Message from the Superintendent
During the month of September, I had the opportunity to reintroduce myself to members of the Upper Darby School District community during morning and evening Meet and Greet sessions at each school. I reviewed several District projects that included our facilities study, 5 year equity plan, curriculum improvements, and our grant writing efforts, particularly in the areas of safety and security improvements. Several common themes emerged from the conversations I had with families from each school: bullying and student conduct concerns, communication concerns related to school safety, and a desire to see our school infrastructure and facilities improve. I appreciated the many central office administrators who joined me during these sessions as well as the support from the Board of School Directors. What we all gathered from these Meet and Greets was that our current system of relying on school board meetings and committee meetings to engage our community and the public does not seem to be hitting the mark. These face to face forums allowed the District the opportunity to dispel recent information about the online threats to our high school, the concerns related to the athletic fields in Clifton Heights, and the District’s overall facilities plan. As an administration, we will continue to look into forms of communication that will better inform our community members so that they can become more engaged in our schools. I will be meeting with all Home and School Presidents throughout the school year in order to continue to communicate key topics and areas of focus for the District in the hopes that the information will trickle down to each school community. Our first meeting is October 16 at 6:30 p.m. As we continue to work on pushing out and receiving information from the public, I wanted to highlight two recent news articles and a special community event that point out just how inclusive and special this school district is.
In recent news, the Delco Times noted a parent’s joy in sending her child to middle school here in the Upper Darby School District after struggling to feel included in another neighboring school community. I share this not to celebrate the struggles of another community, but to point out that our community is special. This was especially evident last month when Dr. Council and I attended Upper Darby Township’s International Festival. It was awesome. A member of the Liberian Community on his radio show interviewed Dr. Council and me, and he asked us how this was possible. “How does this community and District bring so many people with so many different backgrounds and beliefs together?” As the Acting Superintendent, I wanted to find something poignant and noteworthy to say, but the reality is, this is just who we are. We embrace culture. We celebrate our diversity. Then just this past weekend, I read a Philadelphia Inquirer article on the recent appointment of a Supreme Court Judge. The article was written by a reporter who grew up in the Upper Darby School District who shared her experience as it relates to her understanding of students growing up in private schools. Her article and her experience highlighted what is so special about this community. This community and our schools are filled with GOOD people who are HARDWORKING and deserve all that they EARN. Our community represents the REAL world. I went back and forth with the Manager of Media Services, Dana Spino, about this article, and we both agreed that these two recent articles are messages about the essence of Upper Darby School District that have also been captured through the initial research of the Branding Campaign. In December, we will be providing the Board and the Public with an update on our Branding Campaign.
Speaking of GOOD, HARDWORKING people, I’d like to recognize some of the wonderful students and staff members of this great district. Last month, I received a call that we had the marching band ready to head to a competition, but no buses at the high school to take them. Due to a clerical error, the bus garage was not aware of the Saturday competition, but at a moment’s notice, Amy Moskowitz, Transportation Operations Assistant, was able to pull together four drivers on a Saturday morning to transport our students. I’d like to thank and show my appreciation to Amy and our drivers Aleko Ndini, Tim Halili, Julie Laury and Brandon Diggs for caring about our students and going above and beyond the call of duty.
Similarly, we had a situation in September that involved PECO and caused there to be no power at Beverly Hills Middle School over a weekend. Without a bit of hesitation, our Assistant Manager of Facilities gave up his weekend to be present at Beverly Hills to provide assistance to PECO and to communicate updates to our administration. At this time, I’d like to recognize Tim Leaf for caring as much as he does about our district.
Our students are also doing incredible things. Each year, middle school students have the opportunity to participate in the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Monologue Festival through the guidance of their 8th grade English teachers. This year, we had winners selected from both DH and BH to have their monologues performed at the festival. Congratulations to the following current UDHS students for their winning 8th grade entries: Shane Kennedy, Sebastian Mostek, Sarah Salhi, and Malik Perry-Fulford.
And, finally, we are thrilled to have had one of our seniors named as a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist. This is an incredible accomplishment for someone who works hard and earns this recognition. Congratulations, John Rybnick.
Last month, members of the Board and central office were fortunate enough to meet with Representatives Davidson and Santora as well as Senator McGarrigle. We met with our local state leaders to review our facilities’ needs and plan. We shared the District’s overall review of current facilities, capacity constraints, and opportunities to alleviate current constraints. Overall, the conversation focused on the financial reality this District faces in addressing our infrastructural needs. We all agreed that placing an additional financial burden on our local taxpayers could not be the answer. We will be providing an update on our facilities plan in October.
Last week, I met with students from Upper Darby High School and will continue to do so on a frequent basis throughout this year. I thoroughly enjoy meeting with our students and discussing such topics as our facilities, safety and security, armed security, academic needs, and the overall climate and culture of our school community. I am also meeting with groups of students who have struggled to engage in learning. Ms. Simone and I will be meeting with students on a weekly basis to hear what obstacles they feel are getting in the way of their success here in our District. I asked these students to complete a short homework assignment for me. I asked them to write me two paragraphs: 1. What do you want to be when you grow up? And 2. What obstacles or barriers do you see as preventing you from achieving your future you?
Dr. Daniel P. McGarry