ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — The new head of Pymatuning Valley Local Schools urged his staff Monday to continue working hard and to especially focus on the wellbeing of students this school year.
Christopher Edison, who took the helm as superintendent Aug. 1, met with teachers and staff in the auditorium. The district’s first day is Wednesday.
Edison, a former principal at Rock Creek Elementary, said teachers and staff are provided with an opportunity to do something great for students every day.
Students, some of whom are faced with traumatic life experiences at home, need love, compassion and empathy when they walk in the doors, he said.
Edison related the story of a sixth grade student during his time at Rock Creek Elementary who stopped him in the hallway crying when she was walking into the building.
After calming down, the girl asked Edison what he thought about the white columned architecture at the school. Edison said that after much thought he told the girl that he never really thought about the columns although they look nice.
“After a quick eye roll she told me that when she sees the columns in the morning her anxieties dissipate,” Edison said. “I asked for clarification and she said ‘Mr. Edison, when the bus pulls into the parking lot and I see those columns I know that I’ll be safe all day long. I’ll have adults who love me and take care of me all day long. I will have a breakfast and a lunch and I will be able to be a kid.’”
However, the girl told Edison that when she leaves school and the columns fade into the distance her anxieties return as she heads back to her unstable home life where she doesn’t know who will be in the house or where her next meal might come from.
This girl’s remarks were what Edison said prompted him to seek out a position as a superintendent.
“When she left it was at that point that I felt if I had an opportunity I would try to build something great for all students from Kindergarten to seniors,” Edison said.
This year the district will focus on school safety and student mental health support, Edison said. The board has entered into a contract with Community Counseling who will provide counselors to any student in any building at any time, he said.
All buildings will also continue to focus on positive behavioral interventions and support, Edison said.
“If we are able to accomplish these goals and make more students and staff feel valued and cared for we will be able to look at true school improvement as a district,” Edison said.
Erin Meszaras, a 6th grade science and language arts teacher, said she is looking forward to the new year and she thinks the staff will do well.
“It was a motivational, positive speech,” she said. “I think he’ll do well in our school. He fits in well.”
Edison said former Superintendent Mike Candela, who is now superintendent of the Educational Service Center, was an integral part of achieving a smooth transition in the office.