GOWANUS — A popular principal known for wacky neckties and a ready smile retired Jan. 8 from The Children's School after 12 years at the helm, the educator told DNAinfo New York.
Principal Arthur Mattia, known as Mr. Artie to students, said he made the "difficult decision" to leave so he could spend more time with his family, which includes five children ages 12 to 40, four grandchildren and his two parents.
"I've dedicated the last 24 years to my job at The Children's School,” said Mattia, 62. "I feel like now is the time for me to shift gears and put that attention toward my family."
Rosa Amato, who's been assistant principal at the Children's School for 11 years, will take over as principal, Mattia said. Mattia will stay on for one day a week for the time being to ease the transition, he said.
Mattia described Amato as a "caring and loving educator" who's well-equipped to maintain the systems he established at The Children's School and build her own path for the school's future.
PTA president Nicole Krieger said parents were saddened by Mattia's departure.
"He was a well-loved figure," Krieger said. "He created a really nice atmosphere for the children and also the teachers to work in."
The Children's School is the only school in the city where special needs students learn side-by-side with general education students in every classroom. This fall it will participate in a pilot program to encourage diversity by setting aside a certain number of seats for low-income kids and students learning English.
Students, teachers and staff gave Mattia a "breathtaking and emotionally draining" sendoff Jan. 8, he said, where students wore homemade ties modeled after Mattia's quirky neckwear.
Teachers and staff also made a video called "I Will Retire" scored to the song "I Will Survive."
Mattia said he'll miss the strong sense of community at The Children's School and, most of all, the students.
"If you're in the field of education, you're there for the children," Mattia said. "That's my most cherished treasure as far as I’m concerned.
"Everybody thanks me, but it's the opposite. I thank them. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to be their leader and hopefully make a difference in the lives of children."