NK-Arnold educator won respect for how he handled the job
When Richard “Dick” Romito ruled the halls of Valley High School in New Kensington, it was as a principal and an educator, not a dictator.
The result was that students liked him but even more importantly, they respected him, according to two people who taught under Mr. Romito in the New Kensington-Arnold School District.
“Even when he came down on them and disciplined the kids, it was always ‘This is business, it isn't personal,' ” said Beverly Meyer of New Kensington, who taught in the district for 35 years.
Larry Rowe of Arnold, who also taught in the district for 35 years, said he considered Mr. Romito to be “pleasant, cheerful, helpful and easy to work with.”
“If you needed something and went to him, he would try to work it out,” Rowe said, adding that students respected him because of all those characteristics.
Many students and teachers who knew Mr. Romito during those years will now mourn him. He died in his sleep on Friday in his New Kensington home. He was 82.
Mr. Romito graduated in 1953 from St. Vincent College near Latrobe and then got a master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He spent the first years of his career teaching in the Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional school districts. In 1957, the Arnold native came back home to teach social studies at what was then Arnold Junior High School, where he coached football and basketball.
He never left. Mr. Romito retired from the district in 1990. Many of his 33 years there were spent as a principal or assistant principal, including 12 years as principal at Valley. His son, Rick, of Ashburn, Va., who teaches algebra and geometry at a public high school, believes his father was the longest-serving principal at Valley.
“He was so involved with this community,” his son said. “He was born here, lived here and died here. He would not leave this community. He loved it.”
Rick Romito, who graduated from Valley, said his father was the same in school as he was at home.
“He never lost his temper,” he said. “He was a very controlled guy. He was strict, but he would try to win kids over with philosophy, try to talk to them and reason with them. He affected so many lives.”
Rick Romito said he heard from a former student on Facebook who told him about the time he got into trouble and was given the choice of serving detention or getting a swat on the backside with a paddle, a routine punishment in those times. The student chose the swat and, before his father delivered the punishment, the student said Mr. Romito told him, “I'm very disappointed in you,” which hurt worse than the swat.
“I felt bad because I didn't want to disappoint Mr. Romito,” the student said.
His father's best friend since first grade, Joe Nee of New Kensington, said honesty was Dick Romito's outstanding quality.
“He was honest and he always did the right things,” Nee said. “He was the principal at Valley, and he handled a lot of things the right way. You could always count on him to handle things the right way.”
Rowe said when he started teaching in the district, from which he also graduated, in 1967 he was one of the first male African-American teachers. He said it was something he was very self-conscious of considering that particular time in American history. He said he used to go into Mr. Romito's office a lot and talk, primarily about being a good teacher.
“He was the kind of guy who would encourage you. He would say ‘Larry, it's going to be all right,' ” Rowe said. “He was a mentor.”
That included labor disputes, as Meyer, a former president of the district's teachers union, recalled when the teachers went on strike in the early 1980s.
“That never came into play personally,” she said. “He and I could disagree on things, and then it was over. When we were on strike, he was sorry that we were on strike, but he never held that against anybody.”
She said Mr. Romito was a “typical educator,” someone who loved children and promoted new educational ideas in the district.
“He was so dedicated to teaching,” Meyer said. “He tried to see the good in everybody. What a wonderful man he was.”
Then he added, “Gee, what a guy.”
Mr. Romito's son agrees.
“He was a wonderful father,” Rick Romito said. “He was the best man at my wedding — that's how much I thought of him.”
Romito said when his brother David developed a rare form of cancer, his father, who never missed a day of work, took his accumulated sick time and spent an entire year living with his brother while his case was studied by the National Cancer Institute. David Romito died in 1991.
Rick Romito said he came home to see his father once a month and, along with his own son, Peter, 15, would talk to him every night before they went to bed. The topic was usually sports, which his father loved, especially the Pittsburgh teams.
He believes his father tried to make Peter understand that his death was approaching in his own way.
“He used to tell his grandson, ‘Pete, I'm climbing the ladder, I'm getting up there,' ” Rick Romito said. “I guess he made it to the top.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Controversial McKeesport building destroyed by fire
- Construction to affect Parkway West Thursday, Friday
- Firefighter hurt in 3-alarm fire at Jefferson Hills restaurant
- Pennsylvania religious freedom law does not extend to for-profits
- None hurt in Duquesne house fire
- Planned Uptown revival priority for City of Pittsburgh
- Ex-prosecutor concerned with latest Pa. child abuse findings
- Arrivals from Paris soon will avoid extra screening at Pittsburgh International
- North Versailles couple faults construction company for damage to property
- Shortfalls sabotage promise of union retirees’ pensions
- With ‘Ravenstahl Field’ awaiting approval, Pittsburgh City Council approves naming guidelines