Swansea – Christopher Costa knows his limits. So while he brought optimism, energy, and a lot of management experience to the job of the new principal at Joseph Case High, Costa didn’t bring the striking singing voice and dancing shoes.
If the school continues the tradition of recently-retired principal Brian McCann’s popular Broadway-style snow day announcement videos, Costa will have a little at best.
“My background is athletics,” Costa said with a smile Monday afternoon after a four-hour staff meeting. “Mr. McCann did a fantastic job in the snowy day video. Of course I won’t be in the video. But I will definitely discuss with Mr. Jeronimo (theater company consultant) if he is interested in continuing ‘them’.
Case High’s vice chancellor for the past eight years, Costa (B.A., UMass Dartmouth; M.Ed., Providence College; CAGS, Northeastern University) was kind enough to sit down with Herald News And answer questions about the school and his new job.
The Westport resident served as assistant principal at New Bedford High School for four years before becoming assistant principal in 2014, and before that for six years at Apponequet Regional High School in Lakeville. The former Durfee High standout spent the first chapter of his career teaching history at his alma mater and coaching baseball and football.
Costa, 52, is married and a father of three sons, Brendan and Chris. Brother Brendan is a sophomore at Case, and younger brother Chris is a four-year cardinal. Both were excellent three-season student-athletes.
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Herald News: What is special about Joseph Case High School for you?
Christopher Costa: People really like it here, both the staff and the students. This is a great place. The kids are amazing. The staff are great. We work well together. You don’t want to come to school, or go to work, where it won’t be a happy thing. I think the whole school community likes to be involved in school activities.
HN: Are you excited to walk into the building every day?
CC: Absolutely. As an educator, as an administrator, every day is different. You never know what’s going to happen, that’s what makes being a school leader unique. As you walk through the parking lot and down the sidewalk ahead, you don’t know what’s going to happen that day. But walking into the building every day, the vibe in the building is very positive. Many tourists told me. When they came in, they really felt like it was a welcoming place. It’s a testament to the culture we’ve built here.
HN: How would you describe the staff at Case High?
CC: invested. This will be my ninth year in the building and we have very little turnover. So another word I’m going to use is consistency. By consistency I don’t mean the status quo. I don’t mean equally old, equally old. I would say people love it here. They like to work here.
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HN: What is your career philosophy?
CC: You really need to cooperate. You need to trust and trust others. It’s not about me. We have a very strong management team, a very strong leadership team. Most of them have been working here for many years. …you have to be confident that they will come to work every day and do their best for the students. This is a culture that has definitely been established, established long ago, and we will continue to maintain that culture for years to come.
HN: How your son enjoys their Case High experience.
CC: They love their teachers. They love their classes. I know if you asked them they would say they had a great experience here.
HN: How does Case serve students in the extracurricular field?
CC: Our extracurricular activities are strong. I have always said that although we are a relatively small school, the smallest I have worked for in my career, we do offer a lot of extracurricular activities. I always say that it is very, very important to involve students in their construction. But in order for them to do so, you have to set opportunities for them. You have to offer them activities that take into account their strengths. In that particular situation, I have a lot of respect for all the special types of events we do here, whether it’s theatre, music, or athletics. I don’t know what that percentage is, but most of the students in this building are involved in something. This may not be three seasons of athletics. Probably not all theatrical productions. … Since the school is small – around 540 children – we need children to be involved in many types of extracurricular activities. This is the norm. Not necessarily an expectation, but it’s the norm, in other places I’ve worked, athletes who do sports, kids who are interested in drama do drama, and even music sometimes they have their own niche. But here, it kind of goes around in circles. Children are able to perform more than one activity.
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HN: How did you move from teaching to administration?
CC: My intention is to stay in the classroom for a while and continue teaching, which I really enjoy. Apponequet Regional High School has a vacancy for an assistant principal position. I applied. I haven’t interviewed in a while, so I figured I could at least get some interview experience again. One thing leads to another. I was offered this position. It’s a tough move. I’m doing what I love to do, both teaching and coaching. I did it at my alma mater. I don’t know if I’m looking for a change. It’s just an opportunity. I took it.
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HN: Favorite breakfast cereal?
CC: Honey Nut Cereal.
HN: Favorite TV show of all time?
HN: Favorite book?
CC: “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
HN: Favorite way to relax?
CC: Anything involving water.