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Upper St. Clair superintendent's 'cool to learn' message nets award

| Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010

Upper St. Clair School District has a motto for each student: "It's cool to be a learner."

Superintendent Patrick O'Toole is making sure it's also cool for administrators and teachers to be learners.

For his efforts, O'Toole was recognized with the 2010 Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators Award of Achievement for Service to the Profession. He received the honor during a PASA/Pennsylvania School Boards Association School Leadership Conference Oct. 14 in Hershey.

The Horace Mann League, which sponsored the award, donated $1,000 in O'Toole's name to the Mary Catherine Murphy Schierberl Scholarship at Clarion University, established to honor O'Toole's grandmother -- one of the first women to graduate from the college.

O'Toole was awarded for "demonstrating commitment to excellence" through his development of the district's leadership initiative training program focusing on core values and principles of professionalism.

Sharon Suritsky, acting assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, nominated O'Toole for the impact the training program has had on the administrative team.

O'Toole, who has been superintendent for 3 1/2 years in Upper St. Clair -- where 4,100 students are enrolled -- identified the professional needs of each administrator and created a plan with the help of the Pennsylvania Leadership Development Center to better use their individual strengths.

O'Toole, who has been a superintendent in Shenango Township School District in New Castle and South Butler School District in Saxonburg, said the award recognizes the leadership team's effort, not just his.

"We have worked very hard toward this initiative of leadership," he said, adding the ultimate goal is uncovering the best ways to teach the "whole" child and develop 21st century skills.

"Our challenge is delivering instruction and learning that is comprehensive and not just how students perform on paper and pencil tests," said O'Toole, who returned to Upper St. Clair after serving as an administrative intern there 20 years ago.

O'Toole, whose father was a school principal and whose mother was an English teacher, praised his staff.

"We have some incredible educators in this district. They are talented and really believe in doing what is best for the students," he said.

The result is students who are "talented, hard working and driven."

And taught by role models who know it's "cool to be a learner."

Additional Information:

Educational philosophy

Superintendent Patrick O'Toole: The ultimate goal is uncovering the best ways to teach the 'whole' child and develop 21st century skills.

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