consummate professional,” said Superintendent Matt Cook. “She’s totally dedicated to the students in her care and she loves her staff. She finds joy with everyone at Perkins and throughout the district, every day. She’ll be missed by all and I’ll miss her sense of humor the most.”
“Perkins School has become a family under Sue’s leadership and with her love for students, staff and families within this community,” said Krista Lewis, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “I am so happy for her as she takes on her next chapter. While we will all miss her, what she has built at Perkins School will be long lasting,”
“Working along side Sue has been such a privilege,” said Newark Middle School Principal Teresa Prinzi, who worked with Achille as a speech therapist at Perkins before becoming an administrator. “She is dedicated not only to her staff and students, but to our district as a whole. She has been a role model and mentor to me through the years. While I am going to miss her terribly, I am equally excited for her and the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Looking back over the years, Achille said her decision to get into education was an easy one.
“I’ve never had a doubt and I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Achille.
Inspired to go into education coming from a family of educators, one of her aunts was a principal and assistant superintendent in Williamsville; another a kindergarten teacher in Depew. Her sister is a special education teacher in Auburn where Achille grew up.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in business education from SUNY Buffalo, she taught business education at Rush-Henrietta High School for one year after student teaching there. After that, she taught data processing to juniors and seniors at the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES Vocational Center in Flint for seven years.
While there, she earned her master’s degree in business education at Nazareth College.
“I enjoyed those classes so much I decided to go right on for my administrative degree at SUNY Brockport,’’ said Achille.
After doing an administrative internship as a summer school principal at Geneva High School, Achille was hired in 1994 to become the assistant principal at Newark Middle School when Bob Palmateer was principal.
“I learned so much from Bob, he was a great mentor to me as a new administrator,” Achille said.
Six years later, in the midst of a widespread and ambitious district-wide building project that presented many challenges, Achille became Perkins principal, working out of a makeshift office on the second floor for about a month at the start of school.
While there have been many changes in education in her nearly 20 years as principal, especially relating to technology and social media, Achille asserts that while challenges they present are different, “there have always been challenges.”
Achille shared some of her memories.
“One of my funniest memories was when my family and I returned from a trip to New York City where we visited the ‘Today Show,’ a parent shared that her child, a Perkins student, saw me on TV over the weekend and pretended to faint after saying, ‘That’s my president on TV,’” said Achille.
“The most moving memory I have was on my 50th birthday, I came into the main office and opened my door as usual and my office was packed with faculty members and balloons and they all shouted out ‘surprise!’ and started singing ‘happy birthday’ to me. I started crying I was so overcome with emotion. Even talking about it brings tears to my eyes to this day. Who could ask for more than that, to work with such a kind, caring group of people? I am so lucky! That’s what makes it so hard for me to walk away from this fabulous job,” said Achille
One of the things she says she will miss every day is hearing the “funny things” kids say.
“They make me laugh and put a smile on my face every day,” said Achille