James Grossane always wanted to be a teacher, but after several years in a classroom, he decided he wanted to affect change in the larger school community. He then took on a slew of administrative roles at various Long Island school districts before becoming the superintendent of the Sewanhaka Central High School District in July.
“I’m very excited to be here,” he said. “I love working with and for secondary-age students, and what I really want to do is help give them the best possible experiences in high school for whatever comes next.”
Grossane, 60, was previously the superintendent of the Smithtown Central School District for five years, and before that, he was the superintendent of the Levittown School District, assistant superintendent for student support services in the Massapequa School District, and principal of Massapequa High School and Washington Street School in Franklin Square.
“We’re excited to have an experienced superintendent at the helm,” Board President Davd Del Santo said, adding that it is important to sustain the programs the district has already implemented and, “Dr. Grossane is a good fit.”
While at Smithtown, he helped implement several accelerated programs, including Project Lead the Way, which helps students transition from high school to college. Last year, Grossane’s administration also presented a district-wide plan to help give students of color the same opportunities as their white peers. It called for training of administrators and teachers to identify inequality in the district, and have them attend education and equity workshops.
On Aug. 27, the Sewanhaka board voted to enter into an agreement with Adelphi University to provide teachers with professional development in dealing with issues of diversity, bias, intolerance and cultural identity.
Sewanhaka is a minority-majority district, and over the past few years, former Superintendent Ralph Ferrie worked to expand student access to challenging curriculum and Advanced Placement courses for all students, regardless of race. A lack of challenging classes was found to be one of the most persistent forms of racial inequality, according to a 2018 report by the New York Equity Coalition.
“The district’s in a really good spot,” Grossane said, adding that for the first six months of the school year his job is really to observe the programming and listen to teachers, parents, students and board members about what they would like to see. Then, when the district’s budget process begins in January, he and his team would start discussing possible additions or changes to the student programming.
But he has already begun those discussions. Over the summer, Grossane said, he’s met with a lot of community leaders, local officials, parents and students on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, a group of students from each high school who meet with the superintendent periodically to discuss what they like about their school, what they don’t like and what additions they would like to see.
“It’s part of the listening tour,” Grossane joked, noting that it is actually important to hear all of their perspectives.
He also said that he would hold Advisory Council summits for the students from the different schools to interact and share their thoughts, and will hold meetings with the elementary school districts’ administrations so they could better coordinate curricula.
Grossane has also already toured all of the buildings in the district since he was sworn-in to ensure that the additional security measures the district implemented, like visitor management systems and secure classrooms, were in place for the start of the school year.
“Everything’s up and running for the start,” Grossane said. “So we’re all ready to roll for all the students to come back.”
Ronny Reyes contributed to this story.