By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer
School administration is a challenging ministry. Principals are charged with inspiring faculty and staff and engaging students and parents in spiritual development and academic excellence.
The Catholic Schools Office offers plenty of support to the principals of its schools. On Thursday, Aug. 12, it hosted an orientation for three principals who are new to the Syracuse Diocese.
Each principal has been assigned a mentor to ease his or her transition into the diocesan school environment.
Chris Mominey, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, explained that at the beginning of each school year, newly appointed principals who have never worked within the Syracuse Diocese are assigned a mentor from the same region they will be serving to help them learn the ropes. “The mentors serve as a touchstone for the new principals when they have questions that might come up throughout the year,” Mominey said.
Sister Anna Mae Collins, CSJ, principal at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Utica, will mentor newly assigned principal of Rome Catholic School, Michael Powers. “I want to help him get acclimated,” said Sister Anna Mae.
“I’ll offer assistance with the standards for our students and the main focus of our schools — the traditions of Catholic education.”
Powers said he is no stranger to Catholic education, serving as administrator at Catholic schools for the last 11 years. He has served as the principal of Cardinal O’Hara High School in Buffalo, N.Y. and most recently as principal of DeSales School in Lockport, N.Y.
Powers earned a bachelor’s degree in education from SUNY Buffalo and completed a master’s degree in education administration from SUNY Brockport. He holds a NY State Certification as a teacher, school administrator and district administrator.
Powers envisions creating an environment of faith and continuing to improve all aspects of the school while serving as principal at Rome Catholic School. One of his goals is to find ways to increase student enrollment. “Many parents can’t afford tuition, so I’ll be looking at ways in which they can get tuition assistance,” Powers said.
Dr. Patricia Ruggiano Schmidt will be taking on the responsibilities of principal at Cathedral Academy at Pompei in Syracuse. Schmidt most recently served as professor of literacy education at Le Moyne College.
Schmidt earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Potsdam, a master’s in elementary education and reading specialization from the University of Massachusetts and a doctorate in education from Syracuse University.
Her teaching experience includes serving as adjunct instructor for reading education at SUNY Oswego, adjunct instructor of elementary and secondary education and reading education at Syracuse University and adjunct instructor for elementary education at Le Moyne College from 1992 to 1993. Since 1993, Schmidt has supervised preservice teachers at Le Moyne College, created, designed and taught graduate programs for TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages), Literacy and Urban Masters degrees for Le Moyne College.
Andrea Polcaro, principal at Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse, will mentor Schmidt. “I’ll be helping her with such things as reports, who to talk to at the Catholic School Office and I’ll be sitting in with her at meetings,” said Polcaro.
Schmidt has high hopes for the future of Cathedral Academy at Pompei (CAP) and is filled with enthusiasm for the start of the new school year. The educator’s vision of CAP is for it to become a Jesuit-like school, one with high academic standards. “I want it to survive and thrive,” Schmidt said. “I want to make it a model for inner-city education.”
Michael Sandore is also looking forward to the new school year. He has been assigned to Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School as principal. Sandore most recently served as principal at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady.
Sandore has a wealth of experience in education, serving as the former superintendent of schools in Lyncourt and as principal at Chittenango High School.
Sandore holds a bachelor’s degree from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and a master’s degree in educational administration from Syracuse University.
Sandore said he hopes to build on the culture at Bishop Ludden. “I think our academics are excellent,” he said. “Our instructional staff is the heart and soul of the school. Character building and development are certainly areas that we need to work on with our students and parents so that they are successful beyond high school.”
Sister James Therese Downey, OSF, principal at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School, has been assigned as Sandore’s mentor. She said she is looking forward to working with him, building a relationship that will be supportive of Sandore’s transition into the diocesan school system. “Our sharing of faith, information and best practices will help us and those with whom we minister to continue to provide the best in quality Catholic education,” said Sister James Therese.
Joseph Lazarski has been appointed principal of Trinity Catholic School in Oswego. He most recently served as an adjunct professor at SUNY Oswego, where he supervised student teachers.
Lazarski has worked for 37 years in the field of education, serving as interim principal in the Central Square and North Syracuse school districts and as principal for eight years at Ray Middle School in Baldwinsville. In addition, Lazarski served as assistant principal at Oswego High School and at Fulton Junior High School. He was also an English teacher and department chairperson at Oswego Middle School.
Lazarski said that through his many experiences, he has acquired a sense of calmness and lots of patience, which he will bring to his new position.
Lazarski’s education includes a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, a master’s degree in educational administration and a certificate of advanced study in educational administration, all from SUNY Oswego.
Lazarski said his first goal is to create a sense of family at Trinity Catholic School. “I’ve learned through experience that it’s the only way that you can make a school a success,” Lazarski said.
Lazarski’s second goal is to increase the school’s enrollment. He envisions expanding the student body to include seventh and eighth grades. “That age group could really benefit from a small, Catholic school environment,” he said.
Helen Chajka, principal at Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family in Syracuse, has been assigned as Lazarski’s mentor. She will assist him in his transition into the diocesan school system.
The diocese is also welcoming two other educators who have extensive experience within the diocesan school system to new positions. Deacon Joseph Celentano has been named principal of the Bishop’s Academy at St. Charles in Syracuse and Debra Brillante has been named assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools.