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Sullivan embraces new role as Trafford Middle School principal

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A new principal is greeting students this week at Trafford Middle School.

For the first time in a decade, Roger Sullivan started the school year in a different building today, Thursday, after becoming the principal over the summer.

Sullivan, 41, of North Huntingdon, had been an assistant principal at Penn-Trafford High School since 2002. He joined the district two years earlier as a high school math and physics teacher.

Sullivan takes over the middle-school duties from Karen Garner, who retired after six years as the head administrator at Trafford Middle and Elementary schools.

Dan DiNapoli is now principal at Trafford Elementary, splitting time between there and his duties as Level Green Elementary principal.

Sullivan said he is looking forward to sitting in on classes early and often this school year to learn more about his teachers and students.

“I've met a lot of great people that seem very passionate about working with kids, and that's exciting,” he said.

“It's very obvious that there's a family feel here. The staff cares about kids.”

After graduating in 1996 from the University of Kentucky, where he played football on a scholarship, Sullivan began his teaching career at his alma mater, McKeesport Area School District. He also was an assistant football coach there.

He first joined Penn-Trafford's administrative team in 2002, serving as an assistant principal and athletic director through 2006.

In recent years, he mostly worked with the upperclassmen as an assistant principal.

Though that job included dealing with some disciplinary, scheduling and management issues, Sullivan said Principal Scott Inglese also empowered him to be an instructional leader at the school.

Last year, former Superintendent Tom Butler tapped Sullivan to lead a program to initiate training in the district through the Penn Literacy Network.

The program, developed by the University of Penn, emphasizes teaching strategies that encourage students to engage in more reading, writing and discussion formats to build critical-thinking skills.

The district began that training at the high school but officials are planning to incorporate it more in the middle schools this year.

“It's just taking a look at doing it differently, and taking the next step so students can continue to grow,” Sullivan said.

A longtime school board member who lives in Trafford said he's confident in Sullivan's abilities.

Sullivan is well-respected and held in high regard in the district, said Nick Petrucci, a board member since the late 1970s.

“Roger did a real nice job for us at the high school,” he said.

“I feel real comfortable with him taking over at the middle school.”

Sullivan said he still is getting acclimated to the position, but he already has met with some borough officials, including police.

His teaching staff of 26 returned to the school on Monday.

“I'm excited about working with this age group,” Sullivan said.

“I'm excited about working in this community. We're going to work with the kids to help them grow to the next step, which is the high school.”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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