A long and outstanding career at East Islip School District has come to an end, presaged by numerous appreciative tributes from colleagues and residents. Robert Tartaglia, the district’s plant and facilities administrator and a local mainstay since the early ‘70s, has retired.
A member of the East Islip Class of ’72, his was only the second class to graduate in the current high school building, built in 1970. Tartaglia was also a member of the 1971-72 Suffolk County champion Redmen baseball team. “Those were fun times,” he recalled. “The high school was brand-new and they were still completing construction, which we could see when looking out of the cafeteria windows.” He subsequently attended Suffolk Community College, studying business administration.
The circumstances in which he came to work in the East Islip School District were fortuitous. During the summer after graduation, East Islip’s then-superintendent invited Tartaglia and the other members of the varsity baseball team to visit the district office and receive championship plaques. The superintendent asked Tartaglia if he would be interested in part-time summer work, and the young man accepted. He began as part of the custodial cleanup crew at Connetquot Elementary School. At night, he substituted for the full-time custodians. “One thing led to another,” as he explained, and before long, Tartaglia learned about an open position at the district and applied for it.
In May of 1974, Robert Tartaglia was hired as a full-time East Islip custodial worker, assisting at the old junior high school on Main Street until it closed in 1979 and was sold to Licari Associates. When the head custodian at Connetquot retired in 1980, Tartaglia applied for that position, which he held until June 1986. He then served as the district’s assistant plant and facilities administrator from July 1986 through Sept. 1997, when he took over the top job from his retiring predecessor and mentor, Bill Zukowsky.
Tartaglia’s tenure at the district has been both eventful and productive, spanning three bond issues and approximately nine superintendents. His numerous accomplishments include infrastructure improvements, adding square footage to the high school, classroom additions in the elementary schools, major upgrades to athletic facilities and the installation of new window systems and roofs district-wide. He cites energy efficiency as one of the hallmark issues of his career, having overseen the adoption of energy-efficient motors, burners, boilers and fluorescent lighting as well as the replacement of all classroom ventilation systems with newer models with higher-efficiency controls.
In a career this long, he has observed a lot of change. “The most radical difference I’ve seen is in regulations,” he remarked. “The list of New York State mandates keeps getting bigger and bigger, putting roadblocks in the way.”
Tartaglia has been married to his wife, Carolee, since 1979. The couple have two sons, Michael and Robert. Tartaglia has not yet decided what comes next. “I am retiring – retiring from East Islip – but keeping options open,” he explained. “My decision to leave was predicated on my current medical condition.” Tartaglia has recently suffered from myasthenia gravis, affecting his eyes. “If my condition gets better,” he said,” “I will look to do something else.”
Tartaglia’s exemplary career in East Islip was recognized at several Board of Education meetings since he announced his impending retirement back in February, as well as at the For the Kids Foundation’s annual Golf Outing & After Party in Sayville on June 18. He was also honored with a special retirement party dinner, held on May 31 at the Irish Coffee Pub in East Islip.