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Sunday, October 04, 2015

Staples’ Karagus: ‘You Have to Be Yourself’

By James Lomuscio

One of the late baseball legend Yogi Berra’s scratch-your-head witticisms was, “If you can’t imitate him, don’t try to copy him.”

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Interim Staples Principal Mark W. Karagus:“I’ve made a pretty good dent introducing myself,”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

That Yogi-ism could best apply to die-hard Yankees fan Mark W. Karagus, the interim principal who just finished up his first month at Westport’s Staples High School.

“I’m a little bit different from John,” Karagus says about his style compared to that of former principal John Dodig, the beloved administrator who retired in June after 11 years at the helm. “I don’t want to copy his style. You have to be yourself. It’s what I do.”

Described as personable, if not garrulous, Karagus, 65, can be found mornings, greeting students in the school’s lobby, but not standing center stage there like Dodig. He also makes sure to walk the halls, to visit the cafeteria, to chat with students.

“So, I’ve made a pretty good dent introducing myself,” he says.

He’s held assemblies with each grade in the auditorium and has scheduled parent meetings and coffees.

In his new post, Karagus has also spent time with PTA Council co-chairs Sue Rubin and Ann Marie Fox, whom he described as “wonderful, very good people who support the school.” 

Karagus, who came on board July 1 and whose contract runs through June 30, 2016, previously served as interim principal of Stamford’s Trinity Catholic High School.

Prior to that post, he spent 37 years in education, most recently as principal of Norwalk High School from 2002 through 2013. He was also principal of Warren G. Harding High School in Bridgeport, his alma mater, and principal of that city’s Blackburn Middle School.

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Mark Karagus is a big Yankees fan and has a picture of himself with his three sons at a 2010 Yankees game in his office. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“What I’m finding that’s the same in every community is that every parent wants their child to receive a good education, so they can lead a prosperous life,” he said.

And Westport, Karagus, says, has a long history of being exemplary.

“Surprisingly, this has been an outstanding opening for school,” he said. “It’s been very smooth, and I credit most of this to the Westport administration, the instructional staff and the support staff. They’re exceptionally conscientious. Every person I have met has a commitment to the Westport school system.”

The native Bridgeporter who now lives in Trumbull, has three adult boys and six grandchildren. He also recently became engaged to Bridgeport attorney Maribeth Browne Goulden, perhaps a sign that he is not looking to coast into retirement.

“I’m an interim principal, but I will work this job like I’m going to be here 20 years,” says Karagus, whose smile and outgoing nature exude optimism.

A self-described “big Yankees fan and a Giants fan,” he beams pointing to a framed photo of his sons decked out in Yankees uniforms.

The photo is near another one of television’s Jack Webb, a picture signed with an inscription of the fictional Joe Friday and his signature saying, “Just the facts.” The many curiosities on his walls serve as icebreakers for a principal who appears an open-door administrator.

Karagus said one of his main goals this year is to see Staples earn is accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

“They will assess our self study, which was done by the school, to see if what we claim exists,” he said, adding that on Oct. 25 though 28 a 16-person NEASC committee will review Staples.

“That’s my goal, to have a successful conclusion to the accreditation,” Karagus said. “We had it in the past, and we did well.

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A Karagus favorite saying: “Thoughts become words. Words become action. Action becomes character. Character is everything.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“This is a state-of-the-art facility,” he added. “It’s very strongly technologically based, and we are definitely educating students for the 21st century. That’s a given.”

Karagus notes he is no stranger to Staples, having officiated basketball games for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO), for which he served as both Fairfield County and state president.

“You can learn a lot about a school and how they conduct themselves by watching their games,” says Karagus. “Staples has always been exemplary, and I’ve always loved coming here to officiate games. And I’ve refereed game here back in the 70s when Brian Kelly was basketball coach.”

Sports and good sportsmanship appear integral to his makeup. The 1972 graduate of Sacred Heart University (SHU)  also served as SHU’s baseball coach.

Sports remained a part of his life as he pursued his master’s degree at the University of Bridgeport and educational doctorate at Nova University, now known as Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Right out of college, Karagus got a job teaching English at Harding, and after obtaining his master’s in guidance counseling, he became a counselor in the Stratford Public Schools before coming back to Bridgeport as an administrator.

“I’ve got a very good background in the diversity of Fairfield County,” he said.

Everything, says Karagus, revolves around character, which is exemplified by another framed saying he has on his office wall, one he is determined to instill: “Thoughts become words. Words become action. Action becomes character. Character is everything.”

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Posted 10/04/15 at 08:15 AM  Permalink



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