About Us » Office of the Superintendent

Office of the Superintendent

August 2021

When people look at the Penn-Trafford School District, we want them to see a vibrant space where everyone has the opportunity and resources for continuous learning, growth, and achievement. How we learn is just as important in many respects as what we learn, and for the past year and three months, the way PTSD has delivered the educational experience to students has by necessity, evolved. The pandemic created a new reality in our communities and a new dynamic in our classrooms, and we believe that by adapting, innovating, and rising to the challenge – as our educators and students have so admirably done – we are now stronger, more resilient, and future-ready. It is with this mindset that we embrace both the challenges and opportunities of the 2021 - 2022 school year.

It is the district’s belief that high-quality education was uninterrupted at Penn-Trafford in 2020-21. This achievement in large part can be credited to the vision and experience of Assistant Superintendent Scott Inglese, who created a flexible instructional strategy supported by a strong technological infrastructure. Penn-Trafford’s longstanding commitment to technology investments has resulted in a 1:1 student-to-Chromebook ratio districtwide. PTSD teachers were able to expertly leverage and advance their Google Classroom skills throughout the school year to the benefit of students and families. Moreover, they were able to effectively provide BOTH traditional and virtual forms of education for students simultaneously, which in many ways is a far more demanding ask. The increased use of Google Classroom platforms will have lasting, empowering benefits at Penn-Trafford, and the feedback that we received from parents in this space was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. For their efforts, Penn-Trafford’s exceptional team of classroom educators has earned our genuine respect, admiration, and gratitude.

We as a district, however, still hold to the belief that in-person education remains the best way to reach and teach our children. Penn-Trafford takes great pride in the fact that we were able to provide a full school year of in-person education to the vast majority of our district’s K-8 students who chose to pursue that option. We kept our elementary and middle school buildings open for almost all the 2020-21 school year, and Penn-Trafford High School operated effectively in a hybrid mode with grade 9-12 students having unfettered access to all course options.

Available assessment data indicates that PTSD students moved forward at a relatively expected pace last year. Mindful of our high expectations and goals, however, we anticipate that some students may need additional supports to bridge the achievement gap as it relates to PA State Standards. To meet this challenge, Penn-Trafford will work to implement strong remediation measures including expanding all existing tutoring initiatives throughout the school year. Our goal, as always, is to meet the students where they are and then move them forward with customized learning opportunities that are data-informed, measurable and targeted to their needs.

Virtual learning this year will return to the Penn-Trafford eAcademy platform with K-12 courses provided by the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit (WIU). 

Penn-Trafford elementary buildings are introducing a new Social Studies curriculum. The myWorld series from the Savvas Learning Company (formerly Pearson K12) will debut in grades 3-5 this year. The new grades 3-8 Science curriculum will revolve around the McGraw-Hill “Inspire Series” and will feature enhanced, inquiry-based learning opportunities both online and in a traditional classroom setting aligned to PA Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This year, the district also plans to pilot a new Computer Coding initiative in McCullough Elementary School grades K-5. The Apple “Everyone Can Code” introductory program is a STEM initiative that reinforces the development of 21st Century Learning skillsets in young learners.

The 2021-22 school calendar does not include the traditional five snow makeup days. Due to our ability to conduct learning virtually districtwide, PTSD is introducing Flexible Instruction Days (FID), which, in the event of inclement weather, will be used to provide uninterrupted instruction via the Google Classroom platform. Major facility renovations include a proposed $715,000 brickwork project at PTHS that should be significantly complete in September. PTSD is pleased to report the addition of 13 new teachers for the upcoming school year (see page 13). We are replacing 4 retirees and the remaining hires are for newly created positions.

Although the 2021 - 22 district budget calls for a 1 mill tax increase, district officials report that we continue to experience significant growth in real estate assessments and a rise in school enrollment through the continued expansion of new housing starts in our communities, most notably those served by McCullough and Sunrise Estates Elementary schools. We view this growth as a very positive reflection on the district and potentially a revenue balancing factor moving forward. Penn-Trafford will also benefit from higher than anticipated State subsidies this year.

Last year, despite the challenges, we learned. We learned a lot about ourselves and what we can overcome. Our students learned in the classroom, both traditional and virtual, and our educators learned how to break out of their comfort zone to become more creative and diversely skilled. As Penn-Trafford prepares for the challenges and uncertainties of the 2021-22 school year, we have a shared responsibility to do everything possible to first and foremost keep each other safe, but also to work together to keep learning.  We invite you to be part of that journey.

Dr. Matthew Harris