Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.
Grable joined the school district in 2000, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2006 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”
In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three.
“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.
But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.
Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.
“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.
The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.
“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”
Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.
Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.
“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”
To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.
“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”
“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”
— Lynn Jordan
Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.
“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”
Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”
The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.
“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”
*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.