Changing of the guard

Principal passes the baton to Michas at Careers campus, who will serve as interim principal

In many ways Principal James Matera sees himself in the students he has served for 20 years.

As a student at Tappan Zee High School it was not expected he would take a technical-related course. Yet, he was intrigued with his school’s auto mechanics class and received permission to take the course.

“It was one of the most fun classes I ever had,” Mr. Matera said, adding he loved, and still does, working on engines of all kinds —cars, lawn mowers and especially boats.

“When you give them something they really like, you see them flourish,” he said of the students at the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services. “I am extremely interested in that connection. We give students something different. You put it in their hands, like that engine for me, and it’s that trying to figure it out. You see it make sense in their eyes.”

On November 9, 2020 Mr. Matera will begin the next chapter in his career, having accepted an administrative position with a neighboring district. Assistant Principal Evangelo Michas will succeed him, serving as interim principal at the Careers Campus.

“I’m excited for the change,” Mr. Matera said. “It’s the same skill set that you use in the principal job. I can take what I’ve learned and refined at BOCES and apply it in a new setting.”

Mr. Michas has been with BOCES for five years, working first as the Work Based Learning Coordinator before being named assistant principal. He has more than 20 years working in CTE and special education, having worked as a home economics teacher in Greenburgh, for Job Corps in Brooklyn, NY and as a CTE teacher of the culinary arts again in Greenburgh before coming to BOCES. He is certified in CTE, math and special education.

The school is being left in good hands, said Mr. Matera.

“We’ve worked together for several years now. He is right for the part,” he said of Mr. Michas. “He is very caring; the staff seem to trust him. It’s a natural fit.”

When Mr. Michas came to BOCES, with his background in special education and CTE, he thought it would be a good fit for him professionally. His goals while interim, he said, are to keep the integrity of the programs sound, ensure students are equipped with 21st century skills and are prepared for their future, whether that is an immediate step into the workforce or post-secondary education.

“I also want to create a collaborative culture,” he said. “All stakeholders have input as to what is happening on campus.”

Encouraging students to consider an education at Career Services is something he has always promoted.

“This is the place for them to explore their careers,” he said. “We are here to train workers. I’m here to make sure the programs are moving forward, to continue that tradition.”

Mr. Michas is there to bridge the gap until a permanent principal can be hired. He said that, in his role as interim, he will be the point person for the campus and have additional responsibilities as he works more closely with Director Dahlia Jackson.

“Evangelo is a servant leader. He listens to the needs and concerns of the staff and identifies systems to move the concerns along,” Ms. Jackson said. “He sees this opportunity as a way to lead others in all that they do.”

She said he is the type of person “who will roll up his sleeves and jump right in to assist,” adding that her colleague “is humble and kind and always willing to help everyone be better in all that they do.”

As Work Based Learning Coordinator, he worked with staff to identify authentic work experiences for student programs, Ms. Jackson said. Through his hard work, he was nominated by New York State as Rookie Work Based Leader of the year.

In the last few weeks before his departure, Mr. Matera had time to reflect on his contributions at the Careers campus. He first arrived in 2001 as a school counselor.

During the 2012-13 school year, while serving as an administrative intern, Mr. Matera was asked to fill in for an individual who was out on medical leave and soon was appointed principal.

“I always knew I would work in some kind of profession to help people. I took the counseling route,” he said.

When he took the reigns as principal, Mr. Matera said he felt confident he could make an impact pretty quickly because he had worked on campus for so many years. He worked to improve student test scores on industry exams and to expand the Center’s outreach by inviting the public to campus events and having students showcase their skills out in the community. He also worked to create strong relationships with surrounding school districts

“It’s just been a really wonderful experience. And I love career tech. That will always be a part of me,” he said.

As the Center moves forward the focus, Ms. Jackson said, is to “continue to serve our students and districts with quality programs and rigor. Doing this will allow Career Services to continue to provide our students quality instruction that will prepare them for the future.”