By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bay Ridge — Gilda King, the assistant principal of Fontbonne Hall Academy, is also a graduate of the school, as are her two sisters and her four nieces. Two of her aunts were Fontbonne graduates, too.
So intertwined with Fontbonne is her family that when King got a job as a teacher at the school, her youngest sister was a student there.
“I started teaching here when my youngest sister was a senior. I guess you could say that Fontbonne is a family tradition for us,” King said.
She is pleased that Fontbonne has become a tradition in other families, as well. She has been at the school for 30 years, first as a teacher, then as the assistant principal.
“Many of our students are second-generation. Their mothers went here,” King said. “If I go to a block party and there are 40 houses on the block, in 35 of them, there is a student I had at Fontbonne.”
King, who is also a graduate of another famous Catholic girls’ school in Bay Ridge, Visitation Academy, said she is a big believer in Catholic education. She sits on the Board of Trustees at both Visitation Academy and Xaverian High School, the Catholic boys high school.
“It’s an important part of my life. We should try our best to be role models for the next generation coming up,” she said. “I also believe very strongly in what a Catholic education can do for young women. We try to encourage their leadership skills. Our mission here at Fontbonne, to be a women’s leadership school, has not changed over the years.”
The school is located at 9901 Shore Road.
King is also a big believer in Bay Ridge, the community in which she has lived for several years.
“It’s a community of wonderful, caring people; whether it’s the storeowners who look out for their customers, or the neighbors who look out for the elderly, everyone cares about other people,” she said.
She is also struck by the beauty of the neighborhood, with block after block of tree-lined streets and handsome one-family houses, as well as the Shore Road Promenade, with its view of New York Harbor. A favorite thing to do, she said, is to walk along Shore Road with her husband Dennis King and take in the sights.
Gilda King is a trailblazer at Fontbonne Hall Academy, a school founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, a religious order of nuns, in 1937.
“I’m proud to say that I am the first lay person to be the vice principal,” she said.
Prior to her appointment, the position of second in command at the school had always been held by a nun.
King, who was born Gilda Piccini, was raised in Dyker Heights. During her years at Fontbonne, she excelled in many subjects, but particularly enjoyed math.
“I had an excellent teacher in math. She really gave me the spark. Even back then, I started thinking about coming back here to teach math,” King said.
After her graduation from Fontbonne, she attended St. Joseph’s College, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in math education. She earned her Master’s Degree from the City University of New York.
She got a job teaching math at Our Lady of Perpetual Help High School. The chair of the Math Department was a classmate of hers from Fontbonne.
She stayed for five years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and then got the chance to return to her alma mater to teach.
“It was my dream to come back here,” she said.
She even remembers the exact date on which she began her dream job.
“I came back on April 6, 1981,” she said.
She taught math for 16 years. When the position of assistant principal opened up, she was promoted to that job. It was 1997. She had earned a professional diploma in school administration from Fordham University.
She works side by side with Fontbonne’s principal, Sister Dolores Crepeau, CSJ.
While some things remain the same at the school, others have changed, King said.
“The core of the young women who come here has not changed. They are all wonderful young women who are willing to study and work hard. But the family arrangements have certainly changed. When I was a student, there were mostly two-parent families. Now, many of our girls come from single-parent homes,” she said. “Our approach hasn’t changed. We do what we have always done — we try to provide a nurturing environment.”
King gives credit to her husband, her family, and her colleagues for her rise to the top.
“When you’re in a leadership position, you can’t do it all on your own. I’m very blessed with the people I have in my life,” she said.