Inside the gymnasium packed tightly with students, teachers and alumni, PS 49 said a heartfelt goodbye to their beloved leader.
On his final day as principal of the elementary school at 63-60 80 St. in Middle Village on Friday, Anthony Lombardi was the subject of an elaborate surprise send-off involving a massive cake, gifts, a crown and even a musical tribute featuring two Frank Sinatra tunes sung by the student body.
Principal since 1997, the 55-year-oldLombardi helped reinforce the school’s reputation as being one of the top schools in the borough.
He incorporated new programs like sixth-grade architecture and was known for strictly monitored professional development to ensure teachers were always at their best.
“Everyone comes to work with a set of ideas,” Lombardi said. “I was just fortunate to see some of my ideas realized. Part of leadership is coalescing the staff. Every position counts.”
Lombardi will be replaced as principal by Thomas Carty.
Assistant Principal Richard Hallenbeck, despite being passed over as a potential replacement for Lombardi, is proud of what his former colleague brought to the school and expects its success to continue with the new administration.
“What’s best for the kids is always what drove him. He knows just about all of their names,” Hallenbeck said. “It’s going to be weird, but what [Carty] said is that he wants to keep this school a great school.”
Speech teacher Anamaria Bostan echoed Hallenbeck’s statement, saying how the transfer of power may potentially be difficult to overcome at first, but she’ll always be thankful for having worked under Lombardi.
“There’s definitely going be a transition. With a new person comes new rules and expectations,” Bostan said. “But I’m very grateful. [Lombardi] was the one who hired me. He’s a great guy and he’s got a very big heart.”
Lombardi is not without scandal, though, as he is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Lisa Calise, a former PS 49 special education teacher, who says she was forced to resign in 2012 after spurning Lombardi’s inappropriate advances for two years.
PTA President Alicia Vaichunas doesn’t believe the lawsuit is the reason why the principal is stepping down mid-school year.
“A lot of people think that it’s the reason he’s retiring,” Vaichunas said. “It’s simply not.”
Lombardi, in explaining his decision to retire, simply said it’s time to focus on something else.
“It’s been a good, long ride. It went by very quickly,” he said. “We’ll see what happens in the private sector. I might do some writing of curriculum or something.”
If the private sector really is Lombardi’s next step, PS 49 made sure his last day as an educator in the public school system was one to remember.
The surprised Lombardi walked into the gym to see parents and other relatives, as well as alumni who attended PS 49 years earlier.
The school band performed Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” to open the ceremony, and after the presentation of gifts and a cake, Lombardi thanked the students and teachers for making his time there so “rewarding.”
The student body sang Sinatra’s “My Way” to end the ceremony, a fitting tribute to a principal who many said made a living on realizing his ideas.
The sexual harassment lawsuit against former PS 49 Principal Anthony Lombardi is set for initial conference in March, according to a clerk at federal New York Eastern District Court in Brooklyn.
Initial conference is where lawyers from both parties meet before a judge for the first time to inform each other of the evidence each side has.
The plaintiff, represented by Joshua Beldner, is Lisa Calise, a former special education teacher at PS 49.
According to published reports, Calise claims that she spurned Lombardi’s inappropriate advances from when she was interviewed by him in August 2010 until she was “forced” to resign in May 2012.
Reports also say that Lombardi allegedly asked Calise during her interview whether she had a boyfriend or not. When she said she was single, Lombardi allegedly said, “A pretty girl like you without a boyfriend?”
Calise is allegedly seeking “compensatory, emotional, physical and punitive damages, back pay, front pay, liquidated damages, injunctive relief and any other damages permitted by law” with her lawsuit.
The attorney for Calise could not be reached by press time on Wednesday.
Lombardi retired on Friday after being given a massive goodbye ceremony by the students and faculty of PS 49.