Verona’s Verner Elementary principal retiring, replacement selected
Verner Elementary School in Verona will have a new principal next school year.
Mary Ann Plance is calling it a career after five years in the district and 35 years overall in education.
Her official retirement date is July 1. The new principal will be current district special education director Christina Monroe. She will continue in that role while serving as Verner Elementary.
Monroe said all school principals will take on more responsibility for special education in their buildings starting next school year. Both administrators are excited about the transition and future of Verona’s children.
“This is a special place,” Plance said. “I love my staff. I love my kiddos. You go when you’re at your best, and I really think that Verner is in a good spot right now. I think that I have everything in motion that I think can be sustainable. I truly believe that you’re only as good as the people below you. You have to come to school excited and be silly and be happy. Kids are first. That’s why I came here.”
Plance, 58, of Penn Hills became Verner’s principal toward the end of the 2014-15 school year. She replaced Jason Shoaf, who left after five years to become assistant principal at Bethel Park High School.
She was a longtime special education teacher at McKeesport Area High School, and served as an assistant principal at the city school prior to coming to Riverview.
Plance, a 1978 Gateway High School graduate, graduated from Clarion University in 1982.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I just like working with kids.”
Plance considers increased communication between all the schools and special education improvements as an achievement.
“When I first arrived, it felt like we were little tiny islands and we weren’t a district,” she said. “I think we’re in a better spot now.”
Plance noted joint activities with Verner and Tenth Street Elementary in Oakmont and how all students are Riverview Raiders.
Plance said Monroe will do a great job at Verner, and that the two bonded over their special education experience.
Monroe, 47, was hired by the district in November 2016.
She graduated from Penn-Trafford High School in 1989 and lives in the Irwin area near Harrison City.
Monroe earned a bachelor’s in special and elementary education from Slippery Rock University, master’s in educational leadership and principal certification from the University of Central Florida and a doctorate in educational leadership from Widener University.
She worked as an assistant principal at Central Dauphin High School, director of curriculum at Tulpenhocken School District and assistant executive director and instructional design specialist at Westmoreland Intermediate Unit prior to coming to Riverview.
“I like it here at Riverview,” Monroe said. “It’s a very nice school district. I’m kind of excited (about becoming principal). I get to go back and see kids every day and interact with kids every day. A lot of times when you move to central administration that’s one of the things you miss.”
Monroe said Plance made the transition from WIU to Riverview very smooth, and this time is no different.
“All of the administrators are great here,” Monroe said. “You just pick up the phone and they all answer. They all offer their background and what they know. They’ve all been here longer than me, and it made it a lot easier. Every school district has their own way of doing things, and the administrators here have been so supportive and helpful.”
Monroe’s husband, James Monroe, went to Verner Elementary through third grade.
The incoming principal has visited Verner multiple times throughout her Riverview career, most recently its April kindergarten orientation. She’d like to build on the school’s successful initiatives.
“They’ve started so many great programs, especially with attendance and overachieving as far as students go on test scores,” she said. “I want to keep those initiatives going. There’s been a lot of work with building a community. Students learn best when they feel safe and when they feel welcomed and feel successful. That’s something that needs to continue.”
Plance said she plans to spend more time with relatives during her retirement.
Monroe said she hopes parents will have an open mind about the leadership change.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .