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Molnar to step up as Southmoreland School District superintendent

| Saturday, June 18, 2011

In less than two weeks, John Molnar will become superintendent of the Southmoreland School District.

A graduate of Homer-Center High School in 1974, Molnar received his bachelor of science in education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1978 while majoring in elementary education. He was hired as a substitute teacher in the fall of 1978, which he did for one year before earning a master's of education and reading specialist certification through his college alma mater.

"Part of the requirement was to take classes for one year in the summers and evenings and the other requirement was to serve an internship at Homer-Center," Molnar said.

After completing his coursework, he was hired as the district's reading specialist in 1980, but two years later was furloughed.

During a five-year furlough, Molnar worked several different jobs including an accounts manager with Custom Management Corp.; director of housekeeping and laundry at Bradford Hospital; supervisor of buildings and grounds at South Allegheny School District; and laundry manager at Westmoreland Manor.

In 1987, he and his wife purchased a day care center. He was called back to Homer-Center that same year. The couple ran the day care center until 1997.

Molnar's first official duty within the Southmoreland School District was to run the annual Scottdale Elementary Halloween Parade in the fall of 1993. For the next four years he served as principal of the elementary school.

"When Bill Nelson retired, I was offered a position in central office as director of elementary education and federal programs coordinator," Molnar said. "I held this position until John Halfhill became the superintendent in 2002."

Molnar was then named administrative assistant to the superintendent. His responsibilities expanded to include kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum, federal programs and special education, in addition to assisting Halfhill with general administrative responsibilities for the district.

"During this time, I was also responsible for strategic planning and professional development planning," Molnar said. "I earned my superintendent's letter of eligibility in 2002 and my doctorate in administration and leadership studies from IUP in 2003."

The Southmoreland community reminds Molnar of his hometown of Homer City.

"The community is made up of several closely knit small towns, one larger town, and is surrounded by farmlands and rural areas, and the values and interests of the people are also similar, so I immediately felt at home when I arrived at Southmoreland," he said.

Molnar added that the teaching staff and administration are very focused on their mission.

"The administrators, teachers and support staff all understand that we are here for one reason — to ensure high levels of learning for all students — and I appreciate the level of cooperation that exists at Southmoreland among all constituencies including parents, community members, students, faculty, staff, administration and the board of education," he said.

Molnar added that the Southmoreland community places a great deal of emphasis on its youth and its schools, and he feels fortunate to be here.

Molnar said he especially likes the unique things that he's been involved with at Southmoreland, such as the Laurelville trip, Medieval Feast, science fairs, Night of 1000 Reading Stars, Sony Stars, Hoop it Up, blood drives and others.

"I am especially proud that we have been able to design a program and a set of activities that are aimed toward our focused and stated goal of improving student learning," Molnar said. "I am also especially proud of the direction that our special education program has taken. We have moved from a philosophy of separation, exclusion and a separate curriculum to a very inclusive program that guarantees the same curriculum to all students, regardless of ability level."

He acknowledges that once he takes on the position of superintendent, he will face several challenges in the next few years.

"First and foremost, we must continue to fulfill our educational mission and we will accomplish this in spite of the economic challenges that we, as well as other school districts, face," Molnar said.

He added that the past year has seen many changes the administration must face.

Some of those changes include the retirements of Halfhill and business manager Bill Porter, the resignation of buildings and grounds supervisor Ken Millslagle, and the recent school board election which yielded only one of five incumbents retained.

Halfhill said Molnar's biggest challenge will be to maintain the educational integrity of the system in a political environment where the governor and the legislative leadership do not support public education.

"The challenges are many, but we look forward to meeting them with enthusiasm and excitement," Molnar said.

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