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Tuscarora superintendent steps down

June 30, 1999

Ted RaboldBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MERCERSBURG, Pa. - When Ted Rabold stepped down Wednesday as the longest-serving superintendent of the Tuscarora School District, he could have read a laundry list of changes he has seen in 20 years.

But there is a particular one he pointed to with pride - the number of students who go on to post-secondary education. In 1979, less than 20 percent went to college. Today more than half do.

"College just wasn't a tradition here," Rabold said. "There was a mind-set that you didn't need a degree."

Many graduates found jobs in area industries, he said. "It was a concern I had when I brought my own family here."

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Rabold set out to change that mind-set. He encouraged teachers and guidance counselors to prod students toward thinking about college. Students were taken on visits to area campuses, and representatives from colleges came to Mercersburg, he said. The district also held workshops to show parents how to finance their children's education.

The value of some changes is harder to measure.

Rabold is leaving a smaller district than he found when he came here 20 years ago as an assistant superintendent.

In 1979, the district had nearly 3,400 students. Today's enrollment is 2,685, he said.

The district's population has been stable at around 17,000 residents since he came here. Projections say enrollment will remain stagnant for the next six or seven years, Rabold said.

Many Mercersburg area families are like his own, he said. He put three children through district schools, and like children in many other families, they graduated and moved on. Few new families with children are moving to the district to replace those who graduate, he said.

"Our farmland will stay farmland," he said. "Mercersburg is like Waynesboro. Both are 10 miles off Interstate 81 so they don't see the population growth they see in Greencastle and Shippensburg, which are on the Interstate."

Some changes that have been prevalent elsewhere haven't affected Tuscarora.

Teachers say modern students are showing less respect than their predecessors, but discipline has never been a serious problem in the district, Rabold said. "Substitute teachers always comment on how well-behaved our students are. They still have that small-town attitude. They're nice kids."

Rabold said his toughest years as superintendent came in the mid-1990s with the election of a majority block of tax-conscious school board members who were elected on a platform of cutting school expenses.

Even Rabold's contract was threatened for a time, he said. "Their focus was on saving money and they got their hands into everything," he said.

"They learned that there wasn't much money to save anywhere, but it was a tough two years for me. I felt I was in the middle, trying to focus on maintaining the quality of our education."

Rabold is not retiring, but changing careers. He and a partner are launching a private business to retrain laid-off workers for jobs in the printing and graphic arts industries.

William T. Konzal, superintendent of the Iroquois School District near Erie, Pa., will succeed Rabold. He starts Aug. 1.

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