Kalen Luciano, contributing writer for The Jefferson Chronicle, sat down with Jeanne Howe to get to know the new superintendent better through a question and answer session.
Q: I know you’ve worked in Jefferson Township for years, but what was your background before coming here and what positions have you held in the district?
A: I first became a science teacher in Randolph in 1994. After a few years there, I became the assistant principal for 7th and 8th graders at Kittatinny. After that is when I started working in the district, first as the assistant principal of Jefferson Township Middle School and then the principal. About four years ago, I became the assistant superintendent before becoming the superintendent earlier this year.
Q: Have you always wanted to be in education? What inspired you to pursue this career?
A: I actually didn’t go into college with the intention of becoming a teacher. It wasn’t until my internship teaching kids about marine life on a boat that I was drawn into the field of teaching. I also worked with the Girls Scouts organization and found my passion for teaching through the large educational component of my work there as well. I went into administration because I wanted to do more to impact the lives of our children on a bigger scale.
Q: Now, as the superintendent, how would you describe your style or philosophy?
A: I like to think I’m a servant leader. I try to help everyone involved get their jobs done and get them done well.
Q: What are your biggest priorities as the superintendent?
A: Long term, it would have to be safety and security. Unfortunately, we live in a very different time than when I went to school. We used to be able to walk through any door without a worry. Things are different now, and we need to make sure our children are safe to go to school and learn. Beyond that, I want to focus on giving our students a well-rounded education through many different activities and courses. Short term, I’ll be focusing a lot on the referendum on October 2. The referendum will include items that address safety and security, an upgrade to facilities (labs at the middle school and high school, roofing, locker rooms), technology, and makerspaces. [Editor’s Note: Voting will take place at regular township polling locations from 2-8 p.m. Voters will receive information by mail prior to October 2.] It’s crucial that it passes, so we can renovate our facilities. Some parts of the buildings are old and crumbling. If we really want to give our children a proper 21st century education, they should at least be in 21st century classrooms.
Q: On the note of your big priorities, do you foresee any big changes as you take on your role as superintendent?
A: Fortunately, I had the pleasure of being able to give a lot of input as the assistant superintendent and have a voice on decisions being made. I think it will be a fairly smooth transition because of that.
Q: As you have been in the district for quite some time, what are the major strengths you have seen and still see for the Jefferson Township school district?
A: I think we have a great community in Jefferson Township. The teachers and staff members are tremendous and the character of the students is just absolutely commendable.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you see you the district?
A: As I mentioned before, some of our facilities need to be renovated, which is why it is crucial that the referendum is passed. Especially with the recent cuts in state aid where we’re projected to lose $7 million over seven years, budget constraints will be a major issue. And when there’s already a certain amount dedicated to the essentials like teachers and educational materials, there’s only so much left over for facilities. The referendum will help alleviate some of those constraints.
Q: In what ways will you collaborate with the community (parents, teachers, and students) to ensure that Jefferson is running at its best?
A: I try to be as transparent and approachable as possible. I have gone to, and plan to go to, many of the faculty and grade level meetings. As for the students, I want to build a stronger connection through a student leadership or youth advisory council to hear their input on what’s going on around their school. I want to meet with the PTA president and members often to discuss their concerns.
Q: Lastly, when you’re not hard at work being the superintendent, what do you do in your free time?
A: I really enjoy cooking, exercising, traveling, and spending time with my family. I find cooking and traveling to be very relaxing and a nice break from day-to-day life. I recently went up to Maine to visit family and had a great time.