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Superintendent retires

James Estep reflects on MCSD career

LEWISTOWN — Leaders of Mifflin County School District and community members thanked retiring Superintendent James Estep for his years of serving with the community.

Estep was recognized Tuesday, during a special voting meeting of the board of directors — his last public meeting as superintendent.

Chief Operations Officer Vance Varner will be filling his role moving forward.

Board member Terry Styers was among those to congratulate Estep on his retirement. He also recognized him for his service to the district.

“When you look back 11 years to when you came here, who would’ve known that we would need a financial wizard to deliver us from the mess that we were in,” Styers said. “As difficult as it was for us to consolidate and reduce staff, it was what we had to do in order to get off financial life support and you led us through that. You put Mifflin County finances back to a healthy level. You’re to be admired for many things, but that’s the one thing that stands out.”

Estep reflected on a number of ways that the district millions of dollars during his tenure as superintendent.

“Superintendents serve at the will of the board. The board serves at the will of the community — so by proxy — superintendents serve at the will of the community. The primary goal of every superintendent is to do everything that they can to provide that service to the community in earnest,” he said. “When a board hires a superintendent, it’s an investment. Personally speaking, when I make an investment in my personal life….I always try to look at the return on my investment.”

When Estep was hired at Mifflin County, he said programs and positions were steadily being cut from the budget, including all elementary school guidance counselors.

“We’ve now restored guidance counselors to every building in 11 years,” he said.

During his tenure, Estep said the district was able to enhance the district in a number of ways, including increasing advanced placement offerings for students, improving AP enrollment test scores and training, initiating a district-wide STEM initiative, increasing enrollment in the Mifflin County Academy of Science and Technology, adding school resource officer and increasing therapist and social worker presence.

Among other things, the district is also in the process of developing a plan to expand The Academy, introduced the idea of solar arrays to reduce energy costs for the district by millions, and launched a district-wide cyber learning program and brought a 1-1 technology status.

“I know that a chief executive officer — particularly in the public sphere — is very often the target of people’s are with regard to their compensation,” said Estep.

The outgoing superintendent explained that over the last 11 years, the district invested $2.6 million dollars in him.

“When you add all cost avoidance together (during his tenure)– it’s a total of $36 million — you divide $36 million by the $2.6 million that you invested in me, for every dollar you spent on a superintendent, you got $14.85 in return. If I were a stock, I’d buy it.”

Estep commended the board for being fiscally conservative.

“You’re trying to operate in a time of unprecedented pressure from poor legislation leading to increased mandate costs,” he said.

“I’m a believer in the institution of public education. I think it’s one of the few institutions created in the United States that by-and-large has been a wildly successful endeavor overall…School systems aren’t just made of dollars and cents, the are comprised primarily of people,” he said.

The outgoing superintendent said he stayed at Mifflin County longer than any other school district, primarily because of the staff.

“These are good people and they truly are hard workers. They want kids in Mifflin County to have the same opportunities as the kids in the most affluent areas outside of Philly. They work hard. They’ve done what we’ve asked and I’m really proud of the team of leaders that over time I’ve had the opportunity to put together and a testament to that is you’re hiring one to be my replacement…I have no doubt that he’s going to keep you moving further ahead.”

In other news, business manager Melinda Kenepp announced that an error made by the Mifflin County Department of Tax Services will result in some residents who qualify for the Farmstead Exclusion receiving a bill that does not include the exclusion

Kenepp said those taxpayers will receive a letter and a new, corrected bill.

The board also took the following action:

¯Approved the resignation of Dakota Macknair, math teacher at Mifflin County Middle School, due to relocation;

¯Approved Shain Hosterman as assistant principal at Mifflin County Junior High School, effective Oct. 2 at a salary of $75,000;

¯Approved Victoria Mattey as assistant principal of Lewistown Intermediate School, effective Sept. 13 at a salary of $75,000;

¯Approved Shannon Specht, health and PE teacher at MCJHS and East Derry Elementary School at a salary of $46,710;

¯Approved Sharon Whitesel, math teacher at MCJHS at a salary of $45,010;

¯Approved Courtney White, math teacher at MCMS at a salary of $51,760;

¯Approved Elizabeth Pent, health room aid floater at Lewistown Elementary School at the start of the 2021-22 school year;

¯Approved the Diligent Corporation Contract for BoardDocs LT Document Management System;

¯Approved the food service budget for he 2021-22 school year;

¯Approved an offer on a repository for unsold properties for three properties in the amount of $1;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for 9th grade American cultures;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective journalism 1;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective journalism 2;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for outdoor/naturalist literature;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective outdoor naturalist honors;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective science fiction and fantasy literature;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective science fiction and fantasy literature honors;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective humor and satire literature;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective humor and satire literature honors;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective sports literature;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for English elective sports literature honors;

¯Approved a draft of curriculum for first grade phonics.

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