Curriculum Cabinet to improve West Seneca schools

When Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Ann Botticelli left the West Seneca Central School District, some serious consideration went into what to do with her position. After a great deal of thought, the position was restructured and the Curriculum Cabinet was created.

The cabinet consists of 11 members who have a specified area of study. In other words, each person has a specific subject to control verses one person handling every single subject.

“We’re able to get right to the facts of what the people feel we need to address, what we need to work on and what’s going well,” shared Marge Borchert, who is the principal of Allendale Elementary School, Curriculum Cabinet facilitator and facilitator of science pre-K to grade 6.

There are two sets of members on the cabinet. The directors – Colleen Christmann (director of career and technical education, 9-12 academy program and staff professional development), Jonathan Dalbo (chief information officer, director of instructional technology, libraries pre-K to grade 12), Franco DiPasqua (director of math pre-K to grade 12 and applied science grades 7-12), Vincent Dell’Oso (director of physical education, health and athletics pre-K to grade 12) and Kristin Collins (director of special education pre-K to grade 12) – were already working in their area of study prior to joining the cabinet. The facilitators – Borchert, Holly Quinn (principal of Northwood Elementary, early literacy facilitator pre-K to grade 2), Kim McCartan (principal of Clinton Street Elementary, ELA facilitator grades 3-6), Ellen Stoeckert (assistant principal at West Senior, ELA facilitator grades 7-12) and Dana McManus (assistant principal at West Senior, world languages and ENL facilitator for pre-K to grade 12) – all interviewed to hold their position on the cabinet while also working in other positions in the district. Sandra Rizzo provides clerical support for the cabinet.

Meetings are held the third Thursday of every month. When they officially formed in March, they decided to set up a faculty meeting at each of the nine schools in the district to introduce themselves and share what their goals are with the cabinet.

What every member of the cabinet loves is there are multiple layers of collaboration involved. They get to not only work with one another, but talk to the teachers, Superintendent Mark J. Crawford and Deputy Superintendent Timothy Oldenburg.

“I really appreciate the wisdom and input from all my colleagues to bounce ideas off of,” Dalbo said. “I think it helps make better decisions.”

One large opportunity that unfolded from the cabinet was providing teachers the chance to share what their needs are.

“I love hearing from the teachers, ‘Thank you for listening,’ ‘Thank you for being there for us.’ I think the teachers feel they have a voice at the table,” McManus said. “To have a group like this where there’s so much experience in education and life experience, it works very well to meet the needs of the instructors.”

“We are blessed that the superintendent is interested in collaboration and isn’t a top-down person, the school is supporting us and the teachers’ union is supporting us,” Borchert said. “There are a lot of people who really want this to succeed for the betterment of students because that’s what it’s all about.”

DiPasqua said there are no areas of study being neglected. Every area is being examined and a lot of eyes are on what’s happening in the district. The cabinet also reduced district spending and unified the district to be one West Seneca instead of having the feeling of there being an east side and west side of the district. There have already been vast improvements in areas including professional development, assessments, repairing materials in classrooms, and how to be more cost- and environmentally-efficient with central printing, to name a few.

“We’re looking at every single detail. You have a whole human being focused on one area versus one human being focused on all of these areas,” McManus said. “The one-man band is no longer a one-man band. We have a symphony orchestra coming together and producing something that’s really spectacular.”

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the performance of the students,” Borchert said. “We’re all taking it personal. Each of us wants this to succeed and we want the performance of our students to improve and for it to be the best it can be.”