Penn-Trafford School Board names Harris as superintendent
Matt Harris converted a six-month tryout into a contract as Penn-Trafford's new superintendent.
By hiring Harris on Monday night as the top administrator, school board members returned to their recent practice of promoting from within, as they had done with Joseph A. Marasti and Deborah Kolonay. The board deviated from that convention in 2011, when its members chose Tom Butler — who then was the superintendent of Ridgway Area School District in Elk County — to replace the retiring Kolonay.
Since August, Harris had been the interim superintendent after Butler left to become the head of Altoona-based Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8.
Harris, the father of three children in the district, came to Penn-Trafford in 2007 as assistant principal for Level Green and Harrison Park elementary schools. The Hempfield native moved up the administrative ladder as others retired and filled multiple roles until becoming assistant superintendent in 2012.
Saying Harris “bleeds green and gold,” school board President Toni Ising called him the “right person at the right time” for Penn-Trafford.
“He wants this district to be No. 1, not because it's a point on his resume but because it's his district,” Ising said.
Harris' contract runs through the summer of 2017. The permanent job comes with a pay raise that Harris did not receive during the interim appointment. Harris' annual salary is increasing from $124,640 to $129,000, but he will not get a raise in the 2014-15 budget.
School board members are trying to get others to accept pay freezes next year. Last fall, the union representing the district's paraprofessionals, custodians and secretaries agreed to a freeze.
Among the goals for the next few months, Harris said, will be the selection of a new assistant superintendent, whose job likely will begin in the new budget year on July 1. High school Principal Scott Inglese has been handling those duties for the past half year.
District officials also are negotiating a new contract with the teachers union, finalizing the bidding specifications for a high school remodeling project and preparing to review other building needs as they plan for declining enrollment.
Harris also laid out a series of long-term curriculum goals, including implementing foreign-language programs for middle school students and more opportunities for customizing learning for individual elementary students.
“I like being active, so I'm up for the challenge,” Harris said.
Shaun Rinier, president of the Penn-Trafford Education Association, the teachers union, has backed Harris's selection since Butler's departure. He congratulated the board for its hiring.
“I think you picked a good guy, and I think the staff will be more than pleased,” Rinier said.
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or firstname.lastname@example.org.