As students return to the for the first day of class on September 6 they will be greeted by the new principal, Nelson Ribon, who hopes to share his excitement and knowledge with them.
“I’m not here to change Knollwood School,” said Ribon. “I’m here to evaluate what is going on and instill my experience, knowledge and passion for what’s going on and making adjustments where needed. It’s about the kids.”
By taking the realm as the leader of the school, Ribon wants a safe learning environment for the kids, staff and community.
With close to 600 students enrolled for the upcoming school year at Knollwood, Ribon is ready and excited for the challenge, he said.
Getting acquainted with the programs and staff at a new school within a time restraint is going to be a challenge according to Ribon. Since getting approved to be principal, Ribon has gone around meeting staff, students and reading up on the school.
His school mentor told him to go around and soak everything in his first year by talking and reaching out to people in the school's community.
Ribon is currently finishing up his commitment as the principal of the Freehold Borough Intermediate School.
“This district is different than Freehold, but every school district is,” said Ribon. “The kids are different, but the bottom line is that they’re all kids. If I felt that I could make a great impact on the school district it was time to go. If it wasn’t a good fit for me then I wouldn’t go.”
Ribon saw the new principal opportunity posted and after a few weeks of weighing his options he submitted his application. He felt it was a right fit and a challenge that exposed him to different grades. Ribon is now principal for grades four-eight at Knollwood.
He is familiar with the area by going to the fairs, driving through it and spending time with his kids, but admits he has lots to learn still about the surrounding area. He has already met numerous students, their family and the community as he wants to develop a positive relationship with them.
“Everyone here has been great,” said Ribon. “They’ve welcomed me from the time I was approved here. I thank the school and the community for welcoming me.”
Before the start of the July board of education meeting, he met a student and his mother who waited outside the school so they could meet the new principal. For him that made a big impression and was a warm welcoming.
Some words that Ribon used to describe himself were: confident, energetic, excited, experienced, personal, intelligent and sense of community.
Ribon has many ideas he wants introduce, but knows he has to pace them. He is open to suggestions and hopes that people will think of a possible solution to any issues so they can work together on that solution.
He says he’s not afraid to meet people and see what they can do for the students. He understands that some of his tough decisions may not be popular, but he was hired to do what’s best for the student and staffs' interest.
As of this time Ribon has no has drastic changes planned, just possible minor organizational changes.
Next week, Ribon has a meeting planned with the student council to see what the students like and don’t like about Knollwood.
He would like to involve the Rumson-Fair Haven community more with the school because students from both towns’ school will be one class once they graduate to .
For the long term plans Ribon mentioned technology, more hands on experience to careers that students love and communication with the high school and vocational school district to ensure there’s a smooth transaction.
The youngest of six, Ribon has two young children of his own. He said because of them he became a better principal. Having his own kids in elementary school is a plus as he able to see both the parent’s and principal’s side on decisions.
Ribon has been a hard worker, being employed since the age of 13. By the time he first began teaching, around age 27, he had jobs that included paperboy, substitute teacher and real estate agent.
“I’ve exposed myself to so many things at such a young age and realized the importance of hard work instilled from my parents,” said Ribon.
After being a teacher at St. John Vianney, Ribon became a Spanish and psychology teacher at Keansburg for five years.
For the past seven years, Ribon had been the principal at the Freehold Borough Intermediate School for grades six-eight. There he would also interact occasionally with younger students as the elementary school was in the same complex.
“It’s a good challenge for me to be able to bring in my knowledge and experience from middle school to the lower grades as well now,” said Ribon.
He has been a representative for the teacher association, special education committee and school improvement committee throughout his teaching career.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in economics at Rutgers University, where he took coursework in Spanish after completing his degree. At New Jersey City University he earned his master’s degree in educational leadership in 2004. He has completed all his coursework and is currently in the final stages of his doctoral dissertation at Pepperdine University.
Ribon is on a yearly contract that runs from Sept. 1-June 30, followed by an evaluation process with the district to see if his contract will be renewed.
There are lots of good people here and a outstanding curriculum according to Ribon. He wants to thank Ellen Spears, Knollwood's supervisor of curriculum, Jennifer Grenger, supervisor of special services, Kathi Cronin, superintendent, and Tom Famulary, the former Knollwood principal, for their support.
“I don’t want anyone to forget that Tom’s done a lot here in 11 years for the kids,” said Ribon. “I value the importance of the person you’re following and he has done a lot in a short period of time. He’s welcomed me and we’ve been in communication to make sure everything is in place. I don’t want people to forget how much he’s done for the school.”