New Castle News

December 7, 2013

Neshannock superintendent Dr. Mary Todora to retire

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Dr. Mary Todora, Neshannock’s superintendent, will retire at the end of this school year.

The board voted 6-3 Thursday night to accept Todora’s resignation, effective June 30.

P.J. Copple, David Antuono, Mark Hasson, James McFarland, Richard Loudon and Cathy Snyder voted yes. Jay Vitale, Amy Na and board president Karen Houk cast no votes.

Several board members, high school principal Luca Passarelli and pupil services director Concetta Fiorante wished Todora the best for her future.

“You might be anxious about the first day of your retirement,” said Houk, who noted she and several other board members have already joined the ranks of the retired. She said Todora will find activities to fill her time.

“We will miss you, Dr. Todora,” Houk said.

After the meeting, she noted her vote against the retirement was symbolic.

“You can’t stop someone from retiring,” Houk said. “This was a vote of confidence on my part. I would have preferred to have seen her stay.”

After the meeting, Todora — who had been hired in February 2006 — said she is leaving with mixed feelings.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I love this district, love the kids, love the staff — but it is time to go.”

However, Todora said, she is “not ready to let go of education yet.”

She said she might pursue opportunities as superintendent in another school district or teach on the college level — teaching teachers or teaching administrators to become superintendents.

The Struthers, Ohio, resident also said the district “has come a long way” under her leadership.

“There have been many changes and a lot of challenges but through it all I stayed focused on what is best for the kids,” she said. “That has always been my primary goal. Every decision I’ve made is based on what’s best for the children.”

Todora also praised the district’s staff.

“We’ve done a lot ... and I couldn’t have accomplished anything if the staff had not worked with me,” she said. “The teaching staff followed my lead to the next level. All the goals I set as superintendent we’ve surpassed.”

Todora, noting she has been a superintendent since 1996 — in Ohio and Virginia as well as Pennsylvania — has dealt with issues from personnel and finances.

She noted the district’s fund balance grew about three-quarters of a million dollars since she began. “And this is after we took $1 million to renovate the front of the school and parking lot.”

Todora said she has been considering retirement since last summer.

“I’ve gone back and forth on it. My family finally said, ‘Just make a decision.’ I have.”

Following the vote on Todora’s retirement, Houk said, the board must decide how she will be replaced, noting there are various options.

Houk said a representative of Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV will attend the board’s Jan. 13 meeting to make a presentation on how it would conduct a search.

“If, after that, we decide we don’t want to use them, we can go in another direction.”

She said she hopes to have a candidate by May, before Todora officially leaves. “We want no break in superintendency.

“If no one is hired by June 30, we will have to hire an acting superintendent who is paid by the day. That is not cheap.”

All board members agreed to serve on the search committee.

Todora recalls her tenure

During her tenure as Neshannock superintendent, Dr. Mary Todora and her staff compiled a variety of accomplishments.

Among those she cited after announcing her retirement this week were:

•Revamped the district’s finance department and increased the district’s fund balance from $3.8 million to about $4.5 million.

•Established a district-wide motto: “Commitment to Excellence.”

•Renovated the schools and athletic facilities.

•Raised test scores, which resulted in Neshannock being named among the top 100 schools in Pennsylvania, the top 3 percent of schools in the state and top 5 percent in the United States.

•Upgraded all technology.

•Implemented a research-based curriculum review process for kindergarten through grade 12, focusing on continuity.

•Developed the first Report of Student Achievement, which compares standardized test results from 2006.

•Aligned all curriculum from kindergarten through grade 12 focusing on Common Core standards.

•Began a successful on-line learning academy

•Received the Governor’s Award for School and Community Relations in 2012.

•Saw Neshannock’s Junior High named a Don Eichhorn School to Watch in 2013.

•Began an on-line SAT program for students.

•Was recognized in September as an Outstanding Superintendent by SUPES Academy.

•Received the Delta Kappa Gamma Woman of Distinction award in 2009, 2010 and 2013.

•Received the Pennsylvania Study Council Excellence Administration and Supervision award in 2008.