Feb. 2-8, 2006
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Colabufo assumes role as new superintendent for Syracuse Diocese schools
When Mike Colabufo assumed the position of superintendent of schools for the Syracuse Diocese, it was the fulfillment of a life’s goal.
Circumstances denied him a parochial-school education but the Eastwood native and Henninger High School graduate has always admired the principles of a Catholic education. As a youth, Colabufo was inspired by the example of then-superintendent Father Thomas Costello, who is now the auxiliary bishop for the Syracuse Diocese.
“This was kind of a dream-come-true for me. When I had graduated from high school and was getting ready to go to college, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do,” Colabufo said. “At that time Bishop Costello was the superintendent of the Catholic Diocese [schools] and I always found him to be a very charismatic person and I looked up to him as a role model for what I’d like to be. I thought of going into education and going into the priesthood someday and hopefully someday becoming the superintendent of schools.”
Colabufo’s family originally attended St. Peter’s Church on James Street. The nearest school would have been St. Vincent de Paul, but one needed to be affiliated with that parish in order to attend the school. His parents were loath to abandon the Italian community at St. Peter’s and so Colabufo attended Eastwood High School. When Eastwood combined with North High School to make Henninger High School, Colabufo was a member of the first graduating class.
Although he had once held aspirations of joining the priesthood, an undergraduate degree from Fredonia State led Colabufo to a successful educational career in the public sector. During his years of experience with public schools, Colabufo taught at both Lincoln and Blodgett Middle Schools. He also worked as an instructional specialist and a human-relations specialist at Franklin Elementary School. His first administrative position was at McKinley-Brighton Magnet School where he served as vice-principal for three years and then for 16 years he served as the vice principal of Lakeland Elementary in the Solvay School District. Most recently, he served as the director for administrative services at the Solvay Union Free School District.
After 36 years in the public schools system, Colabufo finally determined it was time to apply his expertise and enthusiasm for education to the diocesan schools. Blessed Sacrament pastor Father James O’Brien, whose parish Colabufo attends, headed up the national search for a superintendent. The position opened up in August when former Liverpool administrator John Cataldo resigned. Father George Sheehan, who had recently retired as principal of Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School, resurfaced as the interim superintendent at the request of Bishop James Moynihan.
Meanwhile, a committee of representatives of all four regions of the Syracuse Diocese, each of whom had some connection to Catholic schools, embarked on its search. Out of the large number of applicants, four finalists were selected for interviews and Colabufo was among them. “When we interviewed Mr. Colabufo, we were impressed by the depth and breadth of his experience,” Father O’Brien said. While the field of interviewees was “diverse and extensive,” according to Father O’Brien, Colabufo was ultimately the unanimous choice.
Father O’Brien is very confident of the new superintendent’s abilities. “Mike is going to do an excellent job,” the priest said. “[I have] a vast knowledge of all the different levels. I’ve been a teacher, an administrator. At the district level, I bring expertise in staff development training that I’ve helped foster and I’ve covered in my prior experiences,” Colabufo said. Father O’Brien stressed Colabufo’s Catholic spirituality and his commitment to Catholic culture as significant factors in his hire.
“[We were impressed with] his Catholicity, his faith practice, what we know to be a very faith-filled member of the community,” the priest said. Colabufo hopes, first and foremost, to impress upon the diocesan school system its Catholic identity. He envisions the schools as being infused with the example and message of Jesus Christ. “That is paramount to what we do in our Catholic schools,” the school administrator said. Number two, according to Colabufo is sustaining a level of scholastic excellence. “Another would be maintaining the academic quality of our schools so that parents will have a choice of where they’re going to send their children to be educated in a formal setting,” he said. Colabufo sees an imminent need for the school system to hold onto its staff and students. “My immediate goal would be to work on retention of staff and students through development activities that are ongoing with our teachers and principals,” he said.
In the long term, Colabufo would like to integrate technology more wholly into the curriculum of the diocese’s schools. He also projects the insertion of foreign languages and science at the grammar-school level.
“Technology is an area where we’re working to have all of our schools become wireless with the internet,” he said. “I’m looking also at bringing back the technology integration staff person at each site to help implement technology and weave it into the curriculum. I’m looking at developing and strengthening our science program and foreign language program so that it begins at the elementary level.”