By Alexandra Brocato
For 24 years, Chris Borsari has had a “tall” presence in our school district. He first began teaching at the district in his early twenties, first as an Earth Science teacher and then as an English and Social Studies teacher alongside Mrs. Berner and Mrs. Braverman. After ten years, he became assistant principal, and in 2008, he became the principal we all know him as today. I had the opportunity to sit down with this funny, out-going, and friendly principal, who has dedicated his life to helping people in our community. In his own words, “everything I do is about people. Faculty, staff, and students are at the forefront of all my issues.”
Mr. Borsari has left quite a legacy at the Hills. When he first became principal, his main objective was understanding “why kids may struggle at Byram Hills High School.” By asking this fundamental question, Mr. Borsari has implemented many important programs over the years. He explains that “we have created a bunch of support programs such as the chemistry lab and teaching assistant program, a math workshop, and a flexible support program.” Mr. Borsari adds that “one of the things I am most proud of is our work to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and opening up the dialogue.” In his eight years as principal, Mr. Borsari has successfully created an open environment where kids feel comfortable approaching faculty, asking questions, and being themselves. This environment truly differentiates Byram Hills from other high schools. His advice for teachers and Mr. Walsh is simple, but powerful: “Laugh a lot. Keep kids at the forefront of decisions. Be honest and be helpful.”
Mr. Borsari has had an active role at the Hills by interacting with the students on a daily basis, working with the faculty, and communicating with the parents. When asked about his observations of the student body he notes that Byram Hills is comprised of a “good student and also a good athlete; a good student involved in a play; or a good student taking part in many charities. The common theme to all of that is being a good student who works hard.” Mr. Borsari adds that throughout his time at the Hills, “the students are generally pretty kind to one another.” He has felt lucky to have been a principal in such a special community that has always supported him.
When Mr. Borsari leaves Byram, he will leave many great memories behind. For Mr. Borsari, the main thing he is going to miss is the students. He adds that “if I’m having a bad day, I’ll go out and talk to the kids and laugh and mess around. Then I forget about it.” It’s the relationships with students at Byram that have truly allowed Mr. Borsari to play such a crucial role in creating a kind and closely knit community. For this reason, it’s not surprising that Mr. Borsari believes that “education is not all about the content… but is really about developing relationships. Almost everything that we do in our life is about relationships.” He adds that without developing relationships with students, teachers will have a difficult time “pushing them to challenge themselves in a supportive way.” With this mindset, Mr. Borsari has been able to develop strong relationships with students and faculty. Emily Cooper, a sophomore at Byram Hills, believes “Mr. Borsari makes an immense effort to involve himself in students’ affairs daily. He is always supportive at assemblies, at one-on-one meetings, or on the athletic fields.”
Mr. Borsari will be the first one to tell you that “it was easy to give advice when I didn’t have kids who were in high school.” However, now that he has children in high school (an 11th grade daughter, a 9th grade daughter and a 7th grade son) he can articulate the most important lesson for students: “remember that you only go through this experience once. You need to enjoy it, work hard and play hard. Be interested in today.” A large belief of Mr. Borsari is to live in the moment and follow a passion. In his own words, “live for the present” and be open to “not having only one path.” By living life in each moment and not getting caught up in the next test or grade, students will experience more happiness and less stress.
After discussing all of these valuable lessons learned with Mr. Borsari, one comment really stuck with me. When asked about how he works with other faculty members, Mr. Borsari notes, “I don’t have to be right, but we [as a faculty] have to get it right.” This quote exemplifies the type of person Mr. Borsari embodies. Mr. Borsari doesn’t care if his idea is ultimately adopted. As long as he can successfully help the students by collaborating with other colleagues, he is happy. Mr. Borsari’s selflessness and constant motivation to help students has allowed the Byram Hills school district to succeed.
Even when Mr. Borsari is gone, he will always have a “special place in [his] heart for Byram Hills.” Mr. Borsari “loves Byram Hills High School and the whole community.” We will all miss his bubbly attitude, approachability, and charismatic leadership. We wish him good luck and a smooth transition in his tremendous new role as Superintendent of Tarrytown Public Schools!