Former Newark Arts High School Principal Ricardo Pedro to Helm CHS as Interim Principal


Acting Principal Ann Bodnar will resume devoting her full energies to her job as Assistant Principal of Curriculum & Instruction.

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Today, the South Orange-Maplewood School District announced the appointment of 32-year educator/administrator Ricardo Pedro as Interim Principal of Columbia High School through June 2024. Pedro will replace Acting Principal Ann Bodnar, who returns full-time to her role as Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction. Bodnar, in turn, was filling in for Principal Frank Sanchez who was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 2 and was charged with simple assault and child endangerment on March 8; Sanchez has pled not guilty.

The following press release is from the South Orange-Maplewood School District:

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – South Orange and Maplewood School District officials today announced the appointment of Ricardo Pedro as Interim Principal of Columbia High School (CHS). Pedro is scheduled to begin working at the high school on Monday, April 8th and his appointment is until the end of June. On April 8th, Ann Bodnar will resume devoting her full energies to her appointment as Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction. Bodnar has been fulfilling the roles of Interim Principal and Assistant Superintendent since January 2nd.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mr. Pedro to the District family,” said Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, Acting Superintendent of the South Orange and Maplewood School District. “Mr. Pedro brings a wealth of experience as an educator and a high school administrator to Columbia High School. I have every confidence that he can deliver the kind of leadership our students and families want and need. I’m looking forward to working with Mr. Pedro and I hope everyone in the Columbia High School joins me in welcoming him.”

Gilbert has appointed Pedro to fill the emergent need for a full-time interim principal to be in place at the high school as soon as possible.

Pedro introduced himself today in a meeting with CHS staff and in letters to students and families.

Ricardo Pedro speaking to Columbia High School faculty on Tuesday afternoon.

“My leadership style of working collaboratively in an environment of respect in a result-driven climate to meet/exceed expectations has proven to be an effective approach,” Pedro stated. “I encourage all stakeholders to utilize my ‘open door’ style of management to ensure all voices are heard and ideas shared to positively impact decision making.”

Pedro comes to the District with more than 30 years of experience in education. Most recently, he worked for six years as principal of Arts High School in Newark, where he also worked as a Vice-Principal and chair of the Mathematics & Science Department. Before that, he taught math at East Side High School and Weequahic High School and worked as a math and science teacher at Sacred Heart School in the Archdiocese of Newark. His education career started in his native Trinidad where he taught high school math for five years.

Pedro retired from Arts High School in June 2021. He and his wife of nearly 30 years, Shery, live in Somerset. They have two sons, Nicholas and Justin.

Lynn Irby Hill, Principal of South Orange Middle School and ASCA President, said she was “thrilled beyond measure” about Pedro’s appointment.

“He was my vice-principal,” said Irby Hill. She and Pedro began working together in 2011 when she was appointed principal of Arts High School. She said that Pedro was valuable in helping her make the transition from being the principal of a pre-K to 8 school to leading Arts High School.

Recalling their time working together, Irby Hill described Pedro as a highly organized “math wizard” with a “masterful mind” who placed a high premium on collaboration with administrators, teachers, and students.

“Everybody had a voice,” she said.

Irby Hill credits Pedro with instilling in her regular practices such as greeting students at the door in the morning and maintaining a presence in the hallways.

When asked how she thought Pedro would attend to Columbia High School in the last few months of the 2023-2024 school year, Irby Hill said by “making all children feel seen and heard and valued.”

“If he is at that front door when students enter, they’ll know that he’s about business, but he’s also about kids,” she said.


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