Q&A with Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
This fall, the district outlined a vision for education in Niskayuna as part of the process of planning for the future of educational programs and facilities improvements. This is first in a series of Q&As with district leaders to help keep the community informed along the way.
Why did the district create and share the program vision at this time?
We are preparing students for a world that is changing rapidly, which takes a strategic plan and a vision. We have those things. Additionally, a Capital Project Community Advisory Committee has started the process of developing a long-term plan for district facilities. We expect to bring a capital project proposal forward in the fall of 2020. This will address outstanding facilities needs, a projected enrollment increase, and a lack of capacity. In the end, it’s all about student learning. We must align facilities improvements with the programs and services students will need in the future. The vision a fundamental part of the process.
What’s new in the vision? What does it emphasize?
Interdisciplinary work and space for hands-on, collaborative learning are important features of the vision. We currently have few flexible spaces for small and large group activities where students can work in teams on real-world projects. The vision includes students learning at their own pace, earlier exposure to world languages, and more learning opportunities with businesses and in the community. The vision incorporates work that has begun in the last few years in areas such as diversity and equity, multiple pathways to graduation, mental health, and overall social and emotional support.
How is the district already working toward this vision?
An incredible strength of our district is the ability of our teachers to create curriculum and bring it to life in the classroom. Our teachers have been engaged in a substantial curriculum building project in recent years, designing rigorous and engaging units of study that involve authentic or real-world demonstrations of what they are learning. A new district equity coordinator started this fall. We are actively promoting the many career and technical education programs and other pathways to graduation, college and the workforce that are available. More connections with business, industry and higher education are being pursued. We are on our way, but it will continue to require an investment of time and resources to keep moving in this direction.
How was the program vision developed? Who was involved?
The vision is based on our strategic plan and the work of many district stakeholders over the last three years. This includes teachers, a variety of committees, the Leadership Team, and department program review teams following a process developed by the District Curriculum and Assessment Council (DCAC). So far, the Science & Engineering Technology, World Language, and Art & Design departments have gone through the program review process. Within the next four years, all departments will have done a program review. The vision was also informed by the Instructional Program Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Environment and Culture Advisory Council (ECAC), which include students, teachers, parents and community members. As we plan for what a Niskayuna education will be in the next five to 25 years, we are fortunate to have such substantial stakeholder involvement.
Our Schools, Our Future: The district strategic plan initiated a systematic effort to transform programs so that all students can follow their own unique path to success. As programs change, facilities must be maintained and improved to meet the needs of students and protect the investment taxpayers have made in their community. Learn more