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New Centennial School District Superintendent Ready to Calm the Seas

By Jesse Reilly
The Public Spirit

Following a number of administrative changes, Centennial School District’s new Superintendent Jennifer Foight-Cressman says she is ready to calm the seas.

“The turnover is over,” she said in her office Tuesday, just about a week after she assumed the role.

Foight-Cressman, who had been serving as acting superintendent since her predecessor Thomas Turnbaugh resigned in December, was unanimously appointed at the school board’s meeting Feb. 22.

“I was shocked but I am over-the-moon excited,” she said of the quick appointment. “I think getting to know the district is usually one of the hardest parts of the job for new superintendents, but I already have 15 years of experience here.”

She was first hired in 1996 and served as a teacher librarian at Stackpole Elementary School. About five years later she became the district’s reading specialist and, by 2007, was the director of teaching and learning.

She spent the next three years as assistant to the superintendent and became acting superintendent about four months ago.

“When you move into administration you have to give up everything you probably went into education for — working and being with the students,” she said, but also believes her administrative positions have allowed her to ensure that the district as a whole is running smoothly.

Although the district’s administrative team has seen a lot of changes in the past several years, she attributes its continued success to the resolve of the faculty.

“We have still thrived in spite of everything that has happened,” she said. “And that is because the teachers have really protected the students.”

But, she said, the past is the past.

“It is time to create stability and a vision for this district,” she said, adding that can be done as informally by chatting with parents a Lady Panthers game or holding more formal meetings with the faculty.

“People are very forthcoming with what they want to see happen in the district,” she said.

Although she seems to be adapting to well in her new role, Foight-Cressman said getting there was never a priority for her.

“It was never really a goal for me,” she said. “In my mind I will always be a teacher.”

The superintendent received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Kutztown University and also holds post graduate degrees in library science, anthropology and education.

“I became a teacher because of a sincere love for children and wanting to help them develop into who they are supposed to be,” she said.

In her years as an educator she has taught kindergarten through graduate level and enjoys it all.

“At each stage it’s a little different and the students are at different phases of the development, but you’re still trying to help them do the same thing — to be the best person they can,” she said.

Before coming to the district she taught at a small private school in Allentown. What attracted her to Centennial, she says, was the glowing review from a friend.

“She spent her entire career here and was just a wonderful person,” she said. “I thought it had to be a good opportunity.”

With a number of projects in the works, the superintendent said she is hitting the ground running and focusing on building morale within the district and bridges with the community.

The high school renovation project, which is on schedule and under budget, and the re-districting and condensing of the elementary schools are both main focuses for her.

“It is a hot topic but it seems we have made it to the other side,” she said.

She attributes the district’s success with the project to open communication as well as preserving some normalcy for the students.

“We made sure to keep neighborhoods intact,” she said. “If a child has already started elementary school we will provide transportation for them to finish out their elementary years regardless of which school they should be going to.”

Continuing with her goal of creating a shared vision for the future of the district, Foight-Cressman created a blog that is on the district’s website that will address a number of issues and concerns regarding the district.

“I intend to be here for a long time,” she said. “I would be honored to spend the next 15 years in the district.”

Republished with the permission of The Public Spirit/Globe Times Chronicle

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