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Superintendent has vision for Mt. Pleasant school district

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Linda Harkcom | for the Daily Courier
Timothy Gabauer (right), new superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Area School District, talks with Mt. Pleasant Area High School junior Evan Overly, 16, of Mt. Pleasant. Gabauer has made an effort to meet every employee in the district as well as many of the students since he took the helm the beginning of this month.

During his first month as superintendent of the Mt. Pleasant Area School District, Dr. Timothy Gabauer has made it a priority to meet every employee in the district — from prinicipals to teachers to members of the custodial staff and cafeteria workers.

“I'm trying to meet each employee personally,” Gabauer said.

Gabauer, of North Huntington, began his career as a teacher and although he has quickly moved up through the ranks to overseeing an entire school district, he has never lost touch with his roots.

“My expertise has always been in teaching. I consider myself a teacher on special assignment,” he said.

Gabauer started out in 1994 teaching World and American History to seventh- and eighth-grade students at the Cornell Middle School in the McKeesport Area School District. From there, he moved on to teach government to ninth-graders in the district.

Gabauer said that after a year and a half in that position, he was asked to take the dean of students position at the middle school.

“I initially said no because I loved teaching, so I made sure I would have the option to return to teaching if it didn't work out,” he said. “I realized I still had the opportunity to be in touch with the children and be with students and not with just one classroom of 32 students. ... I could be in a school with 700 students and I also would be able to make an impact on the teaching process and work with the teachers.”

Gabauer then moved into the assistant principal position at the middle school, then principal. Later, he became principal of McKeesport High School and then moved into the assistant superintendent position.

“I loved being the assistant superintendent and could have stayed in that position for a long time, but then the superintendent left and I moved into that position,” he said.

Gabauer was superintendent for more than three years and said he was happy in that position and was not looking to leave. He said since he himself had not had a resume or been on an interview since 1994, and as part of his position he was interviewing candidates for jobs within the district, he decided to go on the interview to gain some experience and perspective on the interviewing process.

Gabauer said he and his family also attended a school board meeting to see how the board got along and what items they discussed, and they were happy with what they saw and heard. Also, during the interview, he was surprised at how comfortable he felt.

“I could have made a thousand reasons to stay and follow the course that I was on, but this just felt right and it also forced me to get out of my comfort zone and it made me challenge myself. I was not looking to go anywhere and I was happy, but it just seemed like a perfect fit,” he said of Mt. Pleasant.

Gabauer said he also made a point of going out in the community to see what the people were like and what they thought of their school district before making any decisions.

“I went to local restaurants, walked through town and spoke to residents just to get a feel for the town and the people. Everybody was just extremely polite and welcoming and had nothing but good things to say about their public school system,” he said.

MPASD School Board President Robert Gumbita said he was very impressed by Gabauer throughout the interview process.

“He has a vision of a five-year plan and he's very personable, and I think he will get us all heading in the right direction,” Gumbita said. “He's going to be very approachable. I think he is going to be a great leader. We already have a great working relationship and I'm looking forward to getting to know him better.”

Gumbita said he is pleased Gabauer is going the extra mile in meeting and attempting to get to know all of the district employees.

“He wants all of the stakeholders to all have a voice in shaping the future of the district,” Gumbita said.

Gabauer said he plans to set a collective district-wide vision in place.

“I would like to see that happen and have people take ownership of it throughout the district, from building to building, so we can build all of our resources around that to meet our mission,” he said.

Gabauer said he does not plan to spend any more time than necessary sitting at his office desk. Instead, he plans to be actively involved in the schools and community.

“I'm going to try to be in each building at least once or twice a week,” he said. “I told the teachers I am not coming in for an evaluative nature but to keep me in touch with the kids and what is going on in the classroom,” he said. “The biggest difference that can be made in education is in the individual classroom. My job is to work along with the board to understand what resources the teachers need to be successful in the classroom.”

Amy Albright, a third-grade teacher at Ramsay Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, said she has had the opportunity to meet Gabauer.

“He is a man who wants to be visible throughout the district for students and teachers alike. I believe that he wants to know the students and what's going on in the classrooms ‘where the action is,' ” she said. “I feel that he will support us and help us if we have problems. He is very personable and energetic. He is very excited to be in Mt. Pleasant, and I'm excited to see where he will take the district.”

Gabauer said, as a father of three, he bases every decision he makes as superintendent on how it will affect the children in the classroom.

“Every single child in every classroom is someone's child, and I know how important that is to me and I think that is a representation of what is important and why we are here,” he said. “That is how I make decisions on a daily basis, and if I didn't get out of the building and into the classrooms, I would not be able to do that effectively.”

In addition to what happens in the classroom, Gabauer said he is aware of the importance of the students' extracurricular activities to their development.

“I see every part as an important part of the educational experience and the extracurriculars are important to each student's happiness and success and I think it's incumbent on every school district to offer as much as they can to support those programs,” he said.

Gabauer acknowledged extracurricular programs have been a challenge for districts across the state in recent years due to budget cuts.

“The challenge is offering the same services with the financial constraints that we face. Extracurriculars are a vital part of the experience. You have to provide as many experiences you can for every student you can without making something suffer on the other end,” he said.

Gabauer said he also plans to be an active member of the communities that make up the school district.

“I like to be visible in the community and be as approachable as possible. I'm here to serve the community, to serve the parents and to serve the students in conjunction with the board of directors,” he said.

Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.

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