Charles Cardillo is known as a hands-on school superintendent, often spending more than a dozen hours a day at the Manhasset schools and extracurricular activities.
“I went to Notre Dame, and I can remember as a Long Island kid going away to the Midwest and seeing the friendliness of the people on the campus, whether it be the students, the professors or the priests,” Cardillo said. “These weren’t people you knew. I picked that up, and it became a part of who I am just from that environment.”
For the last 12 years, Cardillo has been the leader of the Manhasset school district, but on Friday, he will leave the campus one final time and head into retirement.
Known for greeting students, faculty and parents in the morning and attending every possible school-related event in the evening, Cardillo is a friendly face to everyone in the district and the village. His office is located behind the secondary school, but Cardillo spent time among the students of all four district schools regularly.
“What you’re doing is you’re showing people the care factor is really high because ultimately, your presence is acknowledging the great things taking place in and out of the classroom,” Cardillo said. “I’ve placed a high value on that. You greet people in the morning. You want it to be a very welcoming environment. You want people to feel great about where they’re attending school.”
Cardillo was honored with a Silver M award on Friday during the secondary school’s commencement ceremony alongside seven students in the class of 2017 who were still learning to read and write when he took the job in November 2005.
“We were together the whole time, so that’s why there’s that bond we had,” Cardillo said of the recent Manhasset graduates. “Because I was a visible presence cheering them on in a number of ways whether it was in the classroom or at an athletic event or at a concert or at the theater production or whatever it might be, there was that great energy that we shared.”
Hundreds of people from small babies to grandparents came out June 15 to wish their outgoing leader well at Cheers for Charlie, a picnic celebration for the community to honor the man who molded Manhasset into the district it is today.
“[Cheers for Charlie] was trying to symbolize, really, who we are. We are a community, we are a family, and we care about one another,” Cardillo said. “We were celebrating a community, not just me, for what’s taken place over the last 12 years. We all contributed to the many wonderful experiences that took place here.”
Though his love for all his students is what Cardillo will be most remembered for, he said he will especially miss the relationships he has built with his staff, his teachers and even the parents and grandparents of longtime students.
Though retiring from the district and the full-time work force, Cardillo has accepted a part-time position as Nassau County Council of School Superintendents executive director and will continue to be in the mix on public school issues.
During retirement, Cardillo plans to spend time with his wife, Debbie, their six sons and four grandchildren.
He will also focus on rebuilding his Hauppauge home of 38 years, which was destroyed in a fire last year.
Cardillo said he is especially looking forward to traveling to Pearl Harbor for the commissioning of a son’s U.S. Navy ship and enjoying a vacation without checking his cellphone and email constantly for school updates.
“It’s bittersweet is the best way to describe it,” Cardillo said. “My experience here has been tremendous. As a result of a fire I had at my house, I’ve been living here in Manhasset and Manhasset will always be No. 1 in my heart and will always be considered my second home.”