SELINSGROVE—The Selinsgrove School District’s new superintendent has found himself steering the four-school district through unprecedented uncertainty.
Frank Jankowski's official first day of his tenure was Monday — departing superintendent Chad Cohrs' last day was Friday. And right now, one of his top priorities is coming up with a plan to make sure students and staff are safe for the opening of the new school year during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jankowski, 36, is working collaboratively with district employees, who are trying to figure out a solution to the same issue.
"He is respected and trusted because he knows how to bring people together to build consensus," said district school board president Dennis Wolfe, on Monday, of the new superintendent.
"Beginning his new position in a time of unprecedented challenges for all superintendents, he'll be able to use what I see as his impressive analytical skills and his powers of persuasion, to tackle the difficult financial and educational issues that lie ahead," Wolfe said. "Dr. Jankowski comes to us with a solid background of leadership that will serve us well, and I think that the community will accept him enthusiastically."
His leadership skills showed up early. At Villanova, he was a quarterback on their football team and captain of their baseball team.
"So I have some experience in how to connect extracurriculars to the general education experience to enhance it," he said. His other experience was as a teacher (social studies) and then as an administrator in the Muncy School District. Two years ago, he was hired as assistant superintendent in the Selinsgrove School District.
But none of his previous work was preparation for leading a school district during a pandemic.
"I don't think anyone, anywhere was prepared for this pandemic. This is brand new territory," he said Monday.
Given his background in team sports, it is not surprising that he is a great believer in "team."
"We have put together a health and safety committee. A team. And we've been meeting weekly, for the last month and a half," he said. "That doesn't mean if someone is not on the committee their voice is not heard."
One thing he did was to put out a survey to families to gauge their thoughts about the reopening. More than 1,000 families responded.
"Our committee is seeing how the community feels and balancing that with state and federal mandates and then making the most applicable choice for Selinsgrove," he said.
From a timeline standpoint, the committee has put out more questions to the school community.
Next week they will have a preliminary first draft plan available for discussion.
This will leave ample time for parents and employees of the district to provide feedback before the Aug. 10 school board meeting, at which time a vote on the plan will be taken, Jankowski said. "Even after Aug. 10, we'll have to be flexible, should societal climates change as regards safety issues. We'll need to be fluid, be able to adapt as needed."
"We are trying to be as proactive as possible to maintain all of our current programs and people," he said. "At this time, we do not anticipate issues in regards to deep budget cuts for the 20-21 school year. Moving forward, we will strive to make decisions, which provide us the greatest extent of fiscal flexibility to meet our district's goals."
"I have worked with Dr. Jankowski for two years," said district Business Manager Jeffrey Hummel. "I am confident that he will be able to lead the district through these difficult times."
Jankowski said that there is always room for improvement in the district.
"I know that we have set a high standard, we are a highly regarded school district," he said. "But as a district, we are going to identify those areas in need of improvement and work towards trying to achieve those goals."
At the last school board meeting, several alumni spoke about bringing more diversity into the district.
The district is planning on expanding its social "positive improvement programs. Building upon mentoring programs in our schools. And focus on how to get students more connected to the school district," he said.
Jankowski also wants to make sure that district programs involve the entire community.
"K-12 schools are a microcosm of society because we are a public entity," he said. "One of the things we are going to do as a district is take part in community dialogue."
Jankowski's annual salary for 2020-2021 is $142,000.
A Berwick High School graduate, he is married and has three children in the district.