With more than three years remaining on his five-year contract with Sto-Rox, superintendent Michael Panza will be leaving to become superintendent of the West Jefferson Hills School District no later than July 1.
He'll be taking on a district with approximately 3,000 students serving the children of Jefferson Hills, Pleasant Hills and West Elizabeth compared with 1,350 students from McKees Rocks and Stowe.
Mr. Panza's new position includes an annual salary of $150,000 with a contract that runs from July 1 through June 30, 2018.
At Sto-Rox, his contract started at $125,000 and in December he requested that his salary be frozen for the current school year, although he earned a combined board evaluation that exceeded expected performance for 2011-12 school year.
The voluntary waiving of his salary increase continues through June 30.
"I'm really going to miss the people, because there are some great people here," Mr. Panza said.
Although he did not apply last fall, Mr. Panza said the position at West Jefferson Hills had been available in September.
When it became available again this spring, he decided it was a good career move and applied.
The South Hills district has been without a permanent superintendent since 2009.
Board members at Sto-Rox said they were surprised and saddened by the news of Mr. Panza's resignation.
Director Brian Taylor said he is "sad that he's leaving" and unsure of a specific direction the board will take in pursuing a new or acting superintendent.
Director Ed Maritz Jr. said the search could take anywhere from six to eight months and hopes to find someone with an urban background to take the position.
He calls Mr. Panza's resignation a tremendous loss to the district.
"[I'm] extremely disappointed and sorry to have [Mr. Panza] go. I would have liked to keep him a lot longer," Mr. Maritz said.
In reminiscing over the seven different superintendents he has worked with during his 20 years on the Sto-Rox school board, Mr. Maritz said he would "put Mike [Panza] at the top of the class."
He said Mr. Panza's mark or imprint on the district was accountability.
During his two years with Sto-Rox, Mr. Panza said he has fulfilled many of the goals he had set such as better curriculum, improved attendance and higher graduation rates.
During his tenure, a child-care program for parents who are in school, advanced placement courses and SAT college board preparatory classes have been added.
The district is now a site for students to take the SAT exam.
Mr. Panza, who had been superintendent for six years in neighboring Carlynton, began work at Sto-Rox in August 2011, beating out Janell Logue-Belden, former Sto-Rox principal and assistant to the superintendent for instruction.
He was selected with a 5-4 vote by directors. Ms. Logue-Belden had joined Sto-Rox in 2001 and left soon after Mr. Panza's appointment to become superintendent at Avella Area.
Mr. Panza said he is looking forward to the challenges at West Jefferson Hills involved with the process of building a new high school building, what he refers to as "an opportunity for any administrator."
Sonja Reis, freelance writer: email@example.com.