Former Washington County educator reflects on career, future challenges

July 31, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Dave Reeder, a longtime Washington County Public Schools administrator, will be the next superintendent for the Camp Hill School District southwest of Harrisburg, Pa.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — When Dave Reeder became principal at North Hagerstown High School during the summer of 1995, he went to the gym where the football players were lifting weights, and started bench pressing heavier and heavier weights.

As he moved up to 405 pounds on the bench press, curious students approached him, only to discover Reeder was their new principal.

Reeder said it seemed a good way to integrate himself into the school culture during the summer months before the school year started.

He did the same during his second week as the new superintendent at Camp Hill School District southwest of Harrisburg, Pa.

After working for Washington County Public Schools for 32 years, Reeder, 54, retired as director of secondary education in June to take the Camp Hill job.

Camp Hill has approximately 1,250 students and 175 teachers, professionals and support staff. It operates in a state in which school boards levy real estate taxes to fund school system operations.

The school district’s student population is slightly smaller than the more than 1,300 students that attended North High when Reeder served as principal.

In addition to being a local school administrator, Reeder has been part of a local band, Staff Infection, made up of local educators. He said he expects to occasionally participate in band performances and was planning to be with the band during its Wind Down Friday performance in front of The Maryland Theatre on July 29.

Reeder and his wife, Rhonda, live in Greencastle, Pa., but they are looking for a home in the Camp Hill area.

He graduated in 1975 from James Buchanan High School, where he had his first teaching experience as a lifeguard.

“Teaching was, I thought, pretty natural for me,” Reeder said he discovered after providing instruction in water safety.

While a science teacher at Boonsboro Middle, Reeder applied to NASA’s Teacher in Space Project, but the seat on the space shuttle eventually went to Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher who died when the Challenger exploded after its Jan. 28, 1986, launch.

After his second year teaching at Boonsboro, he was offered the chance to be science department chairman, “my first big leadership experience,” Reeder said.

Boyd Michael Sr., the principal who hired Reeder in 1979, and Boonsboro’s next principal, Dan McElrath, gave him leadership opportunities, and Reeder earned a Master of Science in education from Shippensburg (Pa.) University in 1982.

From 1990 to 2007, Reeder was a principal at a variety of middle schools, and North High.

“I believe that when I’ve gone to a school, I’ve hopefully left the school in a better place than when I started,” Reeder said.

“He is a person who attempts to learn and keep pace with current trends, stays on top of everything, has a good deal of energy, relates well to people,” said Washington County Board of Education member Paul Bailey, who was director of middle schools when Reeder was a middle school principal.

Most of Reeder’s experience as a principal was at middle schools.

“Middle school students are unique individuals,” said Reeder, who in the past has described them as being at the age of “hair, hormones and hysteria.”

“The kind of energy that comes out of middle school is unbelievable,” Reeder said.

The difference between middle and high schools is evident at lunch in the cafeteria, Reeder said.

At a middle school, the cafeteria is noisy and staff are trying to keep students in their seats because there is a tendency for horseplay, Reeder said.

At a high school, the cafeteria is like a mall food court.

“They just talk about their job and their sports. They’re fairly quiet,” except for the ninth-graders who still have some middle school tendencies, he said.

Education career of Dave Reeder

  • 1979-88: Science teacher, Boonsboro Middle School
  • 1988-90: Assistant principal, Northern Middle School
  • 1990-95: Principal, Western Heights Middle School
  • 1995-2002: Principal, North Hagerstown High School
  • 2002-06: Principal, Springfield Middle School
  • 2006-07: Principal, E. Russell Hicks Middle School
  • 2007-10: Director for middle school education
  • 2010-11: Director for secondary education

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