Moscati enters M-W as the new superintendent

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    CENTRAL VALLEY-Frank L. Moscati apologizes for keeping you waiting, even though there's still minutes to go before your appointment. "I'll be right with you," he says as he shakes your hand firmly. He's just finished a meeting with several of his staff in the Monroe-Woodbury School District's administrative offices on Route 32. It's a meeting held with the door open. There's an air of professionalism here, where people know their jobs and where people know each other. That's the case with Frank Moscati. At 57, he's been with the district for 15 years as the assistant superintendent for human resources. In mid-October, he was named the district's superintendent of schools. He's being paid $170,000 a year to oversee a $112.8 million budget that pays for the education of about 7,500 students and the salaries of more than 1,200 people. He succeeds Terrence Olivo, who in his 15 years as superintendent established Monroe-Woodbury as one best in the area, so much so that real estate brokers use it as one of their selling points. Moscati acknowledges the legacy Olivo left at his retirement. But he characterizes Olivo as an educator who saw it as the work of many. And that forms the base for the work ahead. "I don't look at it as big shoes to fill, although they are," Moscati says. "But it's not a Olivo legacy; it's a Monroe-Woodbury legacy. I was a part of that. And we took pride and care in acting in our roles to do the right thing for students and the right thing for taxpayers. It's a district legacy - that's why he acted." The conversation lasts about an hour and it goes by quickly. The subjects include growing up in Queens, running the hurdles and playing ball in high school to Tom Lynch, the English teacher who served as a role model as an educator. "He showed an interest in the students and I saw a value in that, that it was a worthwhile way to work and live. He was tough, compassionate and inspirational." In his career, Moscati has been a teacher, an elementary school principal, a school board president (in Rhinebeck between 1980 and 1984), a Little League coach as well as superintendent in the Port Jervis school system between 1987 and 1989. He left that job to come to Monroe-Woodbury. Moscati doesn't expect that he will be a particularly visual presence for students. He'll make his impact, he says, with parents, taxpayers and staff. You don't hear a lot of jargon in conversation with him. Still, he can tell you off the top of his head how many new elementary school kids are expected next year (100) - and the year after that (another 100) - and how that could affect the student-teacher ratio (now at 23 to 24 per teacher) in five buildings that he says have already exhausted much of their space. He's also mindful that taxpayers have invested heavily in new buildings within the district since 1999 - more than $71 million for a new high school, additions to the middle school and then expansion of high school classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria. "We seem to be okay in the middle and high schools, thanks to the public," he says, "but the elementary schools may be a problem in two to three years, given the pace we are at." District planners will reassess the district's space needs next year, he says. As the man who has handled many of the district's contract talks, Moscati can be cautious when he speaks. He says both the No Child Left Behind act and the state's requirement that all students graduate with a Regents diploma have set higher standards for every one, standards that most students in the district can obtain, although some need extra attention to do so. "I don't think anyone believes one program fits all students all the time," he says, noting that it's a position held by many other superintendents in the state. Underlying the programs at the school, he says, is a belief and hope that "the kids get an experience, that when they leave, they are able to do what they want to do, that as people, they will be able to connect the dots and be involved in the world, that the programs will provide a life path that may not have been open to their parents." On the budget process: "Unlike a business, where you start at absolute zero, we have a given - 7,500 students. What programs are required to provide all the minimum standards - that's our base. The rest - the extras and traditions - make a district what it is."