Staten Island mourns the loss of beloved PS 56 principal Philip Carollo, a ‘real-life hero’ to his students
STATEN ISLAND, NY — “PS 56 Strong” was the message on social media this week, as Staten Island mourns the loss of PS 56 director Philip Carollo, who died of a heart attack Tuesday at age 49.
The Tottenville husband and father of two was a man who woke up every day and loved his job, according to his wife of 17 years, Erin Carollo.
“He loved being manager,” Carollo said. “He loved being a teacher. He loved the children of these schools. I don’t know anyone who gets up every morning and is happy to go to work. And Phil would wake up every day, happy to go to work, thinking about those kids.
Philip Carollo began his teaching career in 2001 at PS 44 in Mariners Harbour. After a decade as a teacher, he was assistant principal of PS 22 in Graniteville for seven years, until he assumed the role of principal of PS 56 in Rossville in 2017.
The beloved principal hosted fundraisers for trunk or treats and color-a-thon for the school. His students and PS 56 staff have partnered with the SSG Michael Ollis Freedom Foundation’s Operation Ollis to send supplies to service members overseas. He was a strong advocate for student and school safety, especially on the streets and sidewalks surrounding PS 56.
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic closed schools, the principal read a bedtime story every night to his students on Facebook.
“When the pandemic hit he was so worried about them,” Erin Carollo said. “He would record bedtime stories every night for the whole year and post them so he could talk to the kids and let them know he was with them. And every night those kids had a story about him. at bedtime, because he couldn’t see them every day. He loved this school. He loved being a teacher and principal. So I’m not surprised there was such an impact.
Fourth grader Ava Suarez and second grader Anthony Saura have both been dating PS 56 since they were in kindergarten and were devastated when they heard the news of Carollo’s passing. The Suarez family said Carollo was “the most amazing individual ever” and that Staten Island suffered a big loss without him.
“My children’s everyday hero will no longer be there to welcome them and empower them to be as amazing as he was,” the Suarez family said. “…The children who loved him very much, including my children, all lost a part of themselves…”
When news of Carollo’s passing broke Tuesday, social media filled with waves of condolences to Carollo’s family and the PS 56 community. Many Facebook users changed their profile pictures to read ” PS 56 Strong”, in memory of Carollo.
NYC Schools Chancellor David C. Banks offered his “sincere condolences” to Carollo’s family and friends, as well as the PS 56 school community. The city’s Department of Education (DOE ) said he was providing support to PS 56 during his time of mourning. .
“Clearly Principal Carollo was a truly beloved leader at PS 56, filled with school spirit and passion for his job,” Banks said. “I know he will be sorely missed, and am so grateful for all the work he has done to support his students over the years, touching the lives of so many.”
Erin Carollo explained that the outpouring of support “speaks of a tribute” to who her husband was. He was a man who lived “every day to the fullest” and made everyone feel important.
His two children, Sophia, 15, and Giovanni, 10, were the “light of his life” and “made him proud beyond measure,” Carollo said. And he was known as Uncle Phil to everyone – treating his nieces and nephews like his own children.
“He was the American dream. That’s what Phil was. His parents are immigrants from Sicily [Italy] with nothing, and they wanted Phil to have the world, and they gave it to him and they loved him,” Carollo’s wife said.
The principal idolized his father, who is 77 and still goes to the barber to get his hair cut every day in Manhattan. He also had a strong relationship with his mother, who Erin Carollo says cooks the “most amazing meals.”
Carollo also leaves behind a sister, as well as a sister-in-law and two brothers-in-law, whom he treated as his own siblings, his wife said.
Although the past few days have been difficult, Erin Carollo said she has the support of her family – and the gift from her husband is the love of everyone in the community who helps her through the loss.
“He deserves to be remembered,” his wife said. “My kids and immediate family have sworn to live every day like Phil, and that’s what he would want – to live every day like Phil, just be nice to people. Kindness mattered to him. So if they want honor my husband, live like Phil.
Funeral services will be held at Bedell-Pizzo Funeral Home, 7447 Amboy Rd., Tottenville, on Friday from 2-9 p.m. .
Several elected officials from Staten Island also offered their condolences.
“We would like to send our deepest condolences to the family, friends, staff and students of PS 56 Director Philip Carollo,” Borough President Vito Fossella said. “Philip was truly a beloved member of the school community and dedicated to his students. The people of Staten Island are saddened by his sudden loss, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all who knew and worked with him.
Councilor Joe Borelli (R-Rive-Sud) shared his condolences to Carollo’s PS 56 family, friends and school community in a Facebook post Tuesday evening.
“As someone who was blessed with a personal friendship with him, I can tell you firsthand that he leaves some very big shoes to fill. I hope he will always be remembered for the impact he had on his family, friends and the thousands of students who passed through its doors over the years,” Borelli wrote.
District Attorney Michael McMahon wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened” by Carollo’s passing.
“Our hearts go out to the families, staff and loved ones of a great educator and leader who will be deeply missed by so many,” he wrote.
You can see more photos of Carollo with friends and family below.