Polk Street Principal Torossian returns


Principal Gilbert Torossian returned April 12 to Polk Street School after a two month absence to students greeting him with ecstatic grins and while others became emotional.

Torossian’s leave of absence from Feb. 5 through April 12 was felt throughout the Franklin Square community as parents and long-time residents alike called for his return to the building. Parents were left in the dark about his absence for most of the month of February when district Superintendent Jared Bloom sent out an email explaining that Torossian was on a leave of absence “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

During Torossian’s absence, Washington Street School Assistant Principal Dominic Gobbo stepped in as interim principal on March 5. According to an email Bloom sent to parents on April 12 which informed the district at large of Torossian’s return, Gobbo returned to Washington Street School on April 15.

“We thank Mr. Gobbo, Mr. Trotta and Ms. Mihalatos for their help and support during this time,” he said in the email.

In emotionally packed board of education meetings in February and April, neighbors noted Torossian’s connection with students as more than an educator, but also “a lunch buddy and a friend.”

Neighbors demanded answers about when Torossian would return to Polk Street throughout the months of his absence. The Franklin Square school district’s education board remained steadfast in their position that they could not comment on individual staff matters, as they are “confidential and subject to privacy regulations,” as mentioned in a statement.

Cathy Fanelli, a co-president of the Polk Street School Parent Teacher Association, said that while she understands the need for privacy, the community would have appreciated more transparency from the education board from the beginning.

“In the first three weeks where we didn’t know anything and we hadn’t heard anything at all — you know, it was very kind of confusing and frustrating for everyone not to know what was going on,” she said.

Students and parents were happy to see Torossian back in school last Friday. Vanessa Batthany, whose children attend Polk Street School, said that “the smiles on the kids’ faces at dismissal said it all.” She also commented on the reunification between Polk Street Assistant Principal John Trotta and Torossian, who have a dynamic that neighbors have likened to Batman and Robin at the school.

“We are so lucky to have such amazing principals in our school,” Batthany said. “Mr. Trotta has been an amazing support system for the students and parents during Mr. T’s absence and these kids could not be happier to see the two of them together again.”

Fanelli echoed this sentiment and said that Gobbo and Trotta were amazing in Torossian’s absence and appreciated everything they did to support the community during that time. She said that the community is absolutely thrilled to have their beloved head principal back at school.

“The children were so happy to see him,” Fanelli said. “They rushed him with open arms, hugging him and chanting ‘Mr. T! Mr. T!’”

She described the reunification as a great day at Polk Street, which brought many people to tears seeing him reunited with the students and staff. Torossian met the students at lunch time after they finished testing in the morning as to not disrupt their morning exams.

Fanelli said he rolled right back into his role as principal and was in great spirits interacting with the students and staff last Friday.

“It was like no time had passed, he picked up right where he left off,” she said.

During his absence, Fanelli said that sixth-grade students were especially upset not knowing when he would return to school and if he would be there for their graduation ceremony. When they saw him at school last week, Fanelli said the students were their “happy-go-lucky selves” again and even saw a few shed some tears at his return.

Dana Dito, whose daughter attends Polk Street School, said that parents are “beyond thrilled” to have Torossian back at school.

“The outpouring of love and hugs today is a true testament to how amazing Mr. T is and how important he is to our children and our community,” Dito said.