After 34 years in public school business administration — 15 of them in charge of district finance, budget, payroll, transportation and food service at Moon Area — Alan Bennett is reeling in his line.
“It’s time to move on,” said the director of fiscal and school services. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter in my life.” He will retire May 1.
That next chapter will still include schools; mainly the pursuit of Lake Ontario Chinook Salmon hanging out in schools near Wilson, NY. At age 56, he’ll be retiring, allowing him to spend more time fishing from his boat “Gypsy” or competing in fishing tournaments for cash prizes.
He’s been fishing on Lake Ontario for 30 years and from time to time angles with a professional team aboard a vessel named “Reel Excitement.”
His love of fishing began at a young age, when he would climb through fence lines in hopes of avoiding a cantankerous billy goat that took perverse pleasure in biting the bottom of anyone within reach. The only route to the stocked pond on his grandfather’s farm was past this ornery buck.
He grew up in the central Pennsylvania town of Montoursville. During his junior year of high school, he signed up for a bookkeeping class against the advice of a guidance counselor who informed him that bookkeeping was for girls. He was one of two males in the class and he excelled He attended what is now known as Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Known for having a strong personality, being a fount of knowledge and according to Michael Haslett, director of pupil services, for being a “tough task master when it comes to money,” Mr. Bennett was hired in Moon Area in July 1999 after working in the Jersey Shore and Williamsport school districts.
Mr. Bennett is well-regarded by his co-workers and school board directors for his ability to teach and explain complex issues.
Caroline Johns, acting assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said she is grateful for the time Mr. Bennett took to educate her on various topics over the years. His help made her transition from her principal role at J.A. Allard Elementary to central administration easier.
“It’s not something he had to do, it’s something he chose to do,” she said. In response, Mr. Bennett joked that he knew she would some day be his boss.
Mr. Bennett said the district was not running smoothly when he arrived and many things have been adjusted over the years to get the school system where it is today.
As Moon Area’s “remaining historian,” Mr. Bennett leaves a bit of advice to current and incoming administrators learned during his 34 years working in school business offices:
“When you change something the wheels fall off of other things,” he said. “Policies might be set for a reason. Procedures are created for a reason.”
He said he is most proud of the recently completed secondary school project. He calls the project a “showpiece” for Moon and the start of revitalization along University Boulevard, which he said needs to have a facelift.
With plans for energy giant Chevron to build a regional headquarters facility in Moon, Wal-Mart continuing to pursue the construction of a store on the former West Hills Shopping Center site and continuing growth at Robert Morris University, the township is poised to blossom.
In retirement, Mr. Bennett said he will be taking care of his wife, Wendy, a certified financial planner who is a partner of a Morgan Stanley office in Butler, where the couple reside.
“I got lucky and found an awesome lady that loves me, too,” he said.
Someone once told him that retirement is a time where “every day is a Saturday.”
While looking forward to a life filled with Saturdays, Mr. Bennett may just miss his school filled with children.
“When you work for a school district all your life and go to commencement, you get a tear in your eye,” he said.
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: email@example.com.