Plymouth hires Wareham educator who leaves 'quite a legacy'

By Matthew Bernat | Jun 24, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Longtime Wareham High School educator Cindy Sylvia sits in front of her "family photo album" featuring hundreds of former students. Sylvia recently accepted a new position in Plymouth.

Cindy Sylvia sat in her office on June 22 preparing for the next chapter in her career, reluctant to say goodbye after 20 years at Wareham High School.

On her wall hundreds of photographs were taped up, all former students.

“That’s my family photo album over there,” said Sylvia, the school’s former department chair of the business, leadership, wellness and technology program. “The hardest part is I absolutely love Wareham. There’s nothing like a Wareham kid. It’s tough to leave.”

The week before, Sylvia accepted an offer to oversee the Vocational Technical Education program in the Plymouth school district. She starts on July 1.

Sylvia, whose father Dr. Cliff Sylvia was a longtime School Committee member and founded the DECA Club, was named principal of the technical studies program at both Plymouth North and South High Schools. As the DECA Club’s co-advisor, Sylvia has helped prepare students for numerous appearances at national conferences. She focused on getting them ready for future careers in the marketing and hospitality industries.

According to Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino, Sylvia’s accomplishments as department head, teacher, coach and mentor are substantial.

“Next year will mark the first time a Sylvia hasn’t been involved with DECA since 1971,” said Palladino. “That’s quite a legacy.”

Palladino noted that there will be an adjustment period while administrators search for Sylvia’s replacement; however, she leaves DECA and the technology education department in a position for success.

“The program is bigger than any one person. She created infrastructure in the program to allow for a successful succession,” Palladino said. “The DECA program will exist for many years, too, and that’s a tribute to her leadership style.”

Sylvia noted she wasn’t looking for a new job. When a Plymouth colleague informed her about the open position she refused to consider it at first.

After some coaxing, she realized it was an opportunity to “be part of something special.” In Wareham, there is one vocational program (marketing) and one new, rapidly expanding vocational elective she helped establish (culinary).

In Plymouth, there are 15 programs with plans to add more.

“It’s a chance for me to take the program and make it an elite model for the state, possibly the nation,” said Sylvia.

Before accepting the job, she sought the advice of a former student who she described as “a Viking to the core.” The student, who is an up and coming military lawyer, encouraged her to take the new position.

“He said to take it, it’s an opportunity to lead from a different place,” said Sylvia. “He said accepting it is all about everything you’ve taught us.”

She reflected on the hundreds of students she’s helped guide through the years. One in particular she recalled wouldn’t speak publicly in class, choosing to accept a lower grade.

By the student’s senior year, that was no longer the case.

“She had earned a second place medallion in oral presentation at a DECA conference,” said Sylvia. “I learned a lot from her, she made me a better teacher as did the thousands of kids that came through my classroom.”

Sylvia offered thanks to the high school’s staff, everyone from administrators to secretaries and custodians for creating a positive atmosphere.

But it’s the kids she’ll miss the most.

“What truly defines a Wareham student is resiliency,” she said. “They just need to realize their greatness.”

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