RANDOLPH — Lori DeCarlo will retire from the Randolph Academy Union Free School District after 36 years, including 15 in the role of superintendent, at the end of this school year.
Since 2006, DeCarlo has led the 200-student, two-campus district. During her tenure, Randolph Academy has assisted thousands of students from across the state, providing counseling, behavior management, a Regents diploma curriculum and vocational training.
Randolph Academy was established as a Special Act Public School District by the New York State Legislature in 1985 — the same year DeCarlo joined as a teacher. She steadily became more involved in administrative work, and was eventually chosen to lead the district 20 years later.
DeCarlo said the schools have since been positioned as New York’s foremost program in restorative justice. Its sociological model focuses on building and strengthening relationships and community, regularly engaging students and educators in structured, open communication as part of the daily classroom routine.
“I’ve always believed there were better ways of responding to students’ problem behaviors,” she said. “The potentially devastating effects of even one out-of-school suspension, coupled with the school-to-prison pipeline that threatens many at-risk students, led me to research more proactive, positive responses to student behaviors and conflicts.”
DeCarlo dove deep into this approach, researching and developing the concept to its current form and culture. She convinced her board of education of its merits, then led her faculty and staff through a years-long transition to a Restorative Practice system in 2015, a process that requires a true paradigm shift across an entire organization.
Since 2018, DeCarlo has been the lead trainer for the New York State Education Department’s Restorative Justice training initiatives. She also co-chairs Western New York’s Youth Justice Team and has presented at dozens of conferences, including those of the National School Boards Association, New York State School Boards Association and New York State Council of School Superintendents.
DeCarlo has encouraged her staff to share their expertise with anyone interested in adding restorative practices to their classrooms. Together, they’ve designed workshops and learning labs that have drawn dozens of state educators to their two campuses. They also travel to other Western New York districts to help them learn and implement restorative practices into their cultures.
“Lori DeCarlo’s influence is evident in every corner of Randolph Academy,” said Brad Sande, school board vice president. “Our modern school buildings, classrooms, technology and recreation facilities; our students’ outstanding performance on state tests and Regents’ exams; the success of Restorative Justice and our stable fiscal condition are all the result of her leadership and vision for the potential of the Academy’s students and staff.”
DeCarlo was a driving force in the district’s expansion, acquiring the former Hopevale UFSD in Hamburg in 2011 to increase Randolph Academy’s reach. She has also instilled a strong academic program which generates Regents exam scores that consistently exceed the state’s averages for students with disabilities.
Perhaps most importantly, she has steadily emphasized the importance of Randolph Academy students maintaining