Robin Piccapietra has her work cut out for her.
As the brand new full time principal of Hoboken High, she is about to take a good look in the high school's proverbial mirror. And that, Piccapietra said, means "not always just pleasant things."
"We have the potential to do very well here," she said in a recent phone interview. "We could really bring some change."
Piccapietra has been part of the Hoboken public school district since September 2002, following a 14-year career at Merrill Lynch. She has lived in Hoboken since 1995.
Piccapietra was the vice principal of Hoboken High and became the interim principal when former head of the high school Noreen Lazaruik resigned over the summer.
Piccapietra's two biggest priorities, she said, are increasing parental involvement and increasing test scores at the school.
"We struggle with math," Piccapietra said. One of the ways to increase those scores, she said, is to offer a lot of additional instruction. Over the next couple of months, she said, she will take a look at where the school's weaknesses are and how to improve them.
"A lot of students are doing supplemental math courses," she said.
Secondly, Piccapietra continued, "we really, really have to work on parents. We have very little parental involvement."
While parental attendance to PTO meetings is creeping up — from about five or six parents to 15 this year — it's still nowhere near where it should be, Piccapietra said.
"You don't (just) want to meet the parents when the kid does something wrong," Piccapietra said.
Another challenge facing the new fulltime principal is how to increase enrollment at the school. Piccapietra attended an open house at the Elysian Charter School recently, she said, and spoke to many students and parents there, in an effort to encourage students to choose Hoboken High after they graduate from Elysian.
A new program — "Red Wing for a day" — gives students the chance to shadow a freshman at the high school to get a sense of how things work there.
While excited and inspired, the task of revamping Hoboken High is also daunting.
"It's quite the undertaking," Piccapietra said.
Piccapietra, who is tenured as a vice principal, was appointed to a one year term as principal. Her contract will be up for renewal in June 2013.
"I'm up to the challenge," Piccapietra said.