Richard Ruberti, Greater Amsterdam School District’s new superintendent, grew up in the home of educators: both his parents taught at Broadalbin-Perth schools.
He remembers his dad, who would take him and his brothers to purchase shoes for some of his students, telling him that teaching is more a vocation than a job.
“If you are going to be doing it, you should have the heart of working with kids and want to better their lives every day,” Ruberti recalled his father telling him.
While Ruberti started his professional life as a financial advisor, after four years he shifted to the family business and hasn’t looked back. He taught economics in Ballston Spa schools and eventually worked as an assistant principal before taking a job as a superintendent at Wheelerville Union Free School.
Ruberti, who led the small K-8 Wheelerville school for the past eight years, including four as both school principal and superintendent, started as the superintendent of the Greater Amsterdam School District on Wednesday, the official start of the new academic year.
“It was something where I said: ‘I really want the opportunity to work with kids,’ ” Ruberti said of his career change into education.
Ruberti, who graduated Gloversville High School in 1992, said his experience in Wheelerville, which has about 125 students, helped him gain a good understanding of the myriad of jobs that go into school and district administration, from working with teachers to developing a budget to ensuring the district adheres to countless rules and regulations.
“You do every aspect of the job,” he said. “You are wearing so many hats in small districts it provides an incredible foundation where you have done basically every position in the front office, because you have to.”
While acknowledging Amsterdam schools have work to do to improve student attendance and academic performance, he struck an optimistic tone about the district and the role it can play in helping improve life across Amsterdam. He said the district should continue to focus on ways it can partner with the city – he already met with mayor – and local organizations. He said one of his first goals in the district would be to work with community partners to establish an education foundation for the district, an outside nonprofit established to raise money to support initiatives within the district, something he helped spearhead in Wheelerville.
“Amsterdam is poised for tremendous growth,” Ruberti said. “There is a lot of really great pieces being put in place to help the city grow, and I would like to be a part of that.”
Ruberti said Amsterdam will present a lot of new challenges and issues he did not face in Wheelerville, including the larger number of students, greater diversity and language needs of some students. Ruberti, who lived in Mexico for a period when he was younger and speaks Spanish with his 15-year-old son, said he looks forward to communicating – if even at a basic level – with the district’s many students and families who speak Spanish as a primary language.
“I look forward to sending some messages out in Spanish,” he said, proving his language skills in an interview.
He said he wants to use data to determine where the district needs to focus improvement efforts and rely on student, parents and staff surveys to solicit input.
“Data shows we are dropping off at certain grade levels,” he said of student academics. “If it’s not happening [as it should], use the data to drill down into the areas we need to concentrate on more.”
Ruberti, who officially started the position July 1, spent some time in the district the week before his start date, catching up with Ray Colucciello, who has served as the district’s interim superintendent for over a year, and meeting with the district’s bargaining units. He said he plans to continue a listening tour of sorts in the coming weeks, talking to teachers, staff, students and families about what they think the district is doing well and where it needs to improve.
“I’m really excited to be here,” he said. “My door is always open, and I want to hear from people about the good and the bad and want to work together with people to solve problems.”