Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
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Bonuccelli retires as principal of St. Charles; ‘I’m going to miss the kids’
by Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the July 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
Skip Bonuccelli (IR file photo)
Skip Bonuccelli retires as principal of St. Charles School, Spokane, this month after 12 years in the job.
He’s a cradle Catholic who went through the Catholic school system of the day, attending St. John Vianney School in what’s now Spokane Valley.
The experience was fundamental.
For instance, he learned at an early age that “there were two people you don’t cross: Sister Michaelina (the principal) and God.
“She was very nice, but spooky, as nuns often were in those days. But she was good to me.”
He’s kidding, of course – mostly, anyway – because he comes back around to that primary educational experience when he talks about how he ended up in classrooms, and education posts of various kinds, himself.
It wasn’t a direct route, necessarily. He worked his way through school, and before that worked in his family’s produce business, where he had “my dad and two uncles as bosses. Dad had no conception of an eight-hour day. It was 8 to 8.”
Eventually, he had his own landscaping business on the side, which helped him pay the bills on his way through college, and helped stretch a beginning teacher’s less-than-luxurious salary when he was first starting out.
He taught in public schools in the Spokane Valley, including coaching and supervising the yearbook and school newspaper. He’s also taught (and continues to teach) as an adjunct professor, at both Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University.
Just before he joined St. Charles, he had spent 14 years as Director of Communications for the Central Valley School District in Spokane Valley.
Throughout his career, he’s tended to change jobs – though within education – about every 10 years or so, he said.
The consistent pull has continued to be the students.
“I’m going to miss the kids,” he said. “I love being around the kids. You have more trouble with the stuff you can’t control vs. the stuff you can control. I can’t control parents or teachers. But kids are different. They like you. I loved going into the classrooms, say hi, give them a bad time, and leave. Kids love it.”
He laughs at the memories: “I’d be sitting in my office and I’d turn and there’d be one of the kids sitting there. He was on his way back from getting a drink of water or something and just stopped by to say, ‘How are you, Mr. B.?’ The preschoolers who will stand outside my door and wave. No fear. Respect, but no fear.”
He speaks warmly of the priests who have been pastor at St. Charles – Father Gene Tracy, who hired him, and Father Tom Connolly, the present pastor.
“Father Tom and I have become very close friends,” Bonuccelli said. “I value him a lot, for who he is, for his kindness to me. We’re both headstrong, but once we figured out each other’s hearts, that’s what really brought us together. And the Faith.”
Bonuccelli’s father died at age 61. “I’m at 66 now,” he said. “People say, ‘You don’t look 66.’ Thanks, but … I am.”
He pointed out that he hasn’t missed a September opening of school since 1955. “Every September since I was 5 years old.
“I don’t see myself retiring. I see myself in a new chapter, new people, new relationships, learning.”
He sent a letter to the families and staff of St. Charles back in March, when he announced his retirement – at least, from the school. He mentioned some of the growth that has taken place over the years: an enrollment that is almost doubled; innovation in programs and resources, including professional development for staff in writing, math, and reading.
From classrooms, to helping pass bond issues for new schools in the Valley, to administrative offices: decades of dedication to schools, public and Catholic. Perhaps that passion for education, for students, for relationships, started back at St. John Vianney, when he first entered the classroom. His teacher was Sister Gilmary, as he recalls.
“I had a hard learning experience” as a young student, he said. “I have some issues regarding learning deficiencies. Everything in school was hard for me. That’s why Sister Gilmary was so important. She had the patience. She was just wonderful. She helped me with my confidence, because I didn’t have any. And I wanted to be that for other kids, the kids who found school hard, like I did.”
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