Superintendent mourns recent passing of Principal Bill Cirullo

A message from Superintendent Steve Cochrane in honor of Riverside Elementary School Principal Bill Cirullo:

Bill Cirullo, the beloved and long-time principal of Riverside Elementary School, passed away on Monday, Feb. 15 surrounded by his family. The entire Princeton Community is mourning his passing.

Bill was at once both deeply humble and larger than life.  A commanding presence in the classroom or on the lacrosse field, he was also simple and self-effacing enough to don a cape, a cowboy hat and a pair of goggles to delight the children of Riverside Elementary School as Captain Dismissal!

A graduate of the Princeton school system, which he entered as a kindergartner, Bill dedicated countless years to the district as a committed teacher, a talented coach, and as a knowledgeable and energetic principal. Bill always put the needs of children and families first.  “Children inspire us,” he used to say. “If we listen well, they teach us how to be successful.”  Bill reveled in deep conversations and spontaneous laughter. He had an innate ability to connect with and to inspire others no matter how old or young they might be.

In his 30 years as the principal at Riverside, Bill created a very special school culture, one rich in joy, laughter, and new ideas.  Bill loved being a principal and felt that one of the best parts of his job was being enriched by his staff.  “When you work with great people – when you work with visionaries” he once stated, “it is like an endless riot of ideas and possibilities.”  That “riot” resulted in a school garden, a turtle pond, a black box theater, a wonderfully diverse pre-school, and countless curriculum initiatives.  As recently as last year, Bill was bringing children together with a landscape designer to create a new playground!

Bill made a lasting impact on so many in our community.  Over the years, former students repeatedly sought his counsel whether as teenagers, young adults or parents themselves.  A lifelong athlete and longtime coach, Bill starred on the football and track teams at Princeton High School and later coached football and lacrosse at PHS. He founded the Bobby Campbell Lacrosse Foundation, named in memory of a former player, to bring lacrosse to underprivileged youth, and he coached an adult lacrosse team in Princeton for a decade.  Bill loved the give and take of competition and encouraged his student-athletes to take the lessons and teamwork they learned on the field and apply it in everyday life. Bill also served as president of the district’s administrators association for many years and was a leader among his colleagues.

Bill’s office was covered with pictures of his beloved wife Susan, his children Casey Upson (married to Lionel Upson) and Billy Jr. as well as his two beloved granddaughters. He will be deeply missed by his Riverside family, the Princeton community, and all of us who knew him.

At this sad time, the district extends its condolences to the Cirullo family and their extended circle of friends.  We hold Bill and his family in our thoughts and prayers, and we honor his memory by remembering the joy and passion with which he lived his life.

“I get great enjoyment in my day by being with our students,” Bill stated in 2013.  “I became an educator to interact with kids. So I preserve that. I have the best of the best jobs in the world.”


About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida