Beloved Riverside Elementary School Principal Bill Cirullo, a Princeton native who served as head of the school for three decades, died Monday morning after complications from a stroke. He was 67.
Cirullo was known for creating a special sense of community and belonging at Riverside Elementary, and was always open to new ideas, parents and former students said.
A commanding presence in the classroom or on the lacrosse field, Cirullo was remembered by colleagues as humble and spirited.
“Bill dedicated countless years to the district as a committed teacher, a talented coach, and an incredibly energetic principal,” Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane said.
Cirullo always put the needs of children and families first, Cochrane said.
“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,” Cochtrane said. “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 felt that one of the best parts of his job was being enriched by his staff.”
A lifelong athlete and longtime coach, Cirullo starred on the football and track teams at Princeton High School and later coached football and lacrosse at Princeton High School. 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,” Cochrane said.
Cirullo’s office was covered with pictures of his wife Susan, his children Casey Upson (married to Lionel Upson) and Billy Cirullo, as well as his two granddaughters.
“He will be deeply missed by his Riverside family, the Princeton community, and all of us who knew him,” Cochrane said. “At this sad time, the district extends its condolences to the Cirullo family and their extended circle of friends. When service arrangements have been made, I will share those with you. In the meantime, please hold Bill and his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Over the years, former students often sought Cirullo’s counsel whether as teenagers, young adults or parents.
He delighted the children at Riverside by donning a cape, a cowboy hat and a pair of goggles at the end of the school as Captain Dismissal.
Parents and former students expressed their sadness about Cirullo’s death and celebrated his legacy on social media Monday night.
“Bill was Riverside,” said Princeton resident Eve Niedergang. “As a parent and as the co-president of the PTO for two years, I found him to be tremendously supportive and enthusiastic. He loved those kids.”
Niedergang said both of her kids, Miriam Niedergang and Sam Weiss , have wonderful memories of Riverside and the community he created there.
“I hope that his family and many friends and the Riverside community are comforted by their many wonderful memories of him,” she said.
Planet Princeton will post an obituary and funeral information when it becomes available.