Valerie Ulrich to become Riverside Elementary School’s next principal

After the passing of beloved Principal Bill Cirullo, the Riverside Elementary School community – and the Princeton community at large – was faced with the challenge of finding someone to fill his legacy. After a long and rigorous process that required evaluating the 175 applicants selected by a district-wide search committee, interviewing finalists and making presentations to Riverside staff and parents, Superintendent Steve Cochrane announced the new principal.

“I share the recommendation tonight with a combination of joy, gratitude and anticipation,” Cochrane told the Board of Education at the first meeting of summer. “My joy is in announcing Valerie Ulrich as the next principal of the Riverside Elementary School … My gratitude is for Paul Chapin. I love Paul. He is a man of incredible warmth and wisdom. He has the gift of being fully present to all with whom he interacts, and he has been positively present and wonderfully supportive to the entire Riverside community during a time of uncertainty and sadness … My anticipation is for the next era in the evolution of Riverside. It will be an era that builds on the magical sense of family that permeates the school. It will be an era that builds on the spirit of imagination and the try-anything attitude that will always be Bill Cirullo’s legacy.”

Ulrich is slated to step into her new position July 11. She has 23 years of experience as a teacher and administrator and, according to the recommendation, thorough knowledge of Writing Workshop, Everyday Mathematics and individualized instruction.

Most recently, Ulrich was principal of the Cliffwood School in the Matawan Aberdeen Regional School District. Her background in teaching has been in both special education and social studies.

“All of Valerie’s references were uniformly in praise of her gentle but transformative leadership. Most importantly, all of them praised her kind and caring manner with children, staff and families,” Cochrane said.

To learn a little more about Ulrich, read The Sun’s mini Q&A below.


The Sun: What are you most looking forward to about becoming Riverside’s new principal?

Ulrich: I’m thrilled and honored to lead Riverside school. I am humbled by the fact that I am part of such an outstanding group of educators and supportive families. I anticipate great things from our students, and it is a privilege to work in such a devoted and renowned school district. I am most looking forward to continuing and growing the district’s mission of helping children to lead lives of joy and purpose as they grow to become knowledgeable, creative and compassionate citizens.


The Sun: What do you feel are positive assets, practices or quirks you will bring to the Princeton Public School community?

Ulrich: I look forward to meshing my experience and collaborative approach with the already excellent practices that exist at Riverside especially in the area of literacy.

The Sun: What is your favorite thing about being a principal and why do you feel it is such an important role to maintain in children’s lives as they foster their education?

Ulrich: My favorite thing about being a principal is the interaction with the children and being a part of their lives as they grow from kindergarteners wide-eyed with anticipation to thoughtful and curious fifth graders ready for a bigger world. It is my role, as principal, to ensure continuous learning among all the members of the Riverside family and foster a culture that encourages that learning to take place in the most creative and inspiring ways.

In other school district news:

• The board of education announced the retirements of Princeton High School science teacher Timothy Anderson after 18 years of service to PPS and Riverside Elementary physical education teacher Ronald Celestin after 30 years of service to the district.

• Cochrane and Assistant Superintendent Lew Goldstein announced that Princeton Public Schools underwent its communications audit report, a 100-page report with recommendations to help PPS develop strategic communications practices. These recommendations will be implemented over a five-year period ending in the 2020-2021 school year. The recommendations can be viewed on the district website,

• The board endorsed a summer school education option for high school students to obtain credits for graduation requirements through Educere for this summer. Educere is an online student-paid program.

• The board approved a purchase of Apple iMac and MacBook computers for a sum of $199,000.

• The board approved the Princeton Public Schools PreK-12 curriculum, courses, textbooks, workbooks and materials for the 2016-2017 school year.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will be July 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Conference Room at Valley Road.

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