When asked to describe the high school’s student supervisor, Charles (Chuck) Bognanni, his colleagues used words such as “gentle giant”, “big heart”, and “teddy bear”.

Bognanni grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. He attended Swarthmore College, where he earned his bachelor’s in psychology, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he received his master’s in criminology. After spending ten years working at the Walpole prison as a corrections officer he began working at the high school in 2002, and after his 22nd year here, he will be retiring with his wife to South Carolina.

“It’s been one of the best jobs I think I ever could have found,” Bognanni said.

Throughout his time here, Bognanni’s position has morphed into various roles, such as patrolling the parking lot, monitoring detention, and running the school’s security cameras. In addition to these jobs, he is known as a go-to in any situation. His acts of selfless behavior and deep generosity do not go unnoticed.

School resource officer Matthew Wall and assistant principal Mr. Andrew Kelton (close colleagues of Bognanni) gave the same answer when asked to describe him: “he would give the shirt off of his back, without thinking twice.”

“Over the years I’ve often been asked if I had any kids. My response would always be, ‘Yes, around 1500’. Your kids were my kids, at least for a few hours a day, and I would have done anything for them,” Bognanni wrote in his recent “Community Goodbye” letter.

Bognanni spends time each day around the “bar area,” a thin, tall table where teachers meet to patrol the cafeteria area. Even in his casual conversations, he leaves quite an impact. 

Mr. Kelton said, “You will always leave a conversation with Chuck feeling good.”

Wall noted that these daily interactions are one of the things he will miss most about Bognanni. 

 “Just shooting the breeze with him. It was a great way to start my day,” Wall said.

Bognanni’s sense of humor is also a notable part of his personality. When asked what he hopes people will remember about him, while chuckling he said, “What, other than my incredible looks?”.

Students at the high school are just as excited to talk about Bognanni as his fellow staff members. 

“Chuck is the best. He is hilarious…It is clear he really cares about the students in our building and we are all lucky to have him,” said  Brennan Cooney ‘24.

As much as he loves to be humorous, he does an incredible job of balancing “discipline and caring[ness],” said Mr. Thomas Denman, a close friend and colleague of Bognanni for nine years now. Denman teaches the “Joy of Cooking” and “Fashion and Marketing” classes.

“By holding students accountable for their actions and making the moment into a lesson, rather than a punishment, they will learn a great deal,” said Denman.

Mr. Kelton echoed Bognanni’s ability to create healthy connections. He said Chuck helped him learn the importance of “building relationships and building trust [with people]”.

Bognanni’s ability to form relationships is most definitely one of his superpowers. 

“Chuck was always good at getting a laugh out of me during the beginning of the year when senior year stress was at its peak. His kindness and ability to help students like myself really impacted my WHS experience for the better,”  said Charlotte Kondi ‘24.

For the past 20 years, Bognanni has presented his notable seminar “Prison Life.” During this fascinating hour, he discussed the time he spent working at the Walpole Maximum Security prison as a corrections officer. Students were offered a first-hand look at Bognanni’s courageous actions.

For each Seminar Day, Bognanni presents his “Prison Life” seminar. Photo courtesy of Chuck Bognanni.

He remembers a specific day while working at the prison. A riot had occurred in the main yard earlier that day. After dinner, some of the inmates kept their food trays (since these objects can be used as weapons, keeping the trays is prohibited). The staff needed to collect the trays and Bognanni was one of the people expected to do so. He was known as the “shield man”. That night, he and other staff members entered seven different cells, the last one ending in an injury that caused his premature retirement from Walpole.

Bognanni has undergone a series of surgeries (23 in total) due to his injuries at Walpole. Some of these include: two partial shoulder replacements, one total shoulder replacement, and three herniated disc corrections in his neck. Due to the severity of these injuries, he hopes the warmer climate in South Carolina will be beneficial for his long-term recovery process. 

Wall affirmed Bognanni’s bravery. He talked about the level of safety and security Bognanni created with just his mere presence.

He said, “[Bognanni was] an extra layer of security if things ever got out of hand”.

As Bognanni moves on to this new, well-deserved chapter, the high school’s students and staff will miss him profoundly.

“Chuck spent his time at the high school making sure every student he encountered felt like they had value and a place of their own in the building. His openness and ability to relate to everyone was something that I know has had a lasting impact over the years,” said Denman.

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