Assemblyman Magnarelli, Longtime Education Advocate, Enhances SCSD Schools
Published on 9/20/16
Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli has a soft spot for education. His wife is a retired SCSD French teacher and his sister, brother, son and son-in-law all served as educators, but he says his commitment to education policy ultimately stems from his parents.
“My parents were both high school graduates who should have gone on to college to further their education,” Magnarelli explained. “They always instilled in me how important education was. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a choice if I performed well in school. The expectation was: ‘you will.’ My parents taught me that education is important—not just for a job and money, but so you can communicate effectively with people.”
Effective communication has gone a long way for the nine-term Assemblyman, elected in 1998. Topping the list of noteworthy SCSD projects for which he has helped secure funding: athletic fields at Henninger, Corcoran, Nottingham and—soon—PSLA at Fowler, part of a larger Joint School Construction Board (JSCB) project.
“All students deserve a home field,” Magnarelli insisted. “I hope they help more kids get involved in sports. The facilities are upgraded, so hopefully students feel better about themselves and their teams. The Fowler field is on the list—I promise that one way or another, it will get done!”
When it comes to academics, he believes in the importance of reading, poetry, art, music and the like. But when it comes to funding, he has pushed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming, as well as specialty Career and Technical Education programs.
“That’s what this century is all about—computers and STEM,” he explained. “We need to get kids to focus in those fields—not just for themselves, but also for the rest of us, to keep us competitive globally. For the students, there is a need and there will be jobs. But from a global standpoint, it’s also what we need to keep moving forward.”
To ensure that all students get to that point—where they have graduated and are in line for competitive jobs, Magnarelli has maintained that social and emotional supports must be priority number one. He led the charge in implementing the Promise Zone, a program that brings schools, community resources and a student’s family together to provide a greater level of intervention and support for students with emotional and behavioral challenges.
His initial idea was to start a pilot program in the SCSD that could be replicated around the county state in areas where there are problems educating children primarily due to poverty. He approached County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who immediately voiced her support. Together, they arranged for Promise Zone Specialists to serve as liaisons within SCSD schools, adding a new level of social and emotional support for students.
“Just giving money to schools isn’t the answer,” Magnarelli explained. “We also need to find a way to provide supports to help students so they can be ready to learn. If students aren’t fed or housed properly—if there is a drug or alcohol addiction in their family—unless we deal with these issues, our students aren’t going to be able to learn. We need to get back to a place where teachers can teach. Right now, we’re asking too much. They can’t cure all the ills of society—that’s where social services come in. I’d like to bring the Promise Zone a step further, so we have more people on the ground finding out what the problems are and addressing them from the root.”
Magnarelli says he believes that supporting our students is a key way to lead change—and he shows it. Each year, dating back to his time as a Syracuse Common Councilor, he has attended SCSD high school graduation ceremonies—often, as one of the sole local government representatives present.
“I represent the Assembly when I go to those,” Magnarelli said. “That’s how I see it. I want people to understand how important I think education is. We all—in the Assembly—feel that way. It’s important to show my face and let the students know that we care and we’re doing the best we can for them.”
Doing the best includes backing SCSD programs and supports each year come State budget season.
“I’m most proud that we’ve been able to advocate, continuously year after year, to get improved funding for education,” Magnarelli said. “We have to do everything possible to make sure our kids are well educated. It’s easier to spend on education up front than it is to help support the undereducated, the people who need jobs and services. Investing in our children now pays off many times down the road.”
But, Magnarelli recognizes, students’ ultimate success lies in their own hands. “Do your homework,” he insists. “You don’t ever want to feel inferior because of a lack of education. It’s not easy—it takes hard work, but it will pay off in the end. Having a good job and making money are good, but if you apply yourself and do the work, that’s what will make you feel better about yourself as a person.”
Please join us in thanking Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli for his support of SCSD students and schools through the years!