Principal of Pine Trail Elementary School for 18 years, Barbara Paranzino, of Port Orange, died April 2, at 67.
BY MIKE CAVALIERE | ASSOCIATE EDITOR
Even after her death, April 2, the mark 18-year Pine Trail Elementary School Principal Barbara Paranzino left on her former school is etched on its library walls.
Standing as a tribute to her legacy in Ormond Beach, the Barbara Paranzino Memorial Library, which was renamed after Paranzino’s retirement in 2010, stands as a tribute to her life in education, which started in her home state of Pennsylvania, then transitioned to Florida in 1981.
After several years teaching, before being promoted to an administrative assistant then assistant principal, Paranzino became the third principal in Pine Trail’s history, in 1992. She created the Reading Aloud with Partners program, which matched at-risk readers with partners from the community. She established the school’s character-building Lifeskills program, which enforces qualities like honesty and friendship to students. She has been named a principal, as well as teacher, of the year.
But to educators who knew her, accomplishments like those come secondary to the ways Paranzino made them feel.
Suzanne Furman, who knew Paranzino about 10 years, never thought she could be a kindergarten teacher. She even cried after Paranzino gave her the assignment, moving her away from her fourth-grade comfort zone.
But now, after seven years teaching kindergartners, Furman understands what Paranzino saw in her.
“She told me I would be great, and now I love it,” Furman said. “Every day I walk into this building, I say, ‘Thank you, Barbara Paranzino. … I wouldn’t do anything else. … She gave me the gift of kindergarten.”
Current Pine Trail Principal Susan Persis, Paranzino’s successor, echoes the same sentiment. Paranzino was the kind of person, she says, who worked closely with her staff and only made decisions based off what she thought was best for the students.
“She just really made the school a happy and warm place,” Persis said. “When I stepped in, it was an easy place to fall in love with.”
Paranzino also oversaw construction of the school’s newest building, about five years ago, which, accommodating roughly 200 students, helped solve what Furmer calls a “severe overcrowding” problem.
“(The building) was her baby,” Furman said. “She was just so excited to see (it) built. … She was in here, opening boxes, assembling things. … She picked the colors. … She told us what we can hang on our walls.”
Being that involved, Furman says, is “very unusual” for a principal — but that was Paranzino. She was the same person who stayed up all night with teachers when the new building was finished, working to get classrooms ready for the school’s Meet the Teacher Day. She always helped sort folders during FCAT exams. She was out there for bus duty. She’d make spaghetti during school silent auctions.
“That’s the type of person she was,” Furmer said. “It was a wonderful thing that she did for our school.”
Pine Trail is also currently in the process of setting up a wall for its principals, Persis said, which will have space dedicated for Paranzino.
“She believed that kids can always learn, that there’s always a way to teach a child,” Persis said. “She believed in every child and every teacher.”
For her part, Persis says Paranzino “paved the way” for her in the school with her “kids-first” credo and love of books — a love that was instrumental in Persis’ recent purchase of 36 new iMac computers in the Paranzino library.
“I’ve kind of piggybacked on (her love of books),” Persis said. “But (students) need to know how to work on computers, too … because all of the jobs they will have growing up will depend on computers.”
But Paranzino’s affect on instructors like Furmer is even more profound.
“I will grow old, and I’ll never be out of kindergarten,” Furmer said. “And Barbara touched every one of our lives (like that). … She just made this world such a better place.”
Paranzino is survived by her husband of 41 years, Robert; two brothers; two sisters; and two Yorkies. A funeral service was scheduled 10 a.m. Saturday, April 11, in Port Orange.
Condolences may be shared with the family at www.volusiamemorialfuneral.com.