New Waynesboro schools chief settling in

November 06, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Eight days into his new job, the Waynesboro Area School District superintendent was using words like "our" and "we" and wearing a blue-and-gold tie.

James L. Robertson has met with board members, staff and parents. He's learned about the high school renovation project and peeked into a few elementary school classrooms.

"I think right now I'm just trying to learn the district. I'm really trying to get a sense of how the district runs and what our strengths and weaknesses are," Robertson said.

The 45-year-old Cumberland County, Pa., man was most recently principal of Camp Hill High School. Waynesboro's school board hired Robertson in September, ending a six-month search for a superintendent following the surprise retirement of Barry L. Dallara.


Robertson will be paid $122,000 in the first year of his three-year contract.

Among Robertson's first impressions of the school district is that the staff is highly dedicated to student achievement.

"I think we want to continue looking at ways within our curriculum and within our instructional practices to boost student achievement," he said.

Robertson described himself as a hands-on leader who won't micro-manage, but will spend time in classrooms. He promised an open-door policy for employees and said he will listen to residents' concerns, even if he cannot solve them.

"I really want to become involved in the school community, be more visible and be in the classroom. That's my goal, and I'd certainly hope that would build some good relationships," Robertson said.

The school board is in the process of hiring an assistant superintendent due to the retirement of Gloria Walker.

Q&A with Robertson

A couple of questions with James L. Robertson, the new superintendent of the Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District:

What has been your first impression of some of the people you've been meeting?
"I'm very impressed with the people. Any organization is only as good as its people. If what I have seen is any indication, we're in good shape. We have a lot of dedicated staff and a lot of people who are top-notch, very nice and helpful."

What do you think are some of the major issues in education nowadays?
"I think first and foremost is academic achievement. I think (No Child Left Behind) and your (adequate yearly progress) numbers ... 100 percent is a very, very lofty goal. I'll certainly strive for that, but at some point - and maybe this isn't a good thing to say - every school district is going to be in trouble. I don't know that we can all make it, but I think we need to strive for that.

"What NCLB does is really focuses us on individual students and helping kids reach their potential (so that we) get to the benchmarks that we need. That's a good focus. I can't argue with that focus. I can argue with the testing and some of the other things, but I think it's a good thing to shoot for.

"The other thing that (affects) every school district is (its) budget, especially with some of the economic times we're dealing with now. Investments, property values and our revenues (are affected). ... It doesn't get any cheaper to run a school district.

Three things that Robertson feels are most important for a school district's success:

o "Rigor. Rigorous coursework and curriculum. High standards."

o "Relevance. Curriculum must fit students and what they'll encounter in the work force."

o "Relationships. Relationships between students and teachers; principals and teacher; and superintendent with school community."

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