Brentwood's Dufalla says goodbye
Looking back over the years in the Brentwood Borough School District, Ronald Dufalla smiled as he recalled the high school musical staff attempting to a get a full-sized Volkswagen, sans the roof, into the auditorium for a show.
Or there was the time a horse, with its own personal custodian ”just in case” was brought in for a performance of “Oklahoma!” There were the basketball teams that made it to the playoffs in Hershey, and the Fourth of July parades along Brownsville Road.
But the best memories, Dufalla said, come from the people — students, staff, teachers and administrators — some of which he knew when they were children, then again as adults. After all, Dufalla did work in the Brentwood school system for more than half his life.
“It's my Brentwood family,” Dufalla said. “I think relationships are important in education. If you want to be successful in education, you have to build some kind of rapport.”
Dufalla, 60, of Lincoln Borough, retired Monday after 37 years in the Brentwood Borough School District, the last eight of which he served as superintendent. Elroy Elementary Principal Amy Burch became superintendent on Tuesday.
During his time at Brentwood, Dufalla held a job at nearly every level of the district.
Dufalla received a proclamation from Brentwood Mayor Dennis Troy, who had Dufalla for a teacher. The Brentwood Education Association named Dufalla this year's Friend of Education, the district staff honored him with an event and the Brentwood Business Owners Association honored him with a certificate.
“I didn't do things because I wanted recognition or I was trying to be great. I just did what I thought I was supposed to do and what I was expected to do,” Dufalla said.
‘It was my destiny'
Dufalla knew when he was in eighth grade that he wanted to become a teacher.
There was something about his social studies class at Elizabeth Forward Junior High School that made him want to be an educator.
After a one-year stint at Fox Chapel High School as a substitute teacher, Dufalla began applying for jobs.
He eventually was called about an interview for a teaching job at Brentwood.
He didn't know where Brentwood was.
“If you went to the Cloverleaf, now you were really entering foreign territory,” Dufalla said.
Dufalla went in for his interview after working a night shift on a security job. The interview didn't go so well.
He was given a second chance — and a second interview — and that's how he ended up in Brentwood, teaching eighth-grade American history and ninth-grade law starting in 1977 — the only year Brentwood teachers had a strike.
Dufalla was “extremely structured” in the classroom, said Jeff Healy, a 1980 Brentwood graduate, who had Dufalla for ninth-grade law. He reconnected with Dufalla as his three daughters attended school in the district.
“You would walk in, take a seat, get out your notebook. Whatever he wrote on the board, you would write down,” Healy said.
Students have told Dufalla they kept those notes and used them in their first year in law school, Dufalla said.
Dufalla also served as sponsor for the school newspaper and assistant band director.
“Things always worked out, so I kind of thought it was my destiny to be in education,” Dufalla said.
Always a teacher
No matter what job he held, Dufalla said he always viewed himself as a teacher. It's just his classroom that's changed.
“I try to teach a lot through example. I never asked people to do anything I wouldn't do myself, nor would I expect more of them than I would expect of myself,” Dufalla said.
Middle School Principal David Radcliffe, who was in high school when Dufalla was an assistant principal, then was hired by the man three times — as a teacher, assistant principal and later principal — said Dufalla was always consistent — even in “room 104” — where students were called years ago for punishment.
“He always was very soft spoken. The kids always had a lot of respect for him,” Radcliffe said of Dufalla's years as assistant principal.
That didn't change as Dufalla climbed the ranks, Radcliffe said.
What stood out to administrators in the district the most was Dufalla's commitment to Brentwood.
“His top priority was to serve others,” said Burch, who noted Dufalla shared with her the importance of loyalty and relationships.
In retirement, Dufalla plans to do adjunct teaching at Point Park University's principal preparation program. He plans to spend time doing yard work for his mother and playing with his grandchild.
Over the years, Dufalla said, the biggest change he saw in education is more involvement from state and federal leaders.
That has led to funding cuts and Brentwood didn't escape unscathed.
Before he took over as superintendent, Dufalla said he was told he would be forced to consolidate the Brentwood school system with another district because of money.
“If there's one thing I want my legacy to be, it's that when Ronald Dufalla walked out the door, there was still a Brentwood Borough School District,” he said. “I believe in the place enough that I want it to survive.... I just want to make sure the system's here for many years to come.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.