Posted by Dr. David Zerbe on 1/1/2015
The pre-entry phase of this entry plan began August 21, 2013 following my August 20, 2013 appointment as Methacton School District Superintendent of Schools by the Board of School Directors. Working with then acting Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Miller, a schedule for the transition between districts (Pocono Mountain School District and Methacton School District) was developed. This transition schedule was completed in order to allow for a smooth transition to the Methacton Superintendency while closing out the remaining duties associated with my position at Pocono Mountain. The schedule included more than 12 dates at Methacton between August 21, 2013 and the conclusion of an anticipated 60 day hold from Pocono Mountain.
The scheduled transition days involved visits directly to the Farina Education Center to meet with Dr. Miller in order to review the current status of district programs, processes, and issues. I met with most of the central administrative staff during this time and accompanied Dr. Miller on several visits to school buildings. A significant amount of discussion and information sharing occurred that was dedicated to outstanding staffing needs (particularly the position of Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment). It was through these early discussions with staff and the Board that a decision was made to begin the advertisement to fill the vacant curriculum administration position. Additionally, a great deal of discussion related to the Methacton High School campus field improvement project took place. It was also during this time that I attended the first conditional use hearing, prior to my official start.
During the month of September, I scheduled and conducted interviews with administrative staff. These interviews included central office staff as well as building principals. The purpose of these interviews was to identify the current status of the positions and buildings and or departments within the district. We discussed programmatic issues and successes, buildings, and departments while helping me better understand our overall status as a district. I asked questions related to long term challenges and sought opinions on administrative structure, communications, programs, services, and the community.
During the pre-entry phase, I scheduled and held several individual interviews with School Board Directors. These interviews were designed to gather historical insight into the district, its successes, and issues. Additionally, it allowed me an opportunity to get to know each Board member personally. An over-arching theme developed during these conversations. Although each Board member had a slightly different take on items, each expressed deep support for improving the district for students, teachers, and the community.
On the evening of September 10, 2013, I attended my first meeting of the Education Foundation for the Methacton Community (EFMC). I was introduced to the Foundation Board and provided the Board with a summary of my credentials and personal status. Before conducting the regular business of the meeting, the members provided me with an overview of the EFMC; including its various programs, services, and goals.
At the conclusion of one of my scheduled pre-entry plan days, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Arrowhead Elementary back to school picnic. The picnic was, in my opinion, an excellent way to allow for parents and their families to gather and share conversation and food while mixing with staff at the beginning of the school year. It was at this event where I learned about the Watch Dog program, which is designed to encourage fathers of students to participate as volunteers within the school. I was happy to meet several of the Watch Dog Dads, and they shared their experiences with me. I was able to meet and talk with many other parents that evening and received excellent feedback regarding Arrowhead Elementary and the district as a whole.
These face to face meetings are integral to the process of getting to know the Methacton School District in order to identify needs, both short and long term. These meetings also offer the best opportunity to get to know the staff and community. However, a thorough review of many district documents including the Board Policy Manual, the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year General Fund Final Budget, Differentiated Supervision Plan for Instructional Staff, Methacton School District Profile, 2012-2013 Methacton High School Profile, staff contracts, and the district’s web site are also critical to my ability to learn about the district. Together with the meetings, I conducted these document reviews during the pre-entry plan phase.
On a more personal note, my wife and I began the processes of placing our home in Pottsville for sale during this time. We also began communicating with Realtors in the Methacton community in order to begin the search for our new home. It must be known that I had made a commitment to relocate to the district with my family. Over the next several weekends during September and October, my wife, and on occasion my children, visited many potential properties in both Lower Providence and Worcester townships.
I also spent a great many weekends between August and October enjoying getting to know the students and families of Methacton as I traveled to the district to attend several interscholastic athletic events (both home and away games), the Lower Providence Community Fair, Merry Mead Farms, and local churches. My family and I spent time exploring this beautiful area together.
I was released from Pocono Mountain on October 8, 2013 and officially took over as Superintendent of Methacton School District on Wednesday October 9, 2013. I transitioned for the next three days with Dr. Miller, who departed his role as Acting Superintendent on Friday October 11, 2013. This thus ended my pre-entry phase.