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CSSS director brings expansive experience to Tribe

HOLLYWOOD — Michael Giacchino recognized an artistic side early in life and spent many years developing it.He said he was following his passion.

Now an education administrator for the Tribe, it might seem like a bit of a departure from artistic pursuits. But at second glance it makes more sense than one might think.

Giacchino is the new director of the Tribe’s Center for Student Success and Services in Hollywood. His first day on the job was Nov. 12, 2019.

CSSS oversees five initiatives: K-12 education, higher education, the library program, tutoring and Tribal Professional Development (TPD). Three work experience programs fall under TPD: summer work experience, work experience and advanced career development.

The CSSS offices are in Hollywood and there are about 60 staff members in the department tribalwide.

Art, education

Born in Philadelphia, Giacchino, 56, spent much of his youth in Germany where his father was a teacher, athletic director and coach for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Giacchino was a budding high schooler when he started doing television work for his teachers. He followed that by working for nine years in radio during his college years. (He’s got the radio voice to prove it).

He earned a degree in speech communication at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro – his academic focus was film and video production.

Giacchino later added a master of fine arts in drama, broadcasting and cinema to his resume at the school.

Giacchino came to Florida in 1989 with hopes of landing a job on the production team of the Miami Vice TV series. As luck would have it, however, that year marked the show’s final season.

So, he worked as a photographer and videographer in Aventura at made-for-paparazzi events taking pictures of celebrities and athletes. He did weddings, too.

Michael Giacchino was named the new director of CSSS on Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo Damon Scott)

Wedding photography can be an admittedly high burnout gig, so Giacchino returned to education and worked for Southeastern University (before it added Nova to the name) as a communications specialist.

He was later a specialist in theater, too – landing a job at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Miami teaching public speaking, drama and stand-up comedy.

You read that right: Giacchino has taught stand-up comedy. He’s performed it, too.

“I did some in college and for [Miami-Dade County] as part of the arts and cultural affairs division for events,” Giacchino said. “I’d sometimes get on stage and perform in the 300-seat Black Box Theater or at the [Joseph] Caleb Auditorium in front of 1,100 people.”

But he hit a glass ceiling working for the county and decided to go to paralegal school at Florida International University.

“They said: ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?,’” Giacchino recalled.
So, he went to NSU’s Shepard Broad College of Law.

He started in a business concentration, but earned his law degree with honors in mediation. He worked in the criminal court division on pretrial intervention cases for juveniles.

Giacchino enjoyed the experience but ultimately decided practicing law wasn’t for him.

Back to post-secondary education, he taught at Barry University, the University of Phoenix, the (former) Corinthian Colleges and at Concorde Career College.

He’s been a program chair, director of student services and an academic dean.

Road to Tribe

His most recent role was at the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) as the director of education at its Miami location.

SAE is a boutique school based in Australia with locations in dozens of countries. The school teaches professional audio recording.

But SAE’s parent company decided the regulatory structure in the U.S. was too complex, so it divested its American holdings in 2018 and shut down its Miami campus.

Giacchino said he then only applied for two jobs: a position at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and for the CSSS director position at the Tribe.

He thinks he got the better of the two.

“It’s a nice family structure and the CSSS team is good,” Giacchino said. “We’re hoping to change the name back to ‘Education’ one day soon so everyone will know who we are.”

He said his immediate focus since being hired has been outreach.

“We can’t just hang up a sign and say that we’re here, come and visit us,” Giacchino said. “Outreach creates engagement, and from there we get participation and then we can reassess. So that’s the cycle that we’re working on.”

CSSS tracks about 1,050 students in its kindergarten through 12th grade program. There are another 250 higher education students.

Some overlap exists in the tutoring program as well, so Giacchino estimates the department serves somewhere between 1,500 and 1,700 Tribal students.

Giacchino’s been to Brighton, Immokalee and Big Cypress so far.

Giacchino lives in Hollywood with his wife of 10 years, Shu Chen Wang. Wang is from Taiwan and teaches Mandarin Chinese at Pine Crest School in Boca Raton.

The couple doesn’t have kids, unless you count their two cats.

As far as hobbies go, Giacchino said: “I enjoy playing many musical instruments badly.” Guitar and harmonica are two of his favorites.

He also toys with 3D animation art.

“For years, computer art has tried to emulate reality. Now that we have emulated reality, I try to take where we are and make it more to look like graphic art,” he said.

In case you were wondering, the theater aficionado’s favorite stage show is “School of Rock” and his favorite movie is “The Godfather.”

More information is at csss.semtribe.com.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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