In Memoriam of Dr. Angelo Gimondo
Angelo Gimondo’s unique smile, graciousness and sense of “sí se puede” will guide all of us in our own journeys of bilingualism, multiculturalism and educational equity and excellence.
Dr. Angelo Gimondo, an extraordinary lifelong educator and a past president of the New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE), passed away on December 10, 2021. He was born in Siderno, Reggio Calabria, Italy, and he emigrated to the United States at the age of 16. Dr. Gimondo served two years in the US Army Morse Code Unit. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Brooklyn College, the City University Graduate Center, and at Walden University. He spoke several languages including Italian, English, French, Greek, Spanish and Latin.
Dr. Gimondo started his career as a foreign language teacher at Marine Park High School and shortly thereafter became an assistant principal at Mark Twain Jr. High School. In 1971, Chancellor Scribner created the citywide Commission on Bilingual Education, and this group recommended the creation of a bilingual education office. In 1972, Dr. Gimondo became part of the staff of the newly created Office of Bilingual Education, established by the New York City Board of Education under the umbrella of the Division of Educational Planning and Support. Hernán LaFontaine, the founding principal of the Public School 25 Bilingual School in the Bronx, became its first director. The office provided assistance and distributed and monitored funds to schools to implement bilingual education programs for students who needed specialized bilingual instruction. In 1972, Aspira, led by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense, brought a lawsuit on behalf of Latino limited English Proficient (LEP) students and their parents in order to force the New York City Board of Education to provide “compensatory programs” for Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-speaking children who spoke English poorly or not at all. Aspira, a Puerto Rican civil rights organization, was influential in moving schools and educational institutions to provide services for students for whom English was not their primary language. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants (NYC Board of Education) had failed to recognize deficiencies in designing and implementing educational services for Latinos. Hernán LaFontaine, the director of the newly created Office of Bilingual Education, appointed two deputies to work with him in developing policies and programs to meet the needs of students who were identified as “limited English proficient.” Dr. Gimondo was one of those two deputies, assigned to work with community school districts and schools in the implementation of this mandate. Dr Gimondo’s involvement also included meetings with the New York City Department of Education in areas concerning funding, policy development and the establishment of appropriate instructional programs.
Several years later, Dr. Gimondo was selected to serve Community School District 30 (CSD30) in Queens, New York City, first as deputy superintendent from 1982-1987, and later as superintendent from 1987-2005. CSD30 served children from approximately 120 countries, speaking 80 different languages. Under Gimondo’s leadership, a number of innovative academic initiatives were instituted which enabled students to reach new heights in academic excellence. When Dr. Gimondo took over as Superintendent of CSD30, it was an overcrowded district, with many schools performing poorly. Years of restructuring and increasing the pupil capacity resulted in improved physical facilities and significant gains in the number of students meeting academic standards. Using the collaborative decision-making process of the School Improvement Project as a model, Dr. Gimondo organized and trained school principals to develop mission statements for their schools, and submit an annual improvement plan. He also established a Teacher Center in every school, run by its own staff members, in order to provide support to teachers in the classroom including lesson planning, classroom setup, management and lesson implementation. Each school in the district operated around a theme, with several serving as model schools that new teachers would visit as a part of their training. Dr. Gimondo also founded CSD30 Academy for New Americans, where newly arrived middle schoolers spent a year before being integrated into the general classroom. Another innovative strategy led by Dr. Gimondo was the district’s exchange program in which students from District 30 along with their parents lived with host families, go to school and learn about the language and culture. In addition, students from different countries visited the district creating a positive atmosphere of multiculturalism.
Dr. Gimondo was a member and officer of many professional organizations. Among these were, the New York City Association of Community Superintendents where he was a member of its executive committee, the House of Delegates of the NYS Council of Superintendents, and the New York State Association for Bilingual Education (NYSABE), where he was the third president (1978-1979). He was president at a time of many uncertainties and challenges related to the policies and the implementation of bilingual education. His presidency focused on working in collaboration with New York statewide school districts and the NYS State Education Department on all aspects of the implementation of effective policies and programs to meet the needs of multilingual students. NYSABE, through Dr. Gimondo’s leadership, was able to reach students and their parents, teachers and administrators with information and strategies in the newly created bilingual education instructional field.
Dr. Gimondo believed in the value of preserving and promoting the Italian language and culture in the United States. And that conviction was seen in his continuous involvement with the Italian American community. He was the founder and president of the Italian Heritage and Culture Month, where he served as chairman of the board of directors. He was also chairman of the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE). Dr. Gimondo was the author of Primo Libro, an Italian language textbook.
Dr. Gimondo was a lecturer in the Modern Language Department at Brooklyn College and an adjunct professor at St John’s University, Phoenix University and Long Island University. He was also the recipient of several prestigious awards including medals of Cavaliere and Grand Official bestowed upon him by the President of the Republic of Italy for his dedication to the furtherance of Italian culture and heritage in the United States.
Dr. Gimondo touched many lives in his career as a bilingual and multilingual educator and as an innovative administrator. We, at NYSABE, will always remember his dedication and professionalism toward bilingualism, multiculturalism and educational equity.
(Angela Carrasquillo, Hernán LaFontaine, and Michael Vega contributed to this In Memoriam)