State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia visited Allendale Elementary School in West Seneca the morning of Wednesday, March 30, to learn about the district and talk about the changes she has made since she started her position in July.
Her visit began with a tour of the school, led by Principal Margaret Borchert and Superintendent Dr. Mark J. Crawford. She had the opportunity to visit the classrooms of Susan Burgio (third grade), Jacqlyn Nowinski (first grade) and Natalie Komosinski (kindergarten). Elia talked to the teachers one-on-one about their experiences and observed the lessons they were working on. “I’m going to remember this classroom because you’re so good with your words and animals,” Elia said after observing Burgio’s lesson on alliteration.
Elia then met with Borchert, Crawford, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Timothy Oldenburg, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Dr. Brian Graham, Board President Janice E. Dalbo and Board Vice President Mary J. Busse.
“We have a lot of people move to West Seneca because of the quality of our schools,” Crawford said. The group shared the strengths of the district, as well as the challenges they have faced due to budget cuts and changes in testing/evaluation.
Elia assured she has listened to the concerns of all the districts throughout the state and has made major changes, and will continue to do so. Some of the changes include teachers being more involved in writing the tests and removing the time limit when students take tests. “We didn’t get in this overnight, and we aren’t going to get out of it overnight.”
After their discussion, everyone made their way to the auditorium, where Elia was entertained by the school’s chorus singing “Spring in My Step.” At the end of the performance, the commissioner gave the students a standing ovation before making her way to the podium to address concerned teachers and parents.
“High standards are what we need. Teachers need the support to do it,” she shared. “The standards we had before did not have success with our kids. As a commissioner, I am not setting a bar for more kids to not do well.”
Elia said she will continue making changes as time goes on and she wants to bring teachers back into the limelight.
This is the first time the education commissioner has visited the district. West Seneca was selected because they had one of the highest opt-out rates in the state. Other districts visited that day included Depew and Lancaster.