The Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education will recommend the approval of current Pascack Hills principal Glenn deMarrais as principal of Pascack Valley for the 2020-21 school year, according to the agenda for their Monday, April 13 meeting. The board will also recommend rescinding the appointment of Brian Hutchinson, who was previously approved as Pascack Valley principal, at Hutchinson’s request.[Click here to see the relevant part of the agenda.]
The agenda said deMarrais has requested to rescind his resignation, which he announced in January and planned to begin at the end of the school year. At the time, he cited the decision to retire as “very difficult” and one he had wrestled with for “the last few months.”
The Trailblazer reached out to deMarrais for comment, who said “at the request of [Superintendent Erik Gundersen], I have postponed my retirement for one year to step in as principal at [Pascack Valley]. It is all pending board approval Monday night.”
Originally, on March 17, the board approved in a 7-2 decision the appointment of Hutchinson, the Emerson Junior-Senior High School principal, as Pascack Valley’s permanent principal. At the meeting of the vote, Pascack Valley’s school newspaper, the Smoke Signal, reported that students, teachers, and members of the community expressed disappointment in the board’s decision not to appoint the school’s assistant principal, John Puccio, for the position. Puccio had recently stepped in as interim principal in the wake of Tom DeMaio’s retirement. It is unclear what led to Hutchinson’s request to rescind his appointment and the superintendent’s request to appoint deMarrais.
Still, the potential administrative changes began to reverberate throughout the Hills community.
“It just came as a shock to me,” Hills junior Jess Gudin commented, “because he seemed so focused on wanting to dedicate more time to his family.” Gudin admitted it “is a little upsetting, but I know he is doing what he feels is best, and I’m still glad he is part of the district, even if it’s not through Hills.”
Other Hills students began to reflect on deMarrais’ years of service as they processed the news. Since he first became assistant principal in 2001, he has overseen the graduation of nearly 4,000 students from the high school. As principal since 2012, deMarrais’ accomplishments have included the Pascack Schedule and Pascack Period as well as the advocacy for sports and clubs like Project Paterson, Theatre, DECA, and many more. In his own words, his goals have been centered around student wellness –– better known to the community as Hills Pride.
“Mr. deMarrais embodies Hills Pride, especially because he created the phrase,” junior Aria Chalileh explained. While she agreed with Gudin that all Hills students want what is best for their current principal, she said “it’s difficult to imagine him leaving Hills and going to Valley… that he may attend Valley’s graduation next year rather than Hills’, even though he has been our principal for our whole high school career.”
The news comes during what Gundersen has called an “unprecedented time.” The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to close indefinitely, with a reevaluation of potential reopenings scheduled by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy for April 17. Since March 16, students and teachers have participated in online classes relying on programs such as Canvas and Zoom. DeMarrais and Assistant Principal Tim Wieland have sent out periodic emails checking in on students.