New England has seen few educational leaders like Gil Traverso, whose impactful career in education spans nearly three decades. As a person of color in leadership roles within Connecticut and Massachusetts, he represents an exclusive 1% of such leaders in the region. His leadership journey was inspired by the damaging impact poor leadership can have on a school and its community.
Currently, Traverso serves as the Executive Director of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School (PFSJCS) in Chicopee, Massachusetts, where he upholds his values, practices effective leadership, and demonstrates how he has successfully transformed numerous underperforming schools.
In 2010, Traverso took up the mantle of principal at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, Massachusetts, a school burdened by a high dropout rate, poor test scores, a hazardous environment, and a chaotic bookkeeping system. Yet, Traverso turned the tide, and today, Putnam is considered a frontrunner in vocational-technical high school education in the country.
With two decades of leadership experience, Traverso understands how to inspire a team and foster a robust community while hitting high-performance targets. He acknowledges, however, that the journey has not been without challenges.
Traverso notes that confronting institutional bias and status quo often leads to difficulties, especially for leaders of color. “Opportunities for leaders of color in education in Connecticut and Massachusetts are scarce, at around 1%. Thus, persistence is crucial to break down barriers and maintain true to your inner identity rather than how you are externally labeled.”
Currently working on his Superintendent Certificate at Central Connecticut State University, Traverso mentors and supervises other principals, imparting knowledge about strategic planning, operations, goal setting, resource allocation, and priority setting.
To motivate his staff and students, Traverso advocates for empathy, celebrates achievements, and recognizes the importance of collaborating with parents and school stakeholders. He believes in creating a welcoming environment for families and includes them as partners in their children’s education, which bolsters the effectiveness of dropout reduction programs.
At Putnam, Traverso initiated an early warning dropout system, revealing to parents various remedial measures that could help retain their kids in school. Coupled with other measures, this approach helped to tie Putnam for the lowest dropout rate statewide, at .7.
When allocating resources, Traverso bases his decisions on careful data analysis to understand and address the needs that exist: “Priorities and strategies are set after thorough data analysis and inquiry to find the root cause. As a leader, my focus is on equitable access, individual and group needs, and designing effective and measurable interventions.”
Traverso aims to prioritize students, structuring programs and funding based on their needs. He focuses on finding solutions that tackle the root cause of issues rather than simply applying quick fixes.
Looking ahead, Traverso is preparing to become a Superintendent, a role that will allow him to oversee the daily operations and long-term planning for an entire school district. His experience as an assistant principal at the State Department of Education-Connecticut Technical High School, principal at Putnam, and his various roles at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, New Haven Public Schools, and PFSJCS, make him well-prepared for the future.
Regardless of his role, Traverso remains committed to his systematic approach to problem-solving: “After a meticulous examination of data, climate, and resources, strategic planning must address the areas that require improvement. Building teams that support these goals is necessary for shared leadership. Measures of accountability must follow the alignment of resources, timelines, and support to gauge effectiveness.”
As a trailblazer in New England educational leadership, Gil Traverso has carved an impressive career path, breaking stereotypes and becoming a go-to figure when significant, impactful change is required. His dedication and expertise have enabled him to turn around failing schools, create a successful culture, and lay a roadmap for other leaders to follow.
Traverso has proven himself to be a transformative leader, especially in challenging situations. Whether as a principal or a superintendent, he maintains a consistent approach to problem-solving, combining data-driven decisions with strategic planning to bring about necessary improvements.
Above all, he never loses sight of the true beneficiaries of his work—the students. His philosophy centers around the needs of the students, shaping programs, and directing funds to where they would make the most impact. This unwavering commitment to students and their success is a significant factor in Traverso’s ongoing accomplishments.
Gil Traverso is a stalwart of New England’s educational leadership. His storied and inspiring career has seen him rise through the ranks, break through stereotypes, and become the leading light when drastic, effective change is required. He still has much more to give, making him an educator to watch as his career evolves.
Gil Traverso News
Educational Leader Gil Traverso is in the Business of Changing Schools for the Better