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New Pioneer superintendent hopes to instill trust, build 21st-century learning

  • New PVRS Superintendent Jon Scagel in his office at the school. August 9, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • New PVRS Superintendent Jon Scagel. August 9, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—



Staff Writer
Thursday, August 09, 2018

NORTHFIELD — Jonathan Scagel has spent his first month as superintendent of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District focusing on increasing openness.

“I’ve been doing a lot of listening,” Scagel said. “I think that’s a big part of my job, is to be somebody that everybody can trust.”

Scagel interviewed with the School Committee in June for a job as interim superintendent. He was eventually hired as superintendent with a one-year contract. The School Committee chose him — the youngest of the candidates and the only one with no experience as a superintendent — for his new ideas and his familiarity with the school. Scagel was a special education teacher at Pioneer Valley Regional School in the 2017 to 2018 school year.

“My plan is to be here until I retire,” Scagel said. “I really believe in this system. I feel that there’s such a rich tradition in this community, and people are so passionate about the schools and the community as a whole. That’s something I want to be a part of.”

The Pioneer district, Scagel said, is characterized equally by its academic programs as it is by the sense of community around the schools. In his tenure, he wants to strengthen both areas. District events during the school year, he said, is one idea he and the five schools’ principals have talked about for restoring the district’s sense of community.

Academically, Scagel’s main goal is to incorporate 21st-century skills into the schools’ programs, perhaps adding course offerings in robotics and computer programming without compromising traditional aspects of the curriculum.

“I don’t think it’s one or the other,” Scagel said. “I want to incorporate (computers) and enhance what we already offer.”

“People have a sense that Pioneer is back,” Scagel said. “Maybe we were going through a couple rough years, but Pioneer is back. We’re strong and we’re going to keep building on that and getting stronger.”

The district has been undergoing turmoil and introspection since it was discovered last year the schools have been under-budgeted by about a $1 million a year. The state has agreed to loan Pioneer money to carry it for two years while it figures out how to balance its budget — decisions that will pose challenges for Scagel, the School Committee, teachers and staff.