The end of 2018 snuck up on us and is now only a very recent memory. Having been the interim superintendent at Shikellamy for one month now, I would like to share some observations I have made and some thoughts I have for the coming weeks and months of the new year.
First, there obviously has been much change since I attended Shikellamy HIgh School, having graduated in 1967. I attended Bloomsburg State College, now Bloomsburg University, and graduated in 1971. After teaching at Wyomissing High School, located near Reading, for five years, my family returned home to Shikellamy High School, where I taught from 1976-1980.
I began my role as a school administrator at Sayre Jr.-Sr. High School, where I served as assistant principal from 1980-1982. I then served as Muncy Jr.-Sr. High School principal from 1982-1986, then as Muncy School District superintendent from 1986-1995, before serving as superintendent of the Octorara Area School District, located between Lancaster and Philadelphia from 1995-2005.
After retiring from public education, I served as associate professor of education at Immaculata University from 2005-2012.
I have learned from every position I have served in and from every person I have ever met in my career. Each student, parent, community member, teacher, coach, principal, superintendent and school board member have contributed to my belief system of what makes a school able to serve the needs of a community and its students.
All have taught me that each one of us can make a difference in the lives of every person we meet every day. A simple smile, a friendly “hello,” a “job well done,” a sincere “thank you” can brighten the day of a child, colleague, or stranger that we come into contact with. Written as well as verbal communication is an absolute must between all parties of a successful school and community.
Now, back to the casual observations I have made since my arrival last month!
1. We are extremely fortunate to have dedicated, well-educated, and caring people in our offices and classrooms. Our custodial and maintenance staff are hard-working, pleasant, and dedicated people as well.
2. Our teachers and students have the benefit of very high quality technology — if used in a proper and educational manner.
3. Many of the school buildings are new and/or recently renovated. However, there is still more that needs to be done to bring our buildings up to acceptable standards (i.e. One section of the high school is 90 years old!)
4. There are so many great things happening in our classrooms, hallways, athletics, performing arts, student clubs and service organizations that too few are aware of.
5. The attire that is now deemed acceptable, in my personal (old-fashioned) view only adds to low-esteem of students and temptation to misbehave.
6. The language used by students and adults alike today is, in my (again — old-fashioned) view, totally unacceptable. Of course, my generation is responsible for coming up with the vehicles for spurring such language in movies, television shows, videos, internet and social media.
I maintain that although change is inevitable, not all change has to be accepted. I don’t accept that students’ stealing, fighting, defacing school property, disrespecting each other, as well as adults in their charge, should be accepted as “the times we live in.” For our youth to be successful, they need guidance, self-respect and pride. They need to learn to make good choices and accept responsibility for their actions.
We have great kids who earnestly try to meet our expectations of them. But, I also believe, we need to make these expectations clearly understood. Of course, like us, the young people today make bad choices on occasion. Our job is to hold them accountable for their actions, but also to assist the young person in learning from their mistakes for future decision-making.
I believe students need “discipline” rather than punishment. I also believe that the best and most effective form of discipline is “self-discipline.” We all need to teach our youth through example. For example, how to greet one another, how to speak to one another, and how to disagree agreeably. In other words, by living by the “golden rule” and by emphasizing and demonstrating proper social skills.
I consider myself very fortunate to have the honor and privilege of giving back to the school and community that gave me the education, support and upbringing to prepare me for a very satisfying life and career. I strongly believe that as we take a comprehensive view of our school system (the quality of our staff; student achievement, quality and scope of our educational programs; our services offered; our extracurricular activities; and quality of our facilities) we can be proud of what we have and what has been accomplished. However, we must keep our eyes on the horizon and remain focused on continuous improvement.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will be studying ways to raise performance by raising expectations. We will be looking at curricular offerings; at graduation requirements; at promotion and retention policies; at discipline codes; at dress codes; and at attendance policies; to name a few topics that I, personally, believe we can improve upon.
Also, we are currently studying ways of fostering better communication between home and school. There is no doubt that parents, teachers and students working together can and will achieve excellence in all endeavors.
I encourage all to help us “roll up our sleeves” as we continue our quest for excellence.
With this in mind, if you have a question and/or concern about any aspect of the Shikellamy School District, please do not hesitate to contact me at 570-286-3721 extension 2102 or by email at email@example.com. When appropriate, I will respond to your inquiry via this portion of the newspaper, as others may also have the same concern and are deserving of a response. Otherwise, I will respond to your phone call or email inquiry personally.
Dr. Thomas Scholvin is the acting superintendent of the Shikellamy School District.