Hanover Public School District Superintendent John Scola’s business card quotes Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” The hallmarks of Dr. Scola’s leadership – commitment to excellence, students first, accountability – contribute to the continued strength of Hanover Public Schools.
Superintendent Scola lives in the Harrisburg area with his wife, Tami, who is a Health and Physical Education Teacher and Department Chair for the Derry Township School District. They have been married for 32 years.
Their daughter, Allison Scola Cavagnaro, is a graduate of Smeal College of Business and works for KPMG. She resides with her husband in the Philadelphia area and has one child. Their son, Andrew Scola, is a graduate of New York Law School and practices law in New York City. John and Tami are proud grandparents of the latest addition to the family – Zachary. Zach will be one year old this June.
As a youth, was your answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” – a superintendent? I attended a book fair while attending St. Lawrence grade school in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. I had the good fortune of purchasing a book about archeology. From that day forward I wanted to become an archeologist. However, my aspirations changed and during my high school years at Bishop McDevitt High School, Wyncote, Pa., I thought often about becoming a lawyer.
Upon entering Penn State Main Campus, I was given the on campus opportunity to tutor students with special needs. During this period of time I switched majors due to this rewarding experience and graduated with a dual degree in Elementary Education and Special Education.
It was the best decision of my life. At that time, the thought of becoming a superintendent never crossed my mind.
Name two jobs within education that best prepared you for this role. My first experience as an educator in the Upper Moreland School District had the greatest impact on my educational career. My mentor, Eli Barkam, taught me the importance of remaining student-focused. His passion and caring for students left an indelible mark on my conscience and all decisions that I make are student- based.
My many positions of assistant high school principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent have enhanced my ability to succeed in my present position.
There is no substitute for experience. I am able to perform my job at a much higher level than in the past as I have learned from past mistakes. In order to succeed at a high level, you need to have failed along the way.
Two jobs outside education – even perhaps during your youth – that prepared you for this role? (as much as anyone can “be prepared?” I worked from a very young age. Early on I delivered newspapers. Papers were still popular at the time. I began caddying at a golf course in sixth grade and caddied in the summers and holidays throughout high school. I actually became “Caddy Master” during the summer of my senior year in high school. This was the first managerial position that I experienced. It was a great learning opportunity in that I was supervising men twice my age.
You quickly learn to be honest, fair and respectful. Every job that you experience demands a sense of responsibility and accountability. In order to succeed, both are important.
Your history in the Hanover area is rich. Briefly describe the school system when you joined the community. I had the good fortune of joining the Hanover Public School District’s educational family in July, 2013. After an extensive interview process, I was hired as an interim Superintendent by the Board. I had no plans of remaining since I had recently retired.
As a former chair of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, I was able to assess the district’s strengths and challenges and candidly presented the information to the Board. The Board was receptive and, together, we agreed to move the district forward.
Briefly describe highlights of education’s transformation in Hanover – and your role in some of those highlights. In the past three years, with the help of the Board, faculty, staff, administration, and community, we have made amazing strides in providing a first class education for all our students.
We live by our mission and the entire district is “Committed to Excellence.” Changes include new online curriculum in all subjects in grades K-12, a one-to-one initiative in grades 2-12, a robust Advanced Placement curriculum boasting 14 courses, transformed libraries that include 3-D printers, laser engravers, virtual reality equipment, collaborative spaces and interactive studios, a newly developed STEAM Academy, as well as transportation for all our students.
I must emphasize that this has been a team effort, however. We have made remarkable strides in three years.
List three adjectives that you think capture the qualities of an effective superintendent?
Passionate about Education
Committed to Excellence
How would you describe your leadership style? Leadership style is situational. However, I am not one to sit still and I am continuously trying to improve the organization. There is a constant quest for excellence realizing that you never achieve that goal. Our job as educators is so important that there is a constant sense of urgency. I could probably be described as driven and always wanting what is the best for the district.
Favorite way to unwind? As a superintendent you don’t have much time for hobbies or to unwind. It really is a 24/7 position. My life is fairly simplistic. My energies are related to work and my family.
What inspires you each day? I am inspired on a daily basis by administration and staff that deeply care about children. These contributions to society cannot be minimized.
One thing about you that very few people know? I was the head coach of the undefeated 1989 PIAA State Championship Field Hockey team at Upper Moreland High School.