Q&A with Richard Coulter

After serving the Williamsport Area School District for 25 years, Richard Coulter has retired from his position as the district’s curriculum supervisor.

Coulter earned a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 1975 and a master’s degree in music education in 1977, from Carnegie-Mellon University. He dedicated his career to making Williamsport Area School District the best it can be and is now enjoying retirement, which was effective July 1.

Kristen Wright: Can you tell me about your career and how you ended up as Williamsport Area School District’s curriculum supervisor?

Richard Coulter: I began my teaching career in New Jersey as a high school band and orchestra director, where I developed and managed a successful music program that required excellent teaching, music and administrative skills.

After four years, the good work that I did at my first position was recognized by a neighboring district and I moved to a position of high school band director and K-12 supervisor of fine arts for the district.

Seven years later, I moved to a full time central office position in a larger district, again as K-12 supervisor of fine arts, health and physical education.

As a high school marching band director in New Jersey, my school competed against the Marching Millionaires a number of times and I always was very impressed by their performances. Williamsport always has had a national reputation for excellence in music education.

While at a conference in Boston, Massachusetts, Dr. Ken Raessler, the supervisor of music for the Williamsport Area School District at the time, announced at a session that he was retiring and that they were seeking “highly qualified” applicants. I applied, interviewed and was fortunate to be selected as the K-12 supervisor of music education for the district. Over the next 25 years, due to tight budgets, consolidation and declining enrollment additional areas of responsibility were added to the job description.

KW: Can you tell me about what duties were included in your position as curriculum supervisor?

RC: My last two years in the Williamsport Area School District I was curriculum supervisor for the K-12 art, gifted, health, physical education and music programs and the secondary, grades seven through 12, curriculum areas of English, language arts, math, social studies, science and world languages.

Responsibilities included staff supervision (hiring and evaluation), budget and facility management (including working with the architects and project managers), curriculum development and delivery and event management for the fine and performing arts programs.

Getting all of that accomplished was only possible because there were so many great teacher leaders, supportive administrators, a great District Service Center and support staff throughout the district. There is a very high level of specialized expertise throughout the district that does not get enough recognition.

KW: What inspired you to work in education?

RC: I cannot remember a time when I was not involved in teaching. As a student, even in elementary school, I helped my friends who had trouble with math. I tutored math and science in high school to earn some extra money. There were a lot of opportunities in Scouting to teach outdoor camping, climbing and survival skills. Through music, a passion that I fully developed in high school, I taught trumpet and brass lessons in high school and throughout college.

In each of those settings, it was some really wonderful teachers, my mentors and role models, who provided the inspiration, “kicks in the pants” and encouragement to always work to high standards and serve others.

KW: What would you say are the most rewarding aspects of working for Williamsport Area School District?

RC: I have a service-oriented approach to leadership. My No. 1 priority is to provide staff with the resources and support that they need to be successful in their positions. My rewards come through students and staff achievements that occur throughout the district on a daily basis.

KW: What will you miss most about Williamsport Area School District?

RC: The people! One of the aspects of my job was that I needed to work with every component of the Williamsport Area School District system. On any given day, when putting together a project, I would work and affect food service, maintenance, technology, transportation, custodial, administrative, secretarial and teaching staff, often throughout the district. An endeavor that large can only work if every component of that project is positive and supportive. The Williamsport Area School District is blessed with a wonderful staff that is student centered and focused on providing what is best for the whole child.

KW: What do you plan to do with your time now that you are retired?

RC: Lots! I began retirement with a month-long trip to Colorado that included mountain climbing throughout the Elk River Range and attending the Aspen Music Festival, the highlight was a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony. I plan to do consulting work for fine arts programs, practice my trumpet, teach brass lessons, travel and always be open for opportunities to serve the community.