Commissioner of Education, Municipality of Palermo
Building citizen support, Making services accessible
, organizing schedules, budgeting, Mafia, cultural education, capacity building
Rushda Majeed and Laura Bacon
Fri Mar 23 2012
Alessandra Siragusa discusses her time served as Palermo’s Commissioner of Education under Mayor Leoluca Orlando. She explains the Municipality’s initiatives to enhance education as part of the municipality’s mission to reopen Palermo to its citizens. She describes some of the challenges faced. Many students could not study in the morning because the system lacked classroom space. Most classrooms were rented space from private buildings, often Mafia-owned, and many citizens knew little about Palermitan culture. Dr. Siragusa explains the adopt-a-monument project, which reopened neglected monuments and educated teachers and other citizens like students and their parents about local history. She recalls Mafia resistance to school construction and the municipality’s counter-measures in an anecdote about Brancaccio, a Mafia controlled neighborhood where her administration succeeded in opening a new school. Altogether, her team built 40 new schools and organized schedules to allow all students to attend class in the morning in public or private buildings not linked to the Mafia. She explains how the government financed the schools and then names four signs of the administration’s success. She says that the successful adopt-a-monument program, a nationally recognized environmental education program, an effective cross-cultural education initiative, and the opening of the school in Brancaccio all indicated improvements in Palermitan education. Lastly, she reflects on the lack of sustainability of her reforms, blaming a conscious effort by later governments to marginalize schools.
Alessandra Siragusa served the Municipality of Palermo as commissioner of education under Mayor Leoluca Orlando from 1993 through 2000. Prior to her appointment she was active in Palermitan politics from a young age as a district and city councilor. After her term as commissioner of education she became and remains a teacher. She is currently a town councilor and member of the Committee for Culture, Science and Education.