Following a multi-faceted career in public education that has included significant experience as a teacher, principal and administrator, Dr. Erin Keating was hired as the new superintendent of the Old Forge School District earlier this year.
In late May, the Edwardsville resident was unanimously appointed to the position by the Old Forge School Board. Prior to becoming superintendent, Keating had been the chief of leadership development and school operations for the Scranton School District.
With school now in session, The Triboro Banner recently caught up with Keating to see how the job was going thus far. Here are highlights from that conversation.
Triboro Banner: Was superintendent a job you had been progressively building toward throughout your career in education?
Keating: It was a position to which I was building. I taught at the middle school level, and was a principal at both the elementary and high school levels in the Wyoming Valley West School District. For the past five years, I was working in central office administration in the Scranton School District. Concurrently, I completed my letter of eligibility to be a superintendent and my doctoral program. I felt I had the background to make the jump to being a superintendent.
Triboro: What about Old Forge appealed to you? How did you feel you could make a difference in the district?
Keating: Old Forge has a longstanding tradition of community support and involvement. Having come from a very large school district, the idea of a small, community-centered school where positive change could be implemented and witnessed was very appealing.
Triboro: How long have you been on the job now? What’s the learning curve been like?
Keating: I started on Monday, June 24. With any new position there are new responsibilities and tasks that are foreign and that must be studied and comprehended so that they are executed properly.
Triboro: How have you found the Old Forge School Board, faculty, staff and, most importantly, the students, so far? What strides are you taking to get to know people?
Keating: Old Forge is one of the most welcoming, friendliest places I ever worked. I cannot say enough how hospitable everyone is. I am trying to interject myself into all aspects of the school and community by attending sporting and civic events. I have also visited many of the outstanding local restaurants. I start each morning outside the building helping to direct the traffic flow and offering a “good morning” to students and parents — often it is through old-fashioned introductions and handshakes that the best connections are established. … It is a very welcoming, friendly environment with tremendous school spirit and pride.
Triboro: What are your big goals for your first year? What areas do you think are most in need of attention in the district?
Keating: Year one needs to be an assessment of what’s working and what could improve. The things that need improvement should become committee projects, where the voices of all stakeholders are involved to make sure what is done is in the best interest of all parties. … Also, I would like to look at improving the schools’ state assessment scores and make sure that all policy and procedures are updated and aligned with the district’s strategic initiatives.
Triboro: What are some of your long-term goals for the district?
Keating: First, it’s not my vision — it’s the vision of the students, staff and community. I would like to work to bring them the programs and partnerships they need to maximize the offerings for all students. … Test scores need to improve — that is a solid goal. … I would like OFSD to be the premier small district in the state — a role model for other similar districts.
Triboro: In your view, what are some of the qualities that make for a good superintendent?
Keating: Any great leader motivates the people working with them to want to be the best. They lead by example and are never afraid to be an active part of the solution. They are honest and straightforward -- and never afraid to admit that they don’t have the answer, but they will find one.
Triboro: Other thoughts as you continue to get acquainted to the job?
Keating: Having had the pleasure to work in Scranton, I made many wonderful connections to community partners and Lackawanna County resources to help students and the community at large. What I have noticed is that these resources are not as actively engaged in Old Forge, or sometimes are unknown. I want the students and community of Old Forge to have every means that is available present and part of their resources. Just because we are small does not mean that our kids should not have the same services and assets as larger districts.