Vizza Set to Take Over at Brockway

BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT) – When the new school year starts in Brockway, the school district will have a new superintendent.

Current Superintendent Daniel J. Hawkins is retiring after nine years leading the district.  He has the summer to acclimate current Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School Co-Principal Jeff Vizza to the job.

“I extend my appreciation and thanks to the Brockway Area School Board, Superintendent Dan Hawkins, the faculty, staff, and students of the district, and the community at large for providing this opportunity to serve the district as superintendent,” Vizza said Wednesday, a day after the board unanimously approved him during a roll-call vote.

Vizza graduated from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and taught 12 years at the elementary level.  He started his teaching career at Calvert County School District in Maryland before spending twenty-five years in DuBois.  He was a classroom teacher for nine years, the assistant principal at DuBois Area High School for 13 years, and then spent three years as the high school’s head principal.  For the past two years, Vizza has been the co-principal at Brockway Area Junior-Senior High School.

Vizza will move his office across the parking lot to the district’s business office in the back of the elementary school on July 1.

“The board is very happy and excited to have Mr. Vizza as our next superintendent,” School Board President Cathleen Bish said Tuesday.  “We’re looking forward to very good and exciting things from Mr. Vizza.”

Vizza has spent the past two years learning about the Brockway district and its community and wants to continue the programs and relationships that he feels make Brockway so successful.

“The school and community are one,” he said.  “Community support makes a successful school district, and Brockway certainly provides this for the district.  What happens in the community comes in to the school, and the school has great connections to the community.”

Vizza believes that his vision for the school district helped seal his promotion.

“I speak from my heart,” he said.  “Education should help prepare our students to become productive members of our community and its future. My three focuses are improving academic achievement, making connections with students, and investing in technology.  Our students should be able to compete in the 21st Century job market. I believe in the old adage, ‘If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.’”

Vizza believes that Brockway is doing well in most areas.  Instead of pushing through changes, Vizza is focusing on expanding and growing existing programs.

“We will be adding to what we do,” he said.  “It’s imperitive to ask our alumni, ‘How can we prepare you better for your college experience?’ We’ll add more STEM classes, especially in seventh and eighth grade. We always need to find new ways to help our students succeed.”

While adding to Brockway’s offerings, Vizza also said he is focusing on improving school safety.  Vizza believes that the challenges modern school districts face – safety, preparing students for 21st Century jobs, improving academic achievement, and providing students with a sense of self-worth – can be met by working with the community-at-large.

“By working with all stakeholders in the school district, we will continue to provide our students the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential in an ever-changing society,” he said.  “We have a great school board whose number one priority is the students.  The community is also focused on what’s best for the students.  This cooperation is vital to the development of a successful school district.”  

“I’m very happy that Mr. Vizza’s taking my position,” Hawkins said.  “Thank you to the board for supporting his hiring.  I have 100% confidence in him.”

While the new superintendent may have been the most dramatic event in the meeting, the board also talked about its budget.  The district has posted a $15 million budget for the next year, which is a three percent decrease from the previous year.  The district is now out of debt, so costs are down.  However, there are some rising costs that every district in Pennsylvania has to contend with.  One highlighted by Board Secretary Laurie Piccirillo was the cost of cyber charter schools.  

Boardmember Robert Cherubini summed up the difficulty.

“When parents see these commercials on TV in the morning when they’re fighting to get their kids out of bed, they’re told that the cyber charter schools are free,” he said.  “They’ll even send you a free computer.  Well, they’re not free.  The sending school districts have to pay for it.  and it impacts us greatly.”

Another boardmember made the comparison that if a student lived in the Brockway district but wanted to go to Clearfield schools, there would be problems with that.  In this case, the students go to a virtual school district.

Brockway currently pays $175,000 a year to send students to cyber charters, even though the district has its own cyber program that students can take.

The board approved advertising for a school police officer and a districtwide principal.  The principal will take the position vacated by Vizza.  Vizza currently spends time at both the elementary school and the high school.

The board will meet again to vote on the budget at 7 p.m. on May 22.

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