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Upper St. Clair's Ghilani named Principal of the Year

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Dr. Michael Ghilani was named Pennsylvania's 2013 Principal of the Year among secondary schools.

Growing up in the Finleyville area, Dr. Michael Ghilani did not have to venture far when seeking inspiration for his life's vocation.

Both of his parents were teachers – his dad, the late Paul Ghilani, at Independence Middle School in the Bethel Park School District and his mother, Dorothy, in the Thomas Jefferson School District.

Dorothy Ghilani also served on the Ringgold School Board in the late 1980s.

“I've always really loved education,” Ghilani said. “I love working with kids.”

Ghilani was recently named 2013 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year among secondary schools.

Currently serving as principal at Upper St. Clair High School, he was nominated for the honor by Upper St. Clair Superintendent Dr. Patrick O'Toole.

Ghilani was then required to submit a six-page report on his accomplishments as a principal.

The Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary Principals chose the winners.

Just completing his seventh year as high school principal, Ghilani was recognized for his groundbreaking programs.

Under his leadership, the school has initiated and participated in Asian studies programs with Thailand and China.

Each year, 50 Thai students spend five weeks at Upper St. Clair High School.

Students at USC spent three weeks in Bangkok, living with families there.

Teachers from USC and China also trade places for a couple of weeks.

This past school year, a similar program was initiated with students from Rome.

In addition, the school recently completed its second year for a one-week STEM program, short for Science Technology, Engineering and Math, summer program. More than 80 students participated, including pupils from other districts such as Sto-Rox, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Wilkinsburg.

A Buhl Foundation grant funded students' participation in robotics, engineering, chemistry and biology labs. The theme was “Does Energy Matter?” Students did hands-on projects revolving around the theme.

For example, students in one lab built and programmed robots to perform certain tasks.

Students in an engineering lab built a miniature city and utilized three different energy sources to light the houses.

A 1990 graduate of Ringgold High School, Ghilani earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology and social studies education from Washington and Jefferson College and a master's degree in school counseling from the University of Pittsburgh.

He earned a doctorate in counseling and supervision from Duquesne University, his principal's certification from Carnegie Mellon University and his superintendent's letter of eligibility from Gannon College.

Having recently completed his 17th year in education, Ghilani started his career as a school counselor in the Plum School District in 1996.

He then moved to the Upper St. Clair School District, where he was an assistant principal and then last year as the high school principal.

Education remains all in the family for the Ghilanis. He met his wife, Lauren, at Upper St. Clair, where she is a middle school social studies teacher. The couple has a daughter Nora, 5, and is expecting a second child in November.

When not in school, Ghilani enjoys hunting and fishing and considers himself an amateur landscaper. Those skills will be put to the test now that the family just moved from Nottingham Township to South Fayette Township.

In addition to his parents, Ghilani said longtime Ringgold teacher Scott Frederick was also a positive influence. Ghilani was a student of Frederick's and later student-taught under him.

“Between my parents being involved in education and having a great mentor with Scott Frederick, education was a good fit,” Ghilani said.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or