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New Fox Chapel Area superintendent set to start in March

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 2:45 p.m.
New Fox Chapel Superintendent: Robert Eugene 'Gene' Freeman
New Fox Chapel Superintendent: Robert Eugene 'Gene' Freeman

Gene Freeman's priority when he takes the reins at Fox Chapel Area School District is for every student to know his name and recognize his face.

“It's one of the things I'm most proud of during my career,” said Freeman, 52, who was hired last week by the school board as district superintendent.

There were 25 other applicants for the job, said Bonnie Berzonski, district coordinator of communications.

Currently the head of Manheim Township School District in Lancaster, Freeman will start the job at Fox Chapel Area in March with a salary of $195,000 per year.

Until then, Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, will serve as acting superintendent.

Proud of the rapport he builds with students, Freeman said “I plan to carry it forward. I look forward to working with staff and parents but I'm an advocate for the students. I want to be able to walk into any classroom and have them know who I am.”

He takes the place of the retiring Anne Stephens, who after seven years with the district requested to be relieved from her contract six months early, on Jan. 1.

Details of Stephens' retirement package will not be released until the end of the month, Berzonski said.

Freeman cited similarities between Manheim Township and Fox Chapel Area, saying he comes from a district rich in diversity, both ethnically and economically.

During his time in Lancaster, the district added Landis Run Intermediate School, an International Baccalaureate program and rolled out full-day kindergarten to accommodate a growing student population that stands at 5,900. An initiative called Open Campus was also developed under his leadership to bring three districts together to form a virtual high school.

“We are excited to bring Dr. Freeman on board, and we have already begun discussions on the goals for the future — especially around communications, student growth and achievement, and fiscal management,” said Nancy Foster, school board president. “Our staff has incredible capabilities, and Dr. Freeman's educational and organizational leadership skills will continue to propel us forward in these challenging times for public education.”

Freeman earned his master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and his education specialist degree from South Carolina State University. His doctorate is from Fayetteville State University.

A native of North Carolina, Freeman began his career as a private school kindergarten teacher before serving as a sixth-grade teacher in public school.

He served as superintendent in the Weatherly Area School District in Carbon County, prior to moving to Lancaster.

During his career, Freeman has earned a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship and has received the Milken Educator Award.

Freeman said he sought the job here partly because of trips he and wife, Allison, have made to visit their daughter's college campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

“It's a beautiful region,” he said. “My wife and I are empty-nesters now and we have the ability to go where we want. We love the urban lifestyle and the proximity to a large city seemed ideal.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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