New Aurora schools superintendent says education is in his genes

Familiar face with Aurora schools will assume leadership role for new school year

APRIL HELMS Reporter
Aurora City Schools Superintendent Mike Roberto.

AURORA – The Aurora city schools will start the new school year with a new leader – although he’s far from being new to the district.

Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Mike Roberto, already a 20-year veteran with the district, will officially take the reins Aug. 1. He will take over from current Superintendent Pat Ciccantelli, who has served as the district’s superintendent for five years. Ciccantelli announced he would retire in January.

The school board approved Roberto as the new superintendent in February. In all, Roberto said he had 15 years experience in the classroom, and is entering his 13th year as an administrator. Most of his years in teaching, he said, were teaching biology, with some chemistry and environmental science.

“I think we all have our affinities to different areas,” Roberto said. “I grew up next to a creek and a pond and woods. Biology is something I really leaned towards. I find it fascinating, I think it’s the best way to learn about the world, whether it is through biology or chemistry.”

Gerald Kohanski, school board president, said that Roberto “has done an excellent job for the past five years as the assistant superintendent for curriculum, and prior to that for four years as principal of our highly performing Aurora High School.”

“He has proven to be an able and intelligent educator and administrator, and we look forward to his contributions in continuing to move the Aurora school district to ever-higher levels of performance,” Kohanski said. “His recent central office experience combined with his 20 years tenure in Aurora and broad knowledge of all grade levels and buildings in our district will be invaluable as he moves into his new position. He is also the first Aurora superintendent in over 20 years to be a resident of the city. The board of education looks forward to working with him.”

Roberto said he grew up in Ravenna, graduating from Ravenna High School in 1987. He added that both of his parents were teachers with the Ravenna schools. He said he remembered running the Ravenna High School halls, helping his parents. In addition, several other family members also were teachers.

“A lot of cousins are in the teaching business,” Roberto said. “You might say its in the genes.”

Still, when Roberto went to college initially, he hadn’t settled on the idea of teaching; he only knew he wanted to do something with biology. Again, experience at Ravenna High School helped him choose his path.

“I was assistant wrestling coach for a number of years under Steve Reedy while I was in college,” Roberto said. “I love working with that age, it’s fun. You get to help them grow into adults.”

Ravenna High School also is where he spent many of his years as a teacher, he added.

Roberto said his mother recently moved to Tallmadge with his sister.

He taught in a number of areas schools before “landing in Aurora in 1999.”

“Once I started teaching in Aurora High School, the school culture and community were very attractive and my wife, Lisa, and I moved our family to Aurora in October 1999,” Roberto said. All four of his children graduated from Aurora High School, the youngest graduating this past year.

Roberto said that he made the switch from the classroom to the administrative office in hopes of making a greater impact.

“Although I enjoyed the classroom, and still miss working closely with young people, I also began to feel the pull to have an opportunity to make a larger positive impact within the schools,” he said.

“I served as a the chair of the science department at Aurora high and began to be involved in more conversations about the school culture outside of my own classroom. It was through that role that I made the connections that I wanted to be part of building a school culture that nurtures young people through the power of collective teacher efficacy,” he added. “Making the move to administration was the next natural step to work toward building such a culture.”

What does Roberto enjoy outside of school?

“If there is one thing I try to do consistently it is to get out on my road bike,” he said.

“I have been bicycling longer distances since I had to bike to two-a-days for football practice at the old Gilcrest Stadium,” he added, referring to his alma mater’s former stadium.

In all, Roberto said he likes spending time with his family and being in the outdoors. Roberto said he and his wife also were preparing for their lives “as empty nesters.”

Entering his first year as chief administrator in a time of crisis, Roberto said his first goal is to “get the schools open safely this fall for those young people who want to return, and to have an effective online alternative for those parents who have concerns about sending their children back into the school buildings.”

Those plans have been weeks in the making and had yet to be finalized by mid July due to the changing situation with COVID-19. Thus, the mid-summer weeks have been extremely busy.

For the long term, the district is working to implement a new strategic vision, Roberto said.

Crafted with the help of 40 people, including students, parents, teachers, clergy, those working for the school district, and members of the community, the vision identifies six areas — or ‘’competencies” — the district should focus on with the students: being balanced, empathetic, resilient, innovative, collaborative, and to be a critical thinker.

“We feel by focusing on these six areas as we design learning environments for young people we will better prepare them for their future — no matter if they go on to further their schooling, seek employment, or join the military,” Roberto said.

Outgoing superintendent Ciccantelli “will be reunited with his family and grandchildren in South Carolina,” Kohanski said.

“We certainly wish him well in retirement,” Kohanski added. “He has been a great asset to the Aurora Schools over the past 12 years.”

“His extensive background in business and education enabled him to significantly elevate the performance of the high school, greatly enhance the position of assistant superintendent for curriculum, and become one of the premier superintendents in Northeast Ohio,” Kohanski said. “Pat is a very bright and logical thinker who knows how to lead a high achieving school district. The Aurora Schools' results certainly reflect the quality of his leadership.”

A new superintendent isn’t the only change the district will see in the new school year.

Also in February, the school board appointed Dr. Paul Milcetich as the district’s new assistant superintendent of curriculum & instruction.

Taking over Milcetich’s post as high school principal is current Indian Hill High School Assistant Principal Mike Hayes. Hayes was approved by the school board in April.

Both Milcetich and Hayes start their new positions Aug. 1.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@recordpub.com