By Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
At the Aug. 28 meeting of the Grand Island Board of Education, held at Eco Island, 3285 Staley Road, new staff members and programs were introduced to the board and to the community.
The new staff members include:
•Edward Monergan, who will serve as orchestra teacher for both Kaegebein and Huth Road elementary schools. His background includes a music education advanced certificate from the University at Buffalo, where he won the Irving Cheyette Prize in Music Education. Previously, he worked at the Roosevelt Early Childhood Center in Buffalo as a general music teacher.
“We are excited to have him enhance our Grand Island music program,” Huth Road Elementary School Principal Max Pikula said.
•Catherine Faturos, who will serve as a teaching assistant at Huth Road Elementary School. She is a graduate of Niagara University, with a bachelor's degree in childhood education, as well as in special education.
“Mrs. Faturos has already made a positive influence on students by working as a teacher’s assistant at Kinder Kidzz Early Childhood Center and at St. Timothy Lutheran Childcare Center,” Huth Road Elementary School Principal Max Pikula said. “She has also supported the children of Grand Island through her work as a special needs baseball buddy volunteer with the Miracle League of Western New York.”
•Rebecca Hennessey, who will serve as a teaching assistant at Kaegebein Elementary School. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology.
“With all of her experience, we feel she’s going to be the perfect fit,” said Felicia Pallaci, principal of Kaegebein Elementary School.
•Gabrielle Horvath, a graduate of Kent State University, with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing, will be a new addition to the business department at Grand Island High School. She recently completed her business and marketing certification program at Buffalo State University.
“Gabrielle has prior experience working in marketing, sales, social media, and event planning for several years prior to pursuing her teaching certification. We are looking forward to the industry experience that Gabrielle is going to be able to share with our students, and we are looking forward to her joining our team next week,” said Hillary Kretz-Harvey, principal of Grand Island High School.
Personnel changes include:
•John Fitzpatrick, who has been appointed to serve as the school district's administrator on special assignment. He will work in the district office on a variety of projects, including youth mental health first aid, teacher aide training and alternative programs for middle school and high school. Fitzpatrick’s experience includes serving as a science teacher, assistant principal in the Niagara Wheatfield school system for nine years, and serving as principal of the Veronica Connor Middle School for the past nine years.
•Adam Buffomante, who has been appointed to serve as interim principal of Veronica Connor Middle School.
“Adam has served us for the last three years as assistant principal, and he has served at least the same amount of time as the assistant principal for the Charter School of Applied Technology, which was in a middle school capacity. His leadership experiences will support our student needs, and we’re very excited to welcome him as interim principal,” Grand Island Central School District Superintendent Brian Graham said.
New program initiatives include:
•ZeroEyes, which Graham described as a “human verified proactive gun detection and situational awareness software, which integrates with our cameras.”
He explained that a seminar the Grand Island’s school district hosted, organized by Jude Kuehne, district clerk, showed a great deal of interest from across Western New York.
“It was really a seminar on regional safety, but focused on gun detection technology,” Graham said. “Right now, there are 35 schools across the United States that use ZeroEyes as an added layer of safety. In New York state right now, it’s Grand Island and Salamanca. We do know there are other districts that are interested. Many of the districts that attended this seminar are very interested.”
•Youth mental health first aid. Graham said he anticipates having more than 500 school district employees, which includes 280 teachers, getting trained in youth mental health first aid. It will be “a proactive measure and a warm hand up to a child who presents with behavioral issues or concerns,” he said.
•A focus on mental health. Board of Education Trustee Sherry Steffans proposed adding a mental health committee. She explained, “This is about supporting our community and advocating for our students. I think, by having a mental health committee, we can establish a community where we can meet with parents, students, district employees, and we can learn about current concerns and needs, and we can actually make changes. We can start focusing on evidence-based practice so we can stop the crisis.”
After discussion, the Board of Education agreed to pursue adding mental health as an additional focus to the already-existing district wellness committee, which currently focuses on nutrition and physical activity.
“It will be a great way to access more information from that committee and establish some new initiatives for the district,” Graham said.
•New teacher academy. Graham noted he wanted to thank Michael Lauria, assistant superintendent for curriculum, staff development and human resources; and Amy McMann, curriculum and instruction teacher on special assignment, for “putting together the new teacher academy. This is an example of the work that’s being done to support our new teachers.”
The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 at Grand Island High School.