New superintendent sets goals for Northgate

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Becoming a superintendent has been a goal of Joseph Pasquerilla of Ohio Township.

"I come from a family of educators, and that's motivated me," said Mr. Pasquerilla, 31, who is starting his first full school year as Northgate superintendent. His dad was a teacher and a guidance counselor, his mother was a teacher and a principal, and his younger sister is a teacher.

"Early on, I became a social studies teacher and quickly realized that I wanted to get into administration," he said.

Shortly after graduating from Youngstown State University with a degree in secondary education/comprehensive social studies, Mr. Pasquerilla took his first job at the West Middlesex Area School District, where he taught high school American cultures and government. During that time, he obtained his master's degree from Youngstown State in counseling and then earned a doctorate in educational leadership at the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Pasquerilla was director of curriculum and instruction at Ambridge Area School District before being promoted to assistant to the superintendent there.

As Northgate takes on the benefits and challenges of the Keystones to Opportunity (Striving Readers) grant, Mr. Pasquerilla said he had applied for the same grant when he was working for Ambridge Area.

"Northgate's previous administration obtained the grant, but I wrote for it in my previous position in Ambridge," he said, explaining that the grant is awarded to school districts showing growth and potential.

"Northgate did a nice job of demonstrating that our scores have shown consistent growth over the years. The [federal government wants] to invest money in successful schools, where the money shows improvement," he said, adding that students should show a full year of academic growth. "They're looking for trends above the state average. That's how we were selected and that's how we will continue. It's not about overall scores, but how the students are demonstrating consistent achievement."

Mr. Pasquerilla said districts also had to demonstrate they have a clear plan to sustain growth.

"It's a great thing that the state gave us the opportunity to demonstrate growth," he said. "We should always be trying to have each student, class group and district showing growth. We want to improve, that's the goal."

Mr. Pasquerilla said he has set several other goals for this school year as well.

"One is to increase student achievement, and, in particular, utilize data to drive instruction that would allow us to differentiate instruction to promote a level of growth for each student, no matter what level they're on," he said. "We want to sustain consistent growth for all levels, buildings and the district as a whole."

While the grant provides the district with more resources and professional development, Mr. Pasquerilla said, "I will be visible in the classroom, helping the teachers and working together as a professional development team. The idea is to give each student the opportunity to learn in an individualized way that will allow them to show growth."

"We found Dr. Pasquerilla to be the one who had the diversity of background that we required," said school board President Dan O'Keefe. "His instructional techniques were current, and he placed a lot of emphasis on community involvement and relations, as well as a desire to keep the arts alive in our district. He also has a good financial background and pro community involvement."

Mr. O'Keefe said in the superintendent's first two months, Mr. Pasquerilla "definitely reflects the strengths and desires for the district that we saw during our initial interviews with him."

Mr. Pasquerilla replaced Reggie Bonfield, who retired after 12 years at Northgate.

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Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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