D.C. school administrator to lead Sto-Rox schools

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The educational career of New Castle native Terry DeCarbo will come full circle next month when the Washington, D.C., school administrator begins his tenure as superintendent of the Sto-Rox School District.

Mr. DeCarbo, 53, was hired last month at a salary of $125,000 to replace acting superintendent Frank Dalmas, who took the reins in July after Michael Panza departed to become superintendent of the West Jefferson Hills School District.

An educator-turned-administrator, Mr. DeCarbo has experience with charter, public, specialty and alternative schools. He arrives at Sto-Rox after three years as an instructional superintendent in the District of Columbia Public Schools, where he oversaw the needs of the principals and staff for as many as 12 alternative schools and public schools partnered with charter schools in the system.

“I understand the challenges,” said Mr. DeCarbo, referring to Sto-Rox‘‍s budget woes, charter school worries and a support staff union contract set to expire June 30.

“The trajectory needs to change in an upward [manner],” he said.“[We need to be] celebrating what is internal, bolstering and scaffolding what’s needed to change that trajectory.”

Mr. DeCarbo said he is passionate about Sto-Rox and is happy to be returning to Western Pennsylvania.

“When I was in Duquesne, we were enamored with Sto-Rox,” he said. “The ability to come back and be part of the school system is awesome.”

He said he also recalls Sto-Rox from his high school years, where fellow students were “always in admiration of [Sto-Rox] because they were a powerhouse on the field.”

One issue the new superintendent will face is Propel Charter Schools, a Pittsburgh-based charter system with nine schools, that is proposing to open a school in Sto-Rox. 

Mr. DeCarbo said having a charter school in the district “does not have to be an us versus them.” He said public schools partnering with private schools has worked in other areas of the country.

The Sto-Rox school board has twice denied Propel’s application to operate within the district, fearing it would cause the district to collapse. In fall 2013, Propel appealed to Pennsylvania’s Charter Appeals Board, which has ruled in Propel’s favor seven times. The case was heard June 3, and Propel officials expect a decision later next month.

“There is a way to handle this,”said Mr. DeCarbo, suggesting a meeting with Propel administrators. “Ultimately, we want to service as many students who qualify as Sto-Rox students.”

Jeremy Resnick, Propel executive director and founder, said he is “always willing to talk” and would entertain “quality options for families.”

Mr. DeCarbo’s experience with charter schools and underprivileged students will be beneficial to Sto-Rox, said Patrick Dorrenbacher, school board president. He said the board also plans to tap into his knowledge of grant writing. “His D.C. credentials were very, very impressive. I think he is going to be a good fit.”

A graduate of Slippery Rock and Duquesne universities, Mr. DeCarbo began his teaching career as a charter school teacher in Arizona, where he rose to the position of principal. From there, he moved to Virginia and worked as a principal in Prince William County Public Schools for 20 years before joining D.C. Public Schools.

The new superintendent said he plans to be visible in the school buildings and to offer an open-door policy for the community.

“Our stakeholders are beyond the walls of our schools,” he said.

He said he needs to be visible so as to reinvigorate and rebrand the district.

“Yes, we need to increase Keystone scores. Yes, we need to increase graduation rates,” Mr. DeCarbo said, adding that with tight budgets, schools are asked to do more with less but that does not provide an excuse.

“We need to try to educate to the fullest extent that we can,” he said.

Sonja Reis, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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