Where is Polk Street Principal Torossian?

Parents blindsided by beloved administrator’s sudden absence


For a month, students at Franklin Square’s Polk Street School have been without a head principal to greet them during morning drop-off. At a special meeting of the school district’s Board of Education on Feb. 28, emotions ran high as parents spoke of the beloved principal, Gilbert Torossian, with tears in their eyes, asking why he hadn’t been in school and how they could support him.

Students noticed Torossian’s absence beginning the week of Feb. 5.

Lynette Solina, of Franklin Square, said she felt that the lack of notification for weeks was “really disappointing.” She said her son, who is in second grade, immediately noticed Torossian’s absence.

“I’ve known Mr. T a long time, and he’s the kind of man where if he was sick or something, I feel like he would have wanted the community to know,” Solina said.

Community members said they felt blindsided by his sudden leave of absence “due to unforeseen circumstances,” which was announced in a Feb. 27 email sent to parents by district Superintendent Jared Bloom.

The email added that Washington Street School Assistant Principal Dominic Gobbo would be stepping in as interim principal effective March 5. Gobbo has been in his Washington Street position for the past five years, and was a teacher in the district for 16 years.

“He is known by the teachers — he knows our community,” Bloom said at the meeting the following day, to which one voice in the audience could be heard responding that Gobbo “doesn’t know our kids.” Bloom reiterated to the crowd that the situation is temporary.

Around 60 people attended the special meeting to express their support for Torossian. They also voiced their outrage about their children having gone to school for weeks without a head principal, and for not receiving a timely notification from the district of his absence.

Community members defended Torossian’s character and his irreplaceable role in their children’s lives throughout his 13 years as principal of Polk Street. They described him as a principal who goes above and beyond, knowing every student by name at the school, celebrating their accomplishments over the P.A. system, giving out birthday stickers and much more.

John Fratarcangeli, of Franklin Square, described Torossian as more than a principal, also a “lunch buddy and a friend” to the students.

“His sudden absence has left a lot of families in disbelief,” Fratarcangeli said. “While we may not know exactly why he’s on leave, we do know that Polk Street isn’t the same and will not be the same until he returns.”

Community members repeatedly asked how they might be able to support Torossian, since they haven’t been able to get in touch with him for weeks.

Lisa Pigeon, of Franklin Square, said that his absence from the school has been “heartbreaking.”

“If there’s anything that we need to do to or to know to make this happen, I personally want to be involved, and I think everyone wants to be involved as well,” Pigeon said of finding a way to bring Torossian back to the school. “Because he is the absolute backbone of Polk Street and of this community.”

School district attorney Michael Vigliotta told the audience at the meeting that the board couldn’t discuss personnel matters with the public. “We completely have to maintain the privacy rights of all parties involved,” he said.

Attendees were left dissatisfied with the answers given by the board, asking what they should tell their children about Torossian’s absence. They were not given a time frame as to when they could expect his return.

Kristin Cirotti, of Franklin Square, said she was disappointed in how the situation was handled, and felt there was a lack of transparency. She compared Torossian to the show “Cheers,” “Where everybody knows your name.”

“Having someone like Mr. Torossian in our school is priceless,” Cirotti said in tears, adding that no students or parents had gotten to say goodbye to him before his sudden absence.

“No one got to give him his last hug, and I know that doesn’t mean a lot on an educational level, but for kids it means everything,” Cirotti said.

Vanessa Batthany, of Franklin Square, said she believed “there will never be anyone to fill Mr. T’s shoes.” She demanded answers from the Board of Education as to when he would return.

“We need to be able to tell them when this man is coming back, because you can keep saying, like, ‘We have to just carry on, and it’s about the kids,’” Batthany said. “These kids notice his absence.”

On Feb. 29, students made signs that were put up in front of the school to express their support for Torossian. They were removed before school the next morning.

“The children who made these signs were absolutely devastated today that they were taken down,” said Sabrina Essig, of Franklin Square, who said her daughters made some of the signs.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for March 13, at 8 p.m., at Washington Street School.