Margie Peterson did an excellent profile this summer on the Allentown School Superintendent applicants. Who finally got the job, John Zahorchak, would have been my third choice, out of the four candidates. Zahorchak impressed the School Board because he was the Pennsylvania's Secretary of Education. Two other candidates had experience in running large intercity school districts; Zahorchak's previous hands on experience was in little Johnstown. Although we're not a large city, we have the large "intercity" problems. Zahorchak's Harrisburg position was a political appointment by Rendell. I suspect the Board thought he would know the ropes in terms of grants; Apparently he does. Allentown is getting a grant of $2.5 million for a few years. To qualify for the grant, the school district must "fire" principals, either in underperforming schools or those who had a position more than two years. One of those to be "fired" is Allen's principal, Keith Falco. Falco is the glue which keeps the lid on Allen. Falco would be charged with organizing a special school for over-achievers. Zahorchak also wants a special school for disruptive students; that better be a big building.
I'm on a mailing list for school district communications. Zahorchak seems to have a new idea each day. He's very enthusiastic about the Zalamazoo School District. Seems like they have grown 12% in five years. We here in Allentown really don't want any more growth; We had enough lately, thanks anyway. I do know that Falco does an excellent job in discipline at Allen High, which needs it. To relocate him to a gifted honors environment seems to be wasting his talent. To do this, to chase a $2.5 million grant for a few years, or model ourselves after Kalamazoo, Michigan, suggests a bureaucrat who spends too much time reading the Professional Educator Journal.
AllenGrad at 10:58 PM October 12, 2010
I graduated from Allen, under the leadership of Mr. Falko. I went on to attend an Ivy League university and am now in medical school. I would not have made it here without the direct involvement of Mr. Falko in my educational path. Not every “smart kid” will make it through on his or her own, even with supportive parents. There also must be invested teachers AND administrators. In all of my experience in public schools (including extensive tutoring outside the ASD), Mr. Falko is the best principal I have met. He truly cares about his students, understands the challenges they face, and is doing the best job anyone can do to make as many students succeed as possible. He has a tough job, with limited resources and parental support, but he is one of those special people who found his niche. This man was made to run Allen. Taking him out is a tremendous loss for current and future students. Mr. Zahorchak, I hope you understand what you are doing. If you are removing Mr. Falko because you think the poor scores will improve, then you are sorely mistaken. If you are wise, then you won't squander his leadership. Follow Mr. Falko around for a day. See what I’m talking about. See how he makes a difference. Mr. Falko, you have my support. Best of luck and thanks! comment on Morning Call
Zahorchak said if he doesn't raise the test scores in three years, fire him. John (Zahorchak), we don't really want to fire you now, but we don't care that much about the standardized test scores. What we care about is kids walking home from school and not beating each other up. We care about kids being respectful to the neighborhood as they walk. We care about long term taxes, not short term grants. Slow down on all the ideas, and speak to the neighbors. We pay the taxes and your salary.
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