MILLTOWN — Steve DiGennaro has returned to Saint Mark’s High School, a mere 33 years after he left.
In many ways, DiGennaro never really left the school. A member of the class of 1989, he was part of the 1989 state championship Spartans basketball team and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame. His son is a sophomore this season, and DiGennaro is his principal, having been named interim principal earlier this year.
He comes to Saint Mark’s after a long career in education in the Colonial School District, where he was a teacher, coach and administrator. He was interim principal twice at William Penn High School and coached the Colonials’ basketball team and started the boys’ lacrosse program. He also was an assistant football coach. His retirement from education didn’t last long.
“I retired and this opportunity came my way. I just couldn’t say no,” DiGennaro said recently. “To come back home is really special for me.”
DiGennaro grew up in New Castle and attended Our Lady of Fatima School before going to Saint Mark’s. His sister, Mary, attended Saint Mark’s and was on the 1983 girls basketball team that won a state championship.
At Saint Mark’s, DiGennaro played basketball and had planned on playing baseball, but his spring sports plans changed early on when the lacrosse coach got a hold of him.
“There were some [baseball] position changes, and John Carney saw me out on the field. He pulled me over to the lacrosse field,” he recalled.
After graduating from the University of Delaware, DiGennaro was working at Ferris School and planned on becoming a police officer.
“Meanwhile, I was coaching lacrosse at William Penn,” DiGennaro said. “One of my student-athletes got injured. I ended up raising some money as part of a group. The superintendent at the time, George Meany, knew that I was coaching, and he pulled me aside and said, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to be a police officer.’ He said, ‘You should think about teaching.’”
He began working with students who had in-school detention and retired as deputy superintendent. He said he was around a lot of leaders like Meany and many prominent coaches who mentored him along the way.
He met Saint Mark’s president Tom Fertal and Rob DeMasi, now the vice president for enrollment, through some alumni functions and admired the work they were doing. Now, he’ll be working with them.
“I’m very passionate about this place. I can’t wait to inspire the hearts of our students and motivate the minds. Once the students meet me, they’ll know there’s that bond that we all have, that we’re all Spartans. It’s going to be a great ride,” he said.
DiGennaro, a member of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, said he’s all about motivating students and staff. He said he knows God has a plan for him in his new journey.
Since starting on Aug. 1, he has been meeting with teachers. His goal is to support all of them and give them the resources they need to be successful. He said he likes to lead with his heart, not just his title.
His philosophy is to see what has worked and what hasn’t. Speaking like a veteran coach, he said he will draw up a game plan and tweak what doesn’t work. Part of his job is to find quality educators with the profession at a critical point.
His son, Jake, is in his sophomore year. Father and son discussed the elder DiGennaro taking the principal’s job and concluded it shouldn’t be an issue. Steve already knows lots of Jake’s friends.
He met his wife, Beth, in the library at William Penn, where she was an English teacher. They spend much of their free time traveling with their son’s baseball team, and DiGennaro likes to go to the gym and take his dog, a Maltese-Yorkshire terrier mix, to Lums Pond.
He knew he wasn’t done working when he stepped down from Colonial, although he didn’t think he’d be back full-time this soon.
“It doesn’t feel like work to me,” DiGennaro said. “I just can’t wait to embrace the students. I’m going to enjoy every second of this.”