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Meet SCASD's Interim Superintendent
The State College Area School District is sailing into a fresh school year with a new captain at the helm.
Curtis Johnson, the former assistant superintendent of secondary education, currently leads the district as the interim superintendent while the search continues for Bob O’Donnell’s successor. O’Donnell had been SCASD’s superintendent for 11 years before leaving in June to become the Downingtown Area School District superintendent.
For Johnson, a Penn State graduate who also holds a master’s degree in secondary counseling from the university, his appointment stems from 19 years of commitment to the academic and social-emotional growth of district students.
Prior to his year as an assistant superintendent, he had been State High’s head principal for five years, steering a campus of 2,400 students through a massive construction project and then the COVID-19 pandemic’s challenges. Previously, he had served as interim principal for a year after a decade of other high school administrative roles.
As the head principal, Johnson helped build educational equity by developing the school’s Academic Center for Enrichment, a program designed to give struggling students an opportunity to reach their academic potential, and facilitating the creation of the Everyday Algebra class for students needing intensive math instruction. On the other end of the spectrum, he also oversaw launching the school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate program for juniors and seniors.
Additionally, State High made significant strides toward a more inclusive and welcoming climate during Johnson’s tenure through various initiatives such as the No Place for Hate campaign, a peer advocates program, student affinity groups and restorative practices training for staff members.
“I hope to build on the excellent work of the past and help us continue to grow,” he says. “Having such a great team of faculty, staff and administrators gives me confidence that it will be a great year.”
While the leaves turn, the SCASD Board of Directors will proceed with its national search, assisted by a consultant, Templeton Advantage, LLC. Last month, the board began reaching out to district residents to invite them to participate in focus groups aimed at gathering opinions about the qualities and skills the next SCASD superintendent should have.
“This is crucial to providing the board with an understanding of a broad swath of community input as we plan the next phases of the search process, assess candidates and develop the future goals of the district,” Board President Amber Concepcion says. “It also gives our community a genuine voice in the process.”
Community members may sign up to participate by visiting www.scasd.org and following a link to the search process website.
Meanwhile, SCASD begins the year with other changes besides at the top.
The 2022-2023 Student and Family Handbook consolidated previous elementary and secondary handbooks, using common language for all grades and adding a restorative approach to discipline. A formal equity action plan is being developed for all aspects of the district, from curriculum adoption to professional development to employee recruitment. In a similar vein, after reviewing the findings of an equity audit and consulting stakeholders, the district updated its strategic plan to address equity issues more explicitly.
“This plan will serve as our framework to impact student learning,” Johnson says.
All together, the measures leave him optimistic about the coming months. Though there may be occasional storms, he looks forward to the waters ahead, including getting to know the elementary world better.
“I realize I have relationships to build, but I truly believe that we are all in this together,” he says. “My goal is to foster a culture of community and trust by collaborating to provide the best possible learning environment for our students to thrive.”
By Chris Rosenblum
Photos by Nabil K. Mark