Aug. 29, 2017
Opening Day welcomes teachers &
staff for the new school year
Days before the big yellow school buses make their way around Upper St. Clair’s neighborhoods, the district’s teachers, staff, administrators, school board members and Parent Teacher Council leaders come together to celebrate the start of a new school year. Opening Day for Upper St. Clair School District teachers and staff was held on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
Dr. Patrick O’Toole, superintendent of schools, shared information about the Professional Learning Community Institute that the district hosted in July. More than 60 Upper St. Clair teachers and administrators, representing all district schools, participated.
“Implementation of the PLC model is a major goal within our strategic plan and the recent institute provided an enormous opportunity to significantly advance this initiative,” Dr. O’Toole said. “The PLC model is fundamental work for school leaders and teachers that requires an intense focus on student learning and is central to our mission and vision.”
Specifically, the PLC model focuses on four critical questions:
- What should students know and be able to do?
- How do we know if students have learned it?
- How do we respond when students haven’t learned?
- How do we respond when students have learned?
Another important component of the PLC model is school culture, which offers a reflection of the school’s accepted norms, values and beliefs.
“We have a moral, ethical and professional responsibility to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for teaching and learning,” Dr. O’Toole said. “It is embedded within our school district’s mission that we develop lifelong learners and responsible citizens for a global society and that we nurture the uniqueness of each child and promote happiness and success.”
Dr. O’Toole encouraged staff members to not be deterred or discouraged by external forces that can be categorized by the acronym PEST – political, economic, social and technological. Citing the Declaration of Independence, he stated that the district has a fundamental responsibility to protect the rights of its students and staff.
“This journey toward ‘a more perfect union’ began nearly 250 years ago and hasn’t always been easy,” he said. “We seem to be constantly challenged to better protect the rights and liberties of our students and staff; however, we must remain steadfast in our resolve to maintain an environment where all students and staff have a feeling of belonging and becoming.”
Borrowing from history, Dr. O’Toole illustrated several monumental court rulings and legislation that provide legal protection for many who were previously disenfranchised including:
- Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education: the U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the segregation of public schools unconstitutional
- Civil Rights Act of 1964: the bill outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin
- Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975: the act required all public schools accepting federal funds to provide equal access to education.
- Americans with Disabilities Action of 1990: the legislation affords similar protections against discrimination to American’s with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act.
“These major court decisions and legislative actions support our constitutional rights,” Dr. O’Toole said. “Although none have been perfect, they buttress our local policies and practices that require us, both morally and contractually, to defend the human rights and dignity of our students and staff.”
To illustrate the diversity within the community, Dr. O’Toole shared data from the district’s home language survey that state there are 41 different languages spoken in homes throughout Upper St. Clair School District.
“Our forefathers and ancestors fought and died to establish and preserve our freedom and to stop the spread of hate and bigotry,” Dr. O’Toole said. “Let us do our part to ascertain that every child and every adult in our district has an environment to learn, teach and work free from injustice, so we can advance our more perfect union and realize for all this great American experience of public education – a pillar of our freedom and democracy.”
In addition to Dr. O’Toole’s remarks, five staff members were recognized for 25 years of service to the Upper St. Clair School District. Each received a 25-year pin in recognition of their silver anniversary. Among the honorees were: Lisa Cain, elementary and middle school physical education department chair and Fort Couch teacher; Colleen Czekaj, special education curriculum leader; Paula Scandrol, elementary strings teacher; Ken Suchan, head custodian at Boyce Middle School; and Jim Townsend, custodian at the high school.
Each year, the district recognizes and introduces its new staff members as well as those who have been appointed to additional leadership responsibilities. This year the following were recognized and welcomed:
- Scott Burchill* Director of Business & Finance
- Kevin Deitrick* Director of Athletics
- Christine Mussomeli Assistant Principal, Boyce Middle School
- Dan Zelenski Assistant Principal, High School
Curriculum Leader/Department Chair Appointments
- Marc-Andre Clermont Department Chair, High School World Languages
- Lauren Madia Curriculum Leader, Student Support Services
- Pam Petrarca Curriculum Leader, Elementary Social Studies
- Angie Tena Department Chair, K-8 World Languages
- Josh Tobin Curriculum Leader, Middle School Social Studies
- Jennifer Marken Director of Nutritional Services
- Chuck Plance Director of Facilities
Upper St. Clair High School
- Liz Barnes Teacher, Special Education
- Tchad Heil Guidance Secretary
- Lisa Henricks Clerical Aide, Assistant Principal’s Office
- Molly Humphreys Teacher, Math
- Mike Junko Teacher, Social Studies
- Laura Laboon Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Social Studies
- Gordon Mathews Intern, Student Support Services (also at Fort Couch)
- Kristin Scott Pardini* School Counselor
- Emily Robbibaro Teacher, English/Language Arts
- Charles Ruslavage Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Science
- Kellie Santoline Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), English/Language Arts
- Jennifer Shuback Special Education Aide
- Rhoda Smith Health Aide
Fort Couch Middle School
- John Seybert* Teacher, Music (also at Eisenhower)
Boyce Middle School
- Karlie Comfort Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 6
- Amy Homer Teacher, Grade 5
Streams Elementary School
- Carolyn Fortson Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 2
- Jill Loughran Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 1
- Kristen Wilson Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 2
Eisenhower Elementary School
- Courtney Campbell Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 4
- Amy Garces Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Kindergarten
- Jessica Hudik Teacher (.5), Kindergarten
- Jessica Kenny Teacher (Long-Term Substitute), Grade 3
Baker Elementary School
- Jessica Hudik Teacher (.5), Kindergarten
- Melissa Sokol Intern, Psychology
- Karen Wengryn* Administrative Assistant, Student Support Services/Human Resources
* denotes hired during the 2016-2017 school year