MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Longtime trustee Leslie Mancuso has been named the new president of the Mahopac Board of Education.
She will take the reins during a turbulent time. The district is currently in the midst of a search for a new principal for the middle school after the surprising departure of beloved Principal Vince DiGrandi. The school board must also begin a search for a new superintendent after Dr. Dennis Creedon announced last week he will serve out the remainder of his contract and then step down after the 2017-18 school year. The district is also in the throes of a somewhat contentious collective bargaining agreement with the United School Workers of Mahopac (USWOM), which has been working without a contract for more than a year. Additionally, the district is about to take on two huge capital improvement projects—one to repair roofs on three buildings, and the other to upgrade the energy efficiency of buildings throughout the district.
But Mancuso is unruffled by all that and ready to hit the ground running.
“I am so excited, thrilled and honored that they have faith in me with all the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead,” she told Mahopac News.
She called DiGrandi’s departure “heartbreaking.”
“It was devastating to the board and the town and students,” she said. “He has done so much good in the school. We were hoping he would stay; we tried to keep him, but at the end of the day he felt he had to do what was right for his family. You can’t fault him for that; you have to respect it. But the door is always open for him to come back.”
She said she was optimistic the district will find a good candidate to replace him.
“It’s big shoes to fill but there are a lot of people out there who want to come to Mahopac,” she said. “There is only one Vince but there are opportunities out there for people we haven’t met yet.”
With DiGrandi leaving after just four years and Creedon departing after three, Mancuso said the days of long-term contracts for administrators may be over.
“Ideally, you would like long-term for the stability it brings,” she said. “But time changes things and you have no control over it. You would love to have people stay longer, but you can’t read their minds.”
Mancuso had praise for Creedon, who got much accomplished, she said, during his brief tenure.
“He’s a gentleman and he really enjoyed his time here but he is going in a different direction in his life,” she said. “We appreciate all he has done and look forward to all he still can get done because he is going to be with us for another year.”
Mancuso also said that reaching an accord with the union is at the top of her to-do list.
“We are currently working on that to facilitate the conversation and get it resolved,” she said. “We appreciate our drivers and aides and groundskeepers. It has gone on too long and it’s big on our to-do list. We have made it a priority. I am president for two weeks and we are talking about it already. The negotiations had broken down and we are fixing that communication and building a bridge.”
Mancuso said she also wants to see the district drive toward improving its use of technology both as a teaching tool and as a subject, continue.
“We need to give the students the things they need to be world ready,” she said. “Technology—we need to keep up with it and keep them competitive in the global world.”
She would also like to see AP classes expand and explore possible opportunities in the healthcare fields. She also said the district needs to look more toward hiring alumni.
“We need to focus on giving our alums their first break,” she said. “If we can’t give them their first job and support them, shame on us. We don’t hire many of our alum and we need to make that extra effort.”
Mancuso has been a Mahopac resident for 21 years. She’s been married 22 years to her husband, Nick, and mother of two children. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Hunter College.
Mancuso has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years and is currently director of development for the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic in Ossining. She’s been a member of the board for six years.
“We have the best and brightest students and we need to support them better,” she said. “I intend to continue to improve our curriculum offerings and keep up with technology in today’s marketplace. I plan to do right in our negotiations with the contracts that are up for renewal.”