Manhattan’s School Building Leadership Program Generates Successful Graduates

Several alumni advance to fill superintendent positions at Catholic schools throughout New York State.

Blending personal faith with professional mission, several graduates of the School Building Leadership program have taken the helm at Catholic schools where they are working on programs to revamp Catholic education in New York State.

Directed by Sister Remigia Kushner, Ph.D., the School Building Leadership program has recently seen a number of graduates rise to superintendent positions after years of service in Catholic schools as principals and teachers.

“I always said to Sister Remigia, ‘I want to help people do their job better.’ I want to help them to be better leaders. Meet them where they are, and help them get to the next level,” Noelle Beale ’02 says.

Now regional superintendent for the Westchester and Putnam counties region, Beale graduated from the School Building Leadership program with a master’s degree in education. She then continued on to receive a professional diploma and later chose to take additional classes in the program.

“It was a very real-life, practical-based, field experience program, mixed with all of the theory that we needed to become good leaders, but we also put it into practice through what we were doing in our course work,” Beale says.

Program preparation leads to success

Michael Pizzingrillo ’99 also credits much of his success to the teachings of the School Building Leadership program. Pizzingrillo, who recently assumed the role of superintendent for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, received his professional diploma from Manhattan College and now oversees 23 schools, consisting of more than 5,500 students.

It was a very real-life, practical-based, field experience program, mixed with all of the theory that we needed to become good leaders.

He felt that the program could not have better prepared him for his current position.

“The program itself is an exemplary program that prepared us very well because it blends in both the practical and the theoretical aspects of school leadership,” Pizzingrillo says.

In his role as superintendent, he is involved in planning and implementing an initiative called Covenant to Educate, which aims to improve the Catholic educational school system and refocus its mission within the diocese.

Another graduate, Mary Jane Daley ’03, received her master’s degree and professional diploma in school administration and leadership, and is now regional superintendent of Rockland County Catholic Schools and district superintendent of the Upper Counties’ Catholic Schools in Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

Working hand-in-hand with Daley, Cathleen Cassel ’10 is the assistant regional superintendent of Rockland County. After receiving her professional diploma from the College, she went on to serve seven years as principal at St. Gregory Barbarigo Catholic School, during which she helped to increase enrollment and raise and maintain the school’s educational performance.

Moving forward to help construct a broader program in their positions, both Cassel and Daley are involved in the Pathway to Excellence program, which focuses on the diocese’s central mission while evaluating the system’s strengths and weaknesses.

Faith in action

For these alumni, much of the reason for working in Catholic school systems stemmed from their personal values and beliefs.

“I always felt that as Catholics, we were all called to serve as Jesus served, and what better way to do that than in educating our children in the faith,” Cassel says. “When the opportunity came up to [reach] more than the 25 children in front of me, that I could [reach] 300, I took that challenge.”      

As for Daley, she sees her position as a blend between her dedication to education and to the faith. One notion that has stuck with her throughout her career came from a nun.

“She often would say to us, ‘Our job is to get the children to heaven.’ Our main task is to make sure they grow as good Christians, as good Catholics if they are Catholics, with good family values, and to be good citizens of this country.”