Holman ushers in changes as the school year gets underway
In her new position, Northwestern Lehigh Superintendent Jennifer Holman will see district plans long in the making come to fruition.
“The district is very well grounded,” Holman said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to step into a role we can build on. There are things we’ll come across we’ll need to change but we’re in a good place.”
The list of what is new in the district is impressive, including full-day kindergarten, completion of the renovations at the high school and the addition of a police force.
The decision to move forward with full-day kindergarten is based on study and reflection.
“We spent a year researching,” Holman said. “We didn’t want full-day kindergarten to be a mini first grade, but wanted to focus on teaching young students how to be social and how to resolve conflicts.”
Holman also noted the high school construction is nearing completion.
“The four new spaces look wonderful and include new spaces in the auditorium and the gym,” Holman said.
The renovations are a game changer.
“The gym and the physical education teachers were right in the throes of construction,” Holman said. “The teachers and kids were great but I believe, in the end, they will be very happy.”
Boys and girls lacrosse teams will expand sports offerings for the high school.
A police department has been added as the district wanted to be more proactive.
According to Holman, the police will “provide security and build relationships with kids.
“Their motto is going to be ‘protect, prevent and connect,” Holman stated. “We want them to be people the kids are comfortable going to.
“Former captain of Troop M at the state police barracks in Bethlehem, Brian Tobin, will be full time, along with three part-time officers and we’re looking for a few more.”
The school district previously relied on coverage by state police in Bethlehem and Fogelsville.
“We had a great relationship,” Holman said. “Additionally, we had armed security in the district that we paid for.”
But more was needed.
“We are the community center,” Holman said. “We’re open a lot and our facilities are used a lot.”
“The newly formed department will have all the same powers of police on campus, transportation and events.
“All of them carry and have to be appointed by the Lehigh Valley Court. Also, we are currently looking for a police car.”
With accomplishments, come challenges which Holman expects to face.
These include changes in population, budget issues and an upcoming gubernatorial contest.
Declining numbers have been predicted.
“We looked at things such as births and moving permits, and the indication at the time was the population at Northwestern Elementary School would decline and we should just hold on for a few years,” Holman said. “We had very good enrollment data.”
Full-day kindergarten seems to be drawing students.
“Someone who might have chosen a charter school or private school now has another alternative at the district,” Holman said. “Enrollment creates challenges in class sizes and offerings.
“However, we came in and added a fourth grade. I don’t know if that is a result of full-day kindergarten.
“We also moved Wendy White from first grade to kindergarten.
“She has a long history with the early grades. She was the perfect choice for Northwestern Elementary School.
“We actually posted and hired a first-grade teacher.”
Elections have consequences and this year’s governor’s race between incumbent Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and challenger Scott Wagner, a Republican, will as well.
“I believe they will be in two very different places even down to the new accountability measure,” Holman said. “People will have to listen carefully. The outcome has an impact on the district.
“Elections, from the school board on up, has challenges,” Holman said. “I believe Gov. Wolf will be very clear about what needs to happen in education and both candidates’ positions will be different on school and property taxes.”
Though Holman is new to the office she now holds, she has always wanted a career in education from as far back as she could remember.
“When I was very, very young, I was the one on the floor teaching my brother who was my only student,” she said with a smile. “It was something I loved.”
Holman credits some of her own teachers for nurturing this love.
“Most people will tell you they had an inspiring person who made them want to be a teacher but I had several,” she stated. “What impressed me the most was how caring, how patient, understanding and flexible they were, and how they pushed you to meet your goals.”
Holman’s plans for the district are powered by a long-held belief in the power of education.
“I’m very passionate about education,” she said, describing the education landscape as a “big puzzle” consisting of many pieces. “Imagine the amazing things that could happen and the impact we can have when everybody works collaboratively.”
Holman attended Bloomsburg University for her undergraduate studies, earned her Master’s degree at East Stroudsburg and her superintendent letter of eligibility at Edinboro University.
She worked for the Salisbury and Tamaqua school districts before coming to Northwestern.
Holman served as assistant superintendent for the district since January 2011.
“Primarily, the assistant’s job is operational,” she explained.
“I supervised transportation, curriculum, and buildings and grounds. Technology is the one I supervised directly.
“The superintendent needs to have the vision of what needs to happen.
“You set the general direction and pace, and you trust people are getting you through to where you need to go.”
“We’re building on a great foundation.
“We’re all collectively responsible for our success.