SrJT__Curt_CzarniakGrimes, Ludden principals began careers together at Holy Cross

By Luke Eggleston
Sun Staff Writer

It’s has been 27 years since Sister James Therese Downey, OSF, and Curt Czarniak began teaching together at Holy Cross School in DeWitt.

Now the two are colleagues once again as principals at both diocesan junior/senior high schools in Syracuse.

Sister James Therese is entering her fourth year as principal at Bishop Grimes since taking over for Msgr. George Sheehan in 2005. Czarniak was recently hired as the new principal at Bishop Ludden.

Czarniak said the new appointment represents a return to his roots in Catholic education.

“Becoming the principal of Bishop Ludden is both a dream-come-true and a return to my roots,” Czarniak said via e-mail.  “I am the product of the Catholic schools, starting both my teaching (Holy Cross School , DeWitt) and administrative (St. Patrick’s Middle School, Binghamton) careers in diocesan Catholic schools.”

During their first year at Holy Cross, Sister James Therese and Czarniak taught in adjoining classrooms. Czarniak taught seventh grade and science for fifth through eighth graders, while Sister James Therese taught math for fifth through eighth graders.

“Sister James Therese and I started teaching together in 1981 at Holy Cross.  She became a good friend and valued colleague.  I am very excited to now be working with her as a fellow principal of a diocesan high school,” Czarniak said.

Sister James Therese and Czarniak have already met and discussed various elements of Catholic school administration during the summer.

“We’ve had lots of conversations and we’re trying to work together so that we can help each other out,” she said. “We work on policies together and discipline issues and teacher meetings with the diocese.”

After leaving Holy Cross in 1984, Czarniak taught science in the Tully and LaFayette school districts. His administrative experience includes stints in the McGraw, Tully and Altmar-Parish-Williamstown public school districts. From 1996 to 1997 he served as a principal at St. Patrick’s Academy in Binghamton.

Sister James Therese noted that she enjoys seeing Czarniak parallel her success in education.

“It’s funny to look back over the years and see how we’ve both grown. It’s neat,” she said.

She added that her own education continued even after she had reached the position of building principal, saying that the most important character trait one must develop is a level head.

“[I’ve learned] just to have patience. Things happen and you pray and you discern and you go along with the flow and not get anxious about anything,” she said.

Since Sister James Therese’s arrival, she has been able to sustain many of the projects Msgr. Sheehan began and add a few of her own.

“We’ve had a committee working on our capital campaign for seven or eight years and we just jump-started it back up when I started as principal,” she said. “With that committee we worked really hard day in and day out and that’s how we were able to do it.”

She added that the community around Bishop Grimes has remained very enthusiastic about the school.

“There’s a lot of energy around sports and there’s a lot of energy around academics too,” Sister James Therese said.

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