McALISTERVILLE - The new administrator/principal at Juniata Mennonite School is aiming high in terms of academics for the future of the school.
Tom Getz, of Spruce Hill began his position with JMS April 4, and this is not a position that is new to the educator. Getz spent 25 years as administrator and principal at New Freedom Christian School in York County. The school, he shared, was much like JMS.
"It just feels like home," he admitted as he sat at his new desk.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Tom Getz, the new administrator/principal at Juniata Mennonite School in McAlisterville, stands in the school’s library.
Getz spoke of his love for Juniata County which his home for the past 12 years, and his passion for education. The opening at JMS seemed like a perfect fit. The new administrator heard about the school's need for a leader from a church member at Faith Bible Church in Port Royal where he and wife Sharon attend worship.
JMS had not had a full-time administrator since Andy Meiser left for other ministry opportunities at the conclusion of the 2008-2009 school year. The school's principal at the time, Linda Letner, had filled in for the 2009-2010 and then the school hired an administrator from outside of the area. When that educator, Ed Fleming, chose to vacate the position days before school started at the 2010-2011 school year, the reins were handed off to acting principal and teacher Terry Smith until a new administrator was found.
Getz said he was thrilled to take on a new administrator role and feels ready to lead JMS in a new direction in academics. During his 12 years
between Christian schools, Getz was employed with Bob Jones University and helped schools develop curriculum. He conducted teacher evaluations, helping teachers to grow in their field.
"That's my passion," he noted.
Getz said his main objective is to lead the school and that he plans to have JMS accredited with the Middle States Commission of Colleges and Schools. JMS is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International but is not accredited. Getz hopes to change that.
Having the private school reach accreditation standards "is accountability on our part. It gives us structure in our progression as a school."
The father of two and grandfather of two shares he wants to place bar high in terms of allowing students and staff to excel.
Getz says he is "amazed by the talent of the faculty," and the willingness they have to cooperate with one another.
While Getz aims to help the school reach academic heights, he admits he is not convinced testing to the extreme is the answer.
"We use achievement tests here ... I think we need to be accountable, but we need to look at what the numbers really mean."
Student to staff connection is vital, he noted. Upon the first week of arrival, Getz said he made a point to visit each classroom.
"I am most looking forward to preparing the young people to take our place," he said.
During his years at New Freedom Christian School 18 alumni returned to the school to teach. This is something he hopes to see happen at JMS.
Another important connection to achieve academic success, Getz said, is the school's involvement with and support of the family unit. JMS holds annual fundraisers that allow parents and teachers to work together. This is something Getz's former school did not do, however, he admires the McAlisterville school's commitment to drawing the students' families together.
He describes himself as a "big advocate" of meeting with families in their homes and working with them as they aim to educate their child(ren).
"I believe the Christian home is the apple of God's eye."
As all of these issues and goals come together for the new administrator, Getz notes that the base of JMS is its faith.
While Getz has studied the ins and outs of curriculum and analyzed educators and modern technology in the classroom, he believes one thing to be true.
"The most important class in our school is the Bible. Everything here is reflected by the Christian World View."