A Look Into the Role of MHS Department Chairs

Ella Shapiro, Spotlight Page Director

Running a high school is a tricky business. One crucial part of this business is the role of department chairs. The department chairs at Mamaroneck High School play an important behind-the-scenes role that many students are unaware of. While the department chairs are still teachers themselves, these faculty members are tasked with additional roles and responsibilities.
Teachers typically choose to interview for this role. Generally, the entire department supports one person who wants to do it. Although it rarely happens, sometimes more than one person goes for the role, and that is when the process turns into an election. However, teachers in each department work together to make sure that an election (should it happen) does not impact the relationships between teachers. At any given time there are nine department chairs: Math, Science, English, Art, Language, History, Special Education, Physical Education, and Music. This is truly an “extra” role for these teachers, as they act as a department head in addition to all of their other teaching responsibilities. This position showcases their dedication to making Mamaroneck High School run as efficiently as possible.
The overall job of a department head is to collaborate with the other teachers in their department to help with supplies, books, planning, and troubleshooting when needed. While the job of a department head stays the same from department to department, certain department chairs have different responsibilities based on their curriculum. For example, the English department head was in charge of incorporating social justice into the English curriculum to help educate students on real-world issues.
Department chairs get an opportunity to “play a leadership role and represent the members of his department” in the school, which James Short, the English department head, says is a very important thing. Short explains that the opportunity to represent the dedicated teachers who care tremendously about creating the best learning environment is what makes the department head role so worth it.
Department chairs also assume the role of working with the administration to consider the curriculum for that specific course, interviewing and hiring new staff when needed, building initiatives and new programs, and keeping the department organized.
On top of being a resource for teachers, the department chairs look for extra opportunities for students. Adam Rizzuti, the art department head, consistently looks for opportunities to showcase his students’ work, which is important since almost 700 students are currently taking an art class at MHS. For example, his students currently have work on display at the Westport Museum of Contemporary Art, and he is happy to share that he is “currently in discussions with the One River Art School and the Idea Kitchen to showcase my students’ work further.” Focusing on the students is what Mr. Rizzuti thinks makes his role so exciting, and he loves to inspire all of these kids as well as be there for his fellow teachers if they ever need a sub or help with an art show.
Although students don’t often interact with the department chairs, their education depends on it. Without department chairs, the jobs of every individual teacher would be harder and there would be less consistency in the curriculum. By allowing one person to work with everyone and help with the logistics, it is ensured that MHS runs smoothly.