Message from Dr. Carl Bonuso Appointment as Superintendent of Schools
I wish to express my deepest appreciation to the Board of Education for the confidence they have demonstrated in me to serve as your next Superintendent of Schools.
I have truly enjoyed meeting and working with everyone this past school year. Every day, I am impressed by the untiring efforts of our Board of Education, the dedication and professionalism of our staff, the overwhelming desire of our students to embrace learning and to succeed and the commitment of our parents and community to support our goals so that our children have a successful future.
I am honored to serve as your Superintendent of Schools and I look forward to continuing to work together on behalf of the children we love and serve.
October 2, 2014 “The Saber Tooth Curriculum” (Thoughts on Educational Changes and Challenges)
In 1939, J. Abner Peddiwell authored a thought-provoking, reflective work called “The Saber Tooth Curriculum.” Over seventy years later, I found myself referencing it (per the recommendation of the New York State Education Department) in my capacity as trainer of lead evaluators for teachers and principals. The main character of this satirical piece is New Fist, a Paleolithic man and the “original educational theorist.” He called for a curriculum centered around courses in fish-grabbing, to answer society’s need to combat hunger, horse-clubbing, to provide warmth from the skins of the wooly miniature horses that roamed the land, and tiger scaring, using fire that frightened the feared saber tooth tigers. But with the coming of the Ice Age, fish grabbing became difficult, given the new, muddied waters that camouflaged the “catch.” The small, wooly horses took off for dryer environs and were replaced by the antelope, too fleet of foot to succumb to the “hobbled,” human hunters’ meager attempts to “steal their skins.” And finally, the Ice Age rendered the saber tooth tigers extinct, replaced by the bear that had no fear of fire. New Fist, always the thinker, suggested a new, more relevant curriculum. Such a curriculum included: net construction to catch the fish concealed by the murky waters, snare building to trap the speedy antelope otherwise elusive to man, and pit digging to eliminate the feared bears and threats to their society’s future survival. And so the skeptics bellowed statements of resistance, “Our curriculum is already full…we have always done it this way, why change now…we have not time…we have no resources…”
Centuries later, man still looks to address hunger, provide warmth, and eliminate fear. We continue to “hunt” for the perfect curriculum to educate and to prepare our next generation. We need to focus on trust and the 21st century tools and technology that meet the demands of the contemporary classroom. Let’s reflect upon those things that are timeless components of success (trust and relevance) and those that are timely innovative practices of a new “age” (technology, common core curricular shifts, etc.). The spirit and the letter of the law behind today’s reforms and revisions demand our conscientious review and reflection.
As we once again face “muddied waters” with fish hard to see, antelope beyond our grasp and saber tooth threats of the two and four footed variety our conversation and collaborative efforts hopefully will provide some food for thought to sustain us as we venture forth to do battle with the challenges of a new and very different day.
Superintendent’s Back-to-School Message “Our Cathedral” Thoughts on the Opening of School
If you travel through Europe today, you will see in every city and in many villages, cathedrals of stirring beauty and incomparable durability. Created eight centuries or more ago, these remarkable structures remain as inspiring, as graceful, and even as functional as when they were built. The structures all had pointed steeples pointing toward the heavens that watched over them, and what architects called flying buttresses (which were support struts that looked like giant angel wings on each side of the steeples).
But as Steven Beering, President of Purdue University pointed out, “These cathedrals were more than architectural masterpieces. They tell us something about the human spirit. They were built at a time when life was turbulent and uncertain. War, violence, sickness, and poverty were continual threats. There was little time and few resources for anything but survival. Yet the desire to create something beautiful and lasting would not be suppressed.
When a town built a cathedral, everyone participated. The young and the strong dug the foundations. Masons laid the stones. Artists sculpted the statues. The work went on for decades, even centuries. Therefore, many of the people involved knew they would never see the finished building. Yet, they wanted to be a part of it.”
When I was a boy, my small corner of Brooklyn was cast in shadows. Parents had many jobs, children had few toys, and the family shared a modest meal. But most importantly, they shared their love, their time, and their presence around a scratched and scarred wooden dining table. And each week, all the families humbly walked, not drove, to this one cathedral in the middle of the town, in the center of our hearts and minds. It was our town’s spiritual center and our center of hope. It’s where the past and the future met. Everyone in the community offered their time, their money, and most importantly their faith and devotion.
Every family needs a table to sit around together, to discuss their common love and lore. And every community of families needs their “cathedral,“ something they have faith in, something they have built together, something that reflects past trials and triumphs, and something that houses their hopes for each future generation. No matter what…war, scandal, high cost of gas, overly congested roads, crowded malls, man made walls, long lines at the motor vehicle office, snow, sleet, rain….all of us need some safe haven, some special place that is a constant…That is what a school should be.
Despite how “dark” the night, come morning there should be 100 teachers putting their notes on the smartboard, jelly beans on the desk, music stands in place. There should be 100 non-instructional staff turning on computers, raising the American flag, polishing hallways, unlocking all our doors. There should be principal educators looking out their windows and walking their hallways checking each classroom and corner of the building in their charge, greeting each arriving bus, each arriving child.
Today a thousand years after those very dark ages, “cathedral building” continues. The cathedrals of Europe are only an example of this urge to create, to build something for future generations and to express beauty. It manifests itself in every nation, every culture, every faith. It is the flint that strikes fire in our souls and brings forth art, literature, and poetry. And it is the reason we pursue education. We are fortunate to live in a time and place that offers infinitely greater safety, freedom, privilege, and opportunity than those troubled societies that crafted those medieval architectural masterpieces. Today, students have the chance to expand their knowledge, develop analytical powers, and refine their skills at one of the county’s, indeed, the country’s finest schools.
As a young boy, I faithfully attended a cathedral. As a young man I studied and visited cathedrals throughout the world. And for my three decades in education, I have had the privilege of working in cathedrals…building and shaping them, thanks to the inspiration and perspiration of loving, caring, and supportive people of faith. We cannot betray that faith in our schools, and in each other, and in the futures we build.
To the students of Hicksville and to the educators of this beautiful and historic community, I challenge you to build and to do things that point to heaven. Spread your wings likes some guardian angel looking over your history and legacy.
Together, as a school family and community we need to work hard to produce those first, foundational pieces of “mortar” used in thousands of “individual cathedrals” – from our children’s first day of school to graduation day when they toss their mortarboards toward the sky. Even if we have no tall steeples, we are easy to find and always accessible. Just go to the community’s center that’s where your school will always be, earning your trust and faith.