With Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” playing in the background, schools Superintendent Eric Turman promised Harrisburg students, “It’s been a long time coming, but things are gonna change.”
It’s true, the district will face a lot of change this year as it reopens its doors to students and welcomes the new superintendent.
At a meet and greet event on Wednesday, Turman explained his plans to lead the district through it all.
For much of his presentation, Turman outlined what he sees as priorities, including student achievement, finances, relationship building and branding of the district.
“It is so critical and important that we all work together to achieve our goals,” he said. “I am the glue that is going to keep this organization together. What I will not do is allow us to splinter off and go in different directions. What I will not do is allow us not to achieve our goals.”
Parents had the chance to submit questions for Turman. Student safety, test scores and graduation rates were some of the concerns he addressed.
“Test scores and graduation, just being transparent, this is probably an area that is going to take our 100% focus to make sure we start to move those two forward,” he said.
This will include observing data and looking at the root issues behind underperformance, Turman said.
As the former principal of Reading High School, Turman has had success in these areas, increasing the school’s graduation rates from 53% in 2011 to 72% in 2019. He also helped Reading decrease student dropout and suspension rates and increase its school performance profile data.
However, Turman admitted that leading an entire district will be new to him.
“This is going to be a learning curve for me,” he said.
To address safety concerns, the district has introduced staggered start times for schools so that all students aren’t dismissed at the same time and so older siblings can help younger ones get to school.
Other areas he hopes to improve—finances, language translation services, teacher retention rates and emotional supports for students.
In terms of emotional support, a concern among a few parents who submitted questions, Turman acknowledged that will be a challenge.
“This year is going to be something you’ve probably never seen before,” he said. “Kids are going to be coming to school with gaps that we’ve never seen before. If you don’t get past the emotional piece, the academic piece never happens.”
He said that the district has 10 social workers and around 15 to 20 counselors on staff.
Regarding COVID-19 concerns, Turman directed parents to the district’s website, which includes health and safety information.
The schools are requiring masks for all students, teachers and administrators, as well as for anyone who enters the buildings.
Overall, Turman assured the community that, moving forward, the district will always consider students first when making decisions.
“For all the students who attend the Harrisburg School District, know that every conversation we have, every idea or thought we discuss and every decision we make will always be centered around what is best for you,” he said.
For more information, visit the district’s website.
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