By Zachary Matson
Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. earned a nod of approval from the school board Monday night as members unanimously extended his contract with the district for three more years.
Tangorra, who joined the district two years ago this coming June, said he looks forward to building on the progress he has made so far, expanding interdisciplinary and project-based learning opportunities for students and building the facilities needed to accommodate that.
The new contract boosts his annual salary to $188,790 – his current salary is $186,000 – and guarantees annual raises of 1.5 percent. The contract also allows the school board to grant Tangorra an annual bonus of up to $3,000 if he meets certain performance goals.
Tangorra receives 22 vacation days each year, up to five of which can be cashed out at the end of the year for more pay, under the contract. He also gets 15 sick days and three personal days.
As superintendent, Tangorra has worked with the board on developing a new strategic plan, earned voter approval for a $5 million capital project – the first in a series of projects over the coming years, he has said – and overseen new curriculum development and teacher training. Tangorra has spent months pursuing a potential partnership with a private school in China, which could lead to exchange opportunities for teachers and students.
Looking ahead, Tangorra said he wants to expand opportunities students have to engage in projects that cover a variety of subjects and connect to real-world problems and challenges. He has also talked about using school facilities, like kitchens, as chances to further involve students in developing solutions to problems. While the current capital project, which is just beginning, addresses immediate building needs, Tangorra has said subsequent projects would also focus on programmatic changes.
“We can take any existing problem in our community and think how any grade level could address that problem,” Tangorra said Tuesday. “They pose a problem and through an interdisciplinary approach, solve the problem and present a solution to the school board or town board or whatever stakeholder.”
Board President Rosemarie Perez Jaquith pointed to a presentation at Monday’s meeting as an example of the kind of work Tangorra has helped develope in the district. A group of eighth-grade students have led the planning and development of a “STEAM” bus that would be outfitted with science and engineering programs and activities and travel from school to school, giving students a chance to learn about those fields.
“How many districts have kids creating initiatives like that?” Jacquith said of the presentation. “I look forward to a day when that is commonplace here.”