Phil Paspalas, Hills assistant principal and athletic director, to retire in 2021

"Mr. Paspalas is a unique and special individual, a real huge part of what makes Pascack Hills so special," Superintendent Erik Gundersen said at the Board meeting where his retirement was approved.

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Paspalas in 2018. He has been with the district for over 13 years.

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Designed by Jared Mitovich
A recap of the Aug. 31 Board meeting.

Pascack Hills Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Phil Paspalas will retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Paspalas, who confirmed his plans with the Trailblazer, has been a district administrator since 2007. As assistant principal, Paspalas is responsible for general discipline and attendance, making sure that students obey the rules defined in the student handbook. Recently, mathematics teacher Charleen Schwartzman succeeded Tim Wieland in his assistant principal role; Wieland is now Hills’ principal. 

“Mr. Paspalas is a unique and special individual, a real huge part of what makes Pascack Hills so special,” Superintendent Erik Gundersen said at the Board meeting where his retirement was approved, praising the advanced notice given of his intention to retire as a “true testament to his professionalism.”

Mr. Paspalas is a unique and special individual, a real huge part of what makes Pascack Hills so special… I want to congratulate Mr. Paspalas on his decision to retire and thank him for many years of service.”

— Erik Gundersen, Superintendent of Schools

“I want to congratulate Mr. Paspalas on his decision to retire and thank him for many years of service, and we’ll do some more formal thanks to him” as the school year comes to a close, Gundersen continued.

As athletic director, Paspalas manages Hills’ athletic program, overseeing its fields and facilities as well as its budget and equipment. He also works out schedules for teams, books officials like umpires and referees, and organizes busing and transportation. During his tenure, Paspalas oversaw the creation of Hills’ softball field, a long-term project that required demolishing Board buildings and relocating the tennis fields. The softball field was completed in April 2018.

Stephen Schmidt
The Hills athletic fields from above. Paspalas oversaw their renovation as Athletic Director.

Although Paspalas will be retiring at the end of the school year, the news comes amid an athletic season –– and school year –– with many impending changes. This year, athletics, like the rest of school, will be much different in order to maintain safety on and off the field. Students and coaches alike have expressed uncertainty about the fall season, for which training is just getting underway. 

In addition, Hills is just beginning the process of removing its previous mascot, the Cowboy, and the eventual phase-in of a new one. The removal remains the subject of conversation among students and community members; several “Save the Cowboys” yard signs remain planted throughout Montvale. 

“I and my administrative team will be working on a phase-out of the mascot, and subsequently we will be talking about a phase-in of potentially a new mascot, and those discussions will take place primarily with students and potentially our community as well,”  Gundersen explained at a July Board meeting.

However, Gundersen also said that the changes won’t be immediate. Specifically referring to one area of contention, he said “‘Cowboys’ is going to be in the endzone for quite some time.” 

The district is also not planning to change any athletic uniforms until their typical cycling period expires, which likely means that Paspalas’ successor will be taking on most of the largest mascot-related changes in athletics. 

In 2016, when the administration was hearing complaints from students and staff about Hills’ school colors –– brown, white, and orange –– Paspalas said, “It’s a hard thing to tell kids, ‘Hey, you gotta do this. You gotta like this.’ But at the same time, we’re not just going throw it all out, 50 plus years of tradition, because it’s not an easy [thing to do].”

Paspalas added then that “there [are] a lot of different things that create the identity of the school… school colors can’t be something that go with the flow and change with the times.” On what factors go into the selection of the colors, he said he thinks “about cost, I think about color, and I think about design flexibility.”

Before Paspalas joined the district administration, he was a technology teacher at Hills who helped found the Pascack Pi-oneers, the district’s robotics team.

At this time, it is not known who will succeed Paspalas as Athletic Director. Besides coaches, Athletic Trainer Steven R. Papa is another faculty member at Hills with a focus in athletics.

Paspalas earned a Master of Arts from Montclair State University and a Bachelor of Science from Trenton State University, now known as The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).

Are you a Hills student interested in joining the Trailblazer? Click here to learn more!