By Katherine Long
Sun Associate Editor
Thirty-nine years after graduating from Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, Richard Bucci is being sent to the principal’s office.
In May, the alumnus and former mayor of Binghamton was appointed principal of Seton Catholic Central (or SCC, the school formed when Catholic Central High School and Seton Catholic High School merged in the late 1970s) and president of Broome County Catholic Schools (BCCS). He began work in July, succeeding interim principal Dr. John Colligan.
The diocese’s Catholic Schools Office launched a nationwide search to fill the principal position following the departure of Principal Kathleen Dwyer last year. A number of qualified candidates were interviewed, but the one with the right skills and experience just happened to be in the school’s backyard.
Bucci graduated from SCC in 1972, going on to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He taught social studies in Binghamton for three years before moving into various positions in local and state government. In 1993, he was elected mayor of Binghamton, a position he held for three terms. Most recently, he served as Director of Professional Development and Curriculum for the Vestal Central School District.
“We’re very excited to have a graduate of the school in the role of principal,” said Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools Christopher Mominey. “He’s connected to the community and the school, brings the right mix of skills to the position and shares our common vision.”
Bucci’s won’t be the only new face at SCC this year: about 90 seventh and eighth graders will join 290 ninth through twelfth graders at the school. This is the first year grades 7 through 12 will be housed under one roof.
A reorganization of the Broome County Catholic School System, announced in 2009, merged several schools in the 2010-2011 school year and paved the way for consolidation of all middle school operations at SCC this year. The reorganization, which came in response to declining enrollment across the system, will allow a more effective allocation of resources and ensure the schools continue to offer the highest-quality education to its students.
Bucci is not nervous about starting his tenure amid all these changes; in fact, he’s excited.
“A change in leadership means a new beginning, a new chapter,” he said. But he’ll avoid making changes for the sake of changes.
“I want to take the time to evaluate and assess what’s in place, get a comprehensive understanding of the procedures and traditions, identify ways to strengthen and improve the schools and take them from good to great,” he said.
For Bucci, this means focusing on four key areas: enhancing professional development for faculty and staff, increasing enrollment, raising more funds and implementing a strong core curriculum. In short, Bucci is striving to build Seton’s reputation for excellence.
He is looking to all of BCCS to inform his plans. He met one-on-one with teachers in July, candidly discussing their thoughts on what’s working in their classrooms and what’s not. The district is also undertaking a Schools Continuous Improvement Survey, which will compile feedback from parents and students and guide strategic planning.
Bucci is also crafting a comprehensive funding development plan. “Tuition is a sacrifice,” he acknowledged, so doing everything possible to avoid or minimize a tuition increase is paramount, not just for retaining current students but for attracting new students. He will explore all options, including traditional fundraisers, major donor cultivation and further engagement of BCCS’s strong alumni base.
In addition to pursuing academic opportunities like bringing Rochester Institute of Technology’s Project Lead the Way pre-engineering program to SCC in 2012, Bucci is creating new spiritual opportunities for students. His goal at SCC is to rebuild the theology program and enhance the religious presence at the school. This spring, parish priests from around Binghamton will teach elective classes for juniors and seniors on topics ranging from Catholic liturgy and Catholic social justice to Christian marriage. Representatives from religious orders will also present guest lectures on their apostolates: members of the Daughters of Charity, Maryknoll, Franciscan and Jesuit orders, among others, are scheduled to visit.
Bucci has challenges ahead of him, but he’ll draw on his experience as mayor to overcome them. “[As mayor] if your city succeeds, that’s your greatest success. When you keep your focus on the pivotal issue and make decisions based on that, good things happen.”