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Marcolini meets with community

| Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

MONESSEN - New Superintendent Linda Marcolini outlined what she hopes to accomplish during her time as the leader of the school district during a "meet-and-greet" Thursday.

Marcolini formally introduced herself to members of the community at the meeting, telling of how she suffered broken ribs and was paralyzed from the waist down for two months after being caught in the middle of a brawl. She also talked about the post-traumatic stress disorder that developed afterward.

At the time, she was working in the Pittsburgh Public School District.

"There was an unannounced weapons check and we had 450 students housed in the cafeteria," Marcolini recalled. "We had gang issues. The Bloods, the Crips ?it was a horrifying situation."

A fight ensued and one of Marcolini's colleagues was knocked unconscious.

"I went straight to my colleague," she said. "I was hit and pushed to the ground and stepped on like I was a part of the rug."

Following counseling, Marcolini was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I developed a block," Marcolini told the group of residents and teachers. "I came to learn that three of the students involved were never disciplined."

It was during that time that Marcolini decided what she wanted to do with her life.

"I decided I wanted to be an administrator. I wanted to go get certified to be a principal," she said.

Marcolini, who resides in Bridgeville, told of her travels from being a principal in the Woodland Hills School District to her time as assistant Superintendent at Brownsville.

"All of my experiences have prepared me to do my job here," Marcolini said. "I'm here for the duration. At least until they kick me to the curb."

The school board hired Marcolini on a 5-year contract, but she said she plans to be in the district longer.

"We are a great kept secret here in Monessen," Marcolini said of the school district. "That needs to change a little bit. We need to get that secret out there."

Marcolini introduced Fostering School, Family, and Community Involvement, her plan for an all-out public relations blitz for the Monessen School District.

"I am not a quitter, when I say I am going to do something, I do it," the superintendent said. "I just can't do it by myself. I need the support of you teachers, administrators, of the community."

Marcolini highlighted items the district has to offer such as: high performing schools, qualified teachers, small class sizes, competitive sports teams, top notch administrators, supportive booster organizations, and a fresh school board.

"Teachers, you really don't know how good of a job you do," Marcolini told those in attendance. "Our administrators are just awesome. I don't know any other way I can put it.

"The community has great businesses, low taxes and prime property. The mayor (Mary Jo Smith) has promised to help out in any way she can. She said she looks forward to helping promote our district."

One of the issues Marcolini intends to tackle is declining enrollment.

"Our kids in the district are going to private schools and cyber schools. I plan to present the board with our own alternative in February," Marcolini announced. "Let's give our kids a chance for alternative learning here in the district.

"I don't like the fact that they go to a cyber school and graduate with just a certificate. They can do it here and get a real diploma."

Marcolini said the biggest need in the district is collaboration.

"Can we have the graphics design, or art classes, produce a poster to highlight our district?" Marcolini asked. "What if you saw a billboard along Interstate 70 highlighting low property taxes or our district?"

The broad plan includes informing families, school and community leaders about the initiatives a goals of the district.

"It's not going to happen overnight," Marcolini said.

Dean of Students Marlon Wheeler, who attended the meeting Thursday, has been impressed with Marcolini and her plan.

"It's been a smooth transition since she's arrived," Wheeler said. "She's very visible in the schools, which is a welcomed sight.

"Her plan is something we really need for our school district. It's a great first step in the right direction."

Marcolini was pleased with the night's attendance.

"This was a great turnout," she said. "In a way it seems like the community is a little beaten down. I think that when some good really comes of this, we'll be able to get more people involved. I can't do it all myself. We will definitely have something in place by fall."

Marcolini said the first meeting of her plan will take place Feb. 23 in the board room at Monessen Elementary Center. The goal will be to form focus groups.

"It's getting into the committee portion and forming some more plans," Marcolini told the group.

Anyone from the community that would like to be involved is welcome to attend the meeting.

For more information, Marcolini said she can be contacted by email at lmarcolini@wiu.k12.pa.us.

"It's important that we all work together," Marcolini said. "I'm here for the long haul and I think Monessen and the school district has a lot to offer."

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