Superintendent reflects on career in education

The daughter of a science teacher in western Pennsylvania, you could say that education is in the genes of Dr. Kathleen Kelley, Williamsport Area School District superintendent. Kelley’s career has taken her from an elementary school teacher to the 2011 state Superintendent of the Year.

Kelley announced in April her retirement at the end of this week.

The passion for teaching has always been there, Kelley explained.

“I would go to school and then I would come home and play school,” she said. “And I would make my friends be the students and I would be the teacher. So that started when I was a little girl and probably my father was the influence as to why I wanted to go into education.”

It was that love of teaching that saw Kelley hold six different positions in several school districts throughout her career. She has been an elementary school teacher, a reading specialist, reading supervisor, elementary principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

As she is set to end her career at the end of the month, Kelley is glad she had the opportunity to work in Williamsport.

“People care about education here. The board members care about education and that’s been crucial. I wish that I had found Williamsport earlier on in my career but I didn’t. I’m glad at least I got to end my career here because I think it’s a great place to live and work and raise a family,” she said.

Throughout her career, Kelley said education has changed a lot without changing very much at all.

As she explained, the classroom still looks the same and there still is learning going on but in a different way. There are more hands-on programs, such as career and technical education, and more technology used.

But the learning process wasn’t the only thing that changed throughout her career, as Kelley never had aspirations of being an administrator. Those positions normally weren’t held by females when Kelley’s career started, she said.

When the topic of accomplishments comes up, Kelley briefly mentions the superintendent of the year award and receiving her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, but she quickly moves back to the students.

“We have more students improving and succeeding. We have more students who are graduating from high school. And we still have been able to maintain the arts, to a great extent, even with the decline in enrollment and the decrease in funds,” she said. “The proud moments for me are when I go into a classroom and I read to a group of students and you see their eyes light up. That’s a proud moment for me.”

But she said now was just the right time to retire, as the district moves forward with a grade reconfiguration and a new middle school.

“I think strategically it’s the right time for me to leave the district,” Kelley explained. “Some people have said, ‘Why don’t you wait until everything is done with the renovations?’ Well there’s always another a renovation. There’s always another project. I just thought strategically it’s the right time because we’re going to open in the fall a new middle school, we’re going to open with a new grade configuration, there’s going to be a new board coming on in December. So for me it seemed like the right time to go.”

But Kelley, who will be replaced next month by Assistant superintendent Dr. Don Adams, isn’t planning on spending her time at home. She hopes to travel, pick up a few new hobbies and may do some consulting in the education realm.

She’s looking forward to having the flexibility to make her own schedule and enjoy her good health. But she will miss being in education every day.

“I’ll leave a piece of my heart in Williamsport. And I’ll always be Millionaire proud,” she said.