Albany, NY – The New York State Council of School Superintendents (The Council) chose longtime East Syracuse Minoa Central School District Superintendent Dr. Donna J. DeSiato as its New York State Superintendent of the Year.
The selection of Dr. DeSiato was formally announced at The Council's 2021 Fall Leadership Summit on September 26-28 in Saratoga, and was fully celebrated at our Winter Institute in Albany on March 7, 2022.
As New York’s Superintendent of the Year, Dr. DeSiato represented New York as its nominee for national Superintendent of the Year, awarded by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) in Nashville this past February.
“I have been honored to work with Dr. DeSiato on the Executive Committee of The Council over the years and I’m simply delighted for this recognition of Donna’s extraordinary leadership,” said Council President Dr. Phyllis S. Harrington, a fellow superintendent who leads the Oceanside UFSD. “With a strategic planning mindset, relentless attention to detail, embrace of inclusionary practices and broad individual involvement, Donna proudly exemplifies the power of school leaders to bring meaningful change to our communities.”
Dr. DeSiato said, “Seventeen years ago, we started a journey in East Syracuse Minoa that continues to this day.” She continued, “More than anything else, I want to thank our community, and especially the Boards of Education I have worked with, for giving me the time and patience that is required to lead an effort for transformation and shared success. There is nothing more valuable to an educator than the privilege of time to research, plan, nurture, and live within the continuous improvement that one is a part of making happen.”
Dr. DeSiato joined ESM in 2005 after spending the building blocks of her career as a teacher, vice principal, principal, director, and assistant superintendent in Syracuse City Schools. The subsequent 17 years at the helm of ESM have been notable for its emphasis on strategic planning and rigor, significant progress in closing achievement gaps (especially over the graduation rate for Students with Disabilities), nationally honored STEM programming, a plethora of business partnerships that focused on student learning opportunities, extraordinary financial stewardship, and a wholesale reconstruction of the school district’s learning environments and physical infrastructure.
“We can think of no one who is more deserving of this award than Donna,” said ESM Board of Education President Deborah Kolod. “She is the quintessential 21st century school leader, a professional who authentically believes in the value of inclusivity and community partnership. I’ve never met or worked with a professional who has met with such great success in making a vision become a reality. That is Donna, in a nutshell: someone who is guided by the power of listening, strategic planning, broad scale involvement, and relentless optimism. She embraces creative problem solving and welcomes contributions from every corner of our school community.”
“She is the quintessential 21st century school leader, a professional who authentically believes in the value of inclusivity and partnership.”
The STEM programming at ESM is a particular source of pride for Dr. DeSiato. ESM has been recognized for advancements and accomplishments in STEM learning at the local, state, and national level. In 2015 ESM was selected as 1 of only 27 "ecosystems" across the United States to pilot the multi-year national science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) Ecosystems Initiative. The district is a nationally recognized STEM Learning Ecosystem in collaboration with business, higher education, and community partners. Today, ESM continues its involvement as one of 84 communities now recognized in the U.S. as part of the national STEM Learning Ecosystem.
Dr. DeSiato preaches the power of business partnerships, not for fundraising purposes, but for the vital impacts on the post-secondary prospects of its graduates. ESM is recognized for developing a broad array of career pathways including innovative STEM learning models in partnership with business, community and higher education with the Core Federal Credit Union, King & King Architects, Siemens, SUNY ESF, LeMoyne College, Syracuse University, Onondaga Community College and the Village of Minoa, along with the study of the development of pharmaceutical drugs through RxeSearch: An Educational Journey supported by Bristol Myers Squibb.
Most recently in 2018-19, ESM launched the first Aviation Career Pathway High School Courses in New York State and the ESM Spartan Academy as one of 19 Early College High Schools in New York State. In 2013 the district was awarded the “Be the Change for Kids Innovation Award” by the Nanoscale College of Science and Engineering and New York State School Board Association and in 2015 ESM was recognized nationally at the White House as one of the first STEM Learning Ecosystems.
Dr. DeSiato was the first female to lead ESM and is the first female school leader selected as New York Superintendent of the Year since 2016. As a recognized woman in leadership, she was instrumental in the inaugural convening of the Central New York Chapter of the Association for Women in Administration. Dr. DeSiato is a Trustee at Onondaga Community College, President of the Syracuse University Study Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the New York State Council of School Superintendents and the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority.
Dr. DeSiato was awarded the 2015 Margaret Ashida STEM Leadership Award by the New York State STEM Education Collaborative, the STEM Woman of the Year Award by the CNY STEM Hub in 2016 and the STEM Outreach Individual of the Year 2020 Award by TACNY. Dr. DeSiato has presented on Innovative Learning Models, STEM and 21st Century Learning at the national conferences of AASA, and the National School Boards Association.
NYSCOSS Executive Director Charles Dedrick said, “Dr. DeSiato is a tremendous selection by our Distinguished Service Committee to honor as the 2021-2022 New York State Superintendent of the Year. I have always found Donna to be the epitome of what a superintendent is supposed to be; caring, thoughtful, helpful, learned and skilled in leadership. It is clear from our interactions over the years how much she cares for her community and the children she serves so well. All of us at NYSCOSS congratulate her and wish her all the best as she moves on to compete for national superintendent of the year.”