Seaford schools hire new humanities chief

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Dr. Charles Leone thought he had retired. He had a long, successful career as a classroom teacher and administrator, and while he knew he wanted to continue working in education, he never imagined a position as challenging as executive director for humanities for the Seaford School District.

Leone was already well acquainted with Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora and John Striffolino, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, personnel and instruction, from years past and memberships in professional organizations. Leone spent seven years as Striffolino’s counterpart in the Manhasset district.

“I knew I wanted to stay connected with education,” Leone said. “I care passionately about the teaching and learning process.” But, he added with a laugh, “I hadn’t really imagined taking on a job as big as this one.”

“It’s a very big job,” Pecora agreed, overseeing social studies, English Language Arts, world languages — “what we used to call foreign languages” — and English as a New Language. Under the purview of the new position, Leone will also be responsible for evaluating the staff within the four departments.

The job is part of an overall reorganization of the district’s administrative structure following the recent successfully concluded negotiations of its contract with the teachers union, Pecora said.

The district already began the reorganization independently last year, with the hiring of Thomas Lynch as executive director for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, a position both Leone and Pecora see as complementing Leone’s. And the Board of Education subsequently added two more districtwide positions, one for pupil personnel services, which covers special education, psychology and guidance, and one for phys. ed. and athletics. These vertically aligned positions cover the full range of K-through-12 programs, and are in line with the board’s philosophy of “growing the learner,” as both Leone and Pecora expressed it.

Each of the positions is supported by the respective school’s principal — the building administrator, Pecora said.

Leone described his own experience as an elementary and middle school assistant principal as learning to see the school almost as an organism. “The role of the teacher is changing,” he said. “It used to be that teachers were the source of all the students’ information, the ‘sage on the stage.’ But now the body of information available to students is everywhere. It’s on their phones! Teachers have become facilitators in a process in which students have a much more active role in wisdom acquisition,” he said.

Before coming to Seaford, Leone accumulated nearly four decades of experience at nearly every level of public school education. That included 21 years as a classroom social studies teacher, mostly in the Great Neck district, as well as assistant principal at the middle school and elementary levels, before he moved to the Manhasset School District, where he was deputy superintendent for curriculum, personnel and instruction for 16 years.

He also taught for a few years at the beginning of his career in New York City, as an extended-leave or long-term substitute teacher, which he described as an “invaluable source of experience.”

Leone earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Buffalo State College, a master’s in the same subject from Queens College and a second master’s in building and district administration from the College of New Rochelle. He received his Ed.D. degree from St. John’s University in 2009, in administration and instructional leadership. “It was always a personal dream of mine to get my doctorate,” he said.

Leone also serves as an adjunct assistant professor of administration and supervision at Molloy College.