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Superintendent says job change is bittersweet

January 03, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, PA. - Preparing for his Jan. 12 departure from Tuscarora School District, outgoing Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said the move is bittersweet, especially at a festive time of the year.

"I'm going to miss the opportunity to visit my own kids in their classrooms," Stapleford said.

Stapleford hopes his transition to overseeing the graduate education program at Temple University's Harrisburg, Pa., campus will give him time in the classroom himself, teaching a few classes each semester.

Extra time on the road and a telecommute for Stapleford will allow his three school-aged children to remain students in the Tuscarora School District, where the Waynesboro Area Senior High School graduate has worked since July 2003.

"There is a tradition and a history here that's very strong. People love JB (James Buchanan middle and high schools) here, and that's great because you don't find that a lot of places elsewhere," Stapleford said.

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The district, which serves students in the Borough of Mercersburg and several surrounding townships, has few commercial properties and no big-box stores.

That makes the rural community an attractive place for people looking to move, but it creates a limited commercial tax base, according to Stapleford.

"As a consequence, the burden of paying for schools falls on the local taxpayers," he said.

Stapleford said that when he arrived in the district, he knew he was about to embark on significant building renovation projects. He also wanted to better align curriculum so each grade was doing the same work at every school.

The curriculum alignment is "taking steps in the right direction" and great strides have been made in upgrading technology, Stapleford said.

His experiences in the traditionally conservative community have taught him patience, listening skills and the ability to work within the culture of a new place.

In addition to not seeing his children in their classrooms, Stapleford said he will miss interactions with the school board and teachers. The interactions might not disappear entirely, however, as Stapleford said he looks forward to being an active parent in the district.

The Tuscarora School Board is working with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to obtain a new superintendent.

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