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Rich Boccia

March 13, 2013

We’re sorry to see Rich Boccia go.

No we’re not.

Yes we are.

Boccia’s sudden resignation as superintendent of the Mammoth Unified School District, effective March 1, elicited similar responses all around town and, presumably, in the cloistered halls of the high school, middle school, and elementary school.

He was a smart, brash, in-your-face Italian American, and Mammoth has never seen anyone quite like him.

Meeting him on the street was a little bit like coming face to face with an F-5 tornado: impressive and destructive, awe-inspiring in a good way, awe-inspiring in a bad way.

It looks as if we’re never going to get the whole story from the school district, which keeps under wraps all “personnel-related” matters such as legal actions, intended legal actions, irreconcilable differences among staff, and so on.

That’s not necessarily a slam on the district. Every government agency has rules like that.

In Mammoth, though, rumors travel fast. Rumors are frequently wrong and misinformed.

But in the wide-open streets of Mammoth, Boccia’s personality flat-out worked.

He immediately became a leader of the Rotary Club; ask him to attend a meeting of one sort or another, he always showed up, usually with a raft of supporting papers to buttress whatever position he was to take.

He also initiated a slew of great ideas.

For example, Boccia led the nascent effort to establish Mammoth as an official Olympic Training Site. He organized an ad hoc committee to begin that process.

At a Recreation Commission meeting during which he presented the idea, he challenged everyone within earshot to “think big.” He had no patience with thumb-twiddling and half-baked ideas.

When the state of the Whitmore Pool became a flashpoint issue in town budget talks, Boccia hammered away at the idea of building a true aquatic facility, in spite of the town’s rapidly contracting coffers.

That was brash. That was Rich Boccia.

He also was a paisonof the first order. Once, he kissed Rusty Gregory on the mouth. We’re not sure we’ve ever heard of anything like that happening before, and we’re not sure we’ll ever see it again.

We liked it.

Within the schools, according to well-placed but unnamed sources, Boccia exhibited very little patience and an intolerance that was just not acceptable to certain members of the staff and administration.

In other words, the very things that made him so great on the streets were the very same things that may have sunk him in the schools.

In that regard, Boccia presented an intensely interesting presence.

He spent 30 years in the Pasadena Unified School District, starting his career as a kindergarten teacher as he progressed through the ranks as a principal at all levels, along with being a district director focused on gifted and talented education and the authorization of the International Baccalaureate Programme.

He called Mammoth “Paradise,” and he meant it, regularly running and jogging about town, skiing and taking full advantage of the outdoor experience Mammoth had to offer.

Ultimately we’re going to miss Rich Boccia for all the right reasons.

The folks in the schools will have a different take.

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