Dr. Chris Suppo was named the next superintendent of the Shippensburg Area School District at a special meeting Monday.
His starting salary will be $135,000, and he will be locked into a three-year, 10-month contract, spanning from Sept. 9, 2019, to June 30, 2023.
The board approved the hiring of Suppo, including the salary and term length, in an 8-0 vote. Director Dr. Geno Torri was absent. The hiring is pending final legal review of the contract, which was not in final form at Monday’s meeting. Suppo must also sign the formal agreement.
The longtime Greensburg Salem School District administrator replaces Dr. Jerry Wilson who resigned for family-related reasons. Wilson’s last day was June 31, and Dr. C. Gregory Hoover, longtime Greencastle-Antrim School District superintendent, has been serving in the interim at $400 per day. Suppo is the district’s third attempt to fill the head role since former superintendent Dr. Beth Bender retired in 2016.
“My goal isn’t to get a job as a superintendent, so that I can go somewhere else. My goal was to find the right fit and the right superintendency. And, I found that,” Suppo said.
Suppo also stresses having a “shared vision” with all stakeholders in the district, rather than his own personal vision.
“I can’t tell you what my vision is. We have to create that together,” he said. “It has to be a shared vision, and so it has to involve the community; it has to involve students; it has to involve faculty, support staff, and board members, and together collectively we can create that vision of where Shippensburg should be heading. Or, otherwise you don’t have buy-in.”
He does not have any specific project, or focus area in mind, and indicated he is still working to gather more knowledge on the district.
According to his resume, Suppo has been serving as coordinator of technology, transportation, community relations, online academy & school safety in the Greensburg Salem School District since 2007. He has also held a variety of administrative and teaching positions in different school districts since 1992. This experience included no prior experience as a superintendent.
Suppo noted this is a position he has been targeting for the last year, and is a natural progression after being a district leader for more than 20 years. Suppo also noted educational leadership as one of his passions and hobbies.
The board’s decision follows a July 29 forum in which the community had the chance to ask questions and participate in discussions with the prospective candidate.
“The board had the opportunity to review all the comments from community members who attended the event, analyze other information we have on the candidate, and conduct an additional interview with Dr. Suppo,” a board statement read, following the community session.
The board did not release Suppo’s name prior to the community session.
“Even though we will have a community event with a candidate for the superintendent of schools position this evening, I do not feel comfortable divulging her/his name at this point,” President Dr. David Lovett previously wrote in an email to The News-Chronicle. “We have received preliminary, but not final, background checks on the candidates at this writing. The board is endeavoring to be careful/intentional in how we vet candidates for the superintendent's position.”
Lovett previously said 15 people submitted complete applications for the superintendent position. The board held four separate focus group sessions with their consultant Tom Templeton for administrators, faculty, staff and members of the community to provide feedback on what they would like to see in the next superintendent. A survey was also distributed.
The pool was eventually narrowed down to four candidates, a source said, and district employees had the opportunity to meet with these candidates.
The other candidates included a current superintendent in another district, a director in the Department of Education and a director in a state intermediate unit, the source indicated. These candidates did not meet the community like Suppo did.
“As a board, we felt that we should introduce all four candidates to the faculty, support staff and administrators,” said Vice President Susan Spicka. “After that day, we felt like we had one candidate who really stood out. So rather than bring candidates on that we didn’t think were going to be the best candidates when we seemed to have a front runner, we thought it would be best to have Dr. Suppo come, meet the community, see how that went and if that went well, then we had our person. If that hadn’t gone well, then maybe we would have brought somebody to see how that would have gone. It didn’t seem right if we felt like we had our person to just bring other people in just for the sake of saying, ‘We are showing you other people.’”
During the board meeting, Suppo described the search process as “very rigorous” and “very engaging.” Following the decision, board members also took time to express their gratitude for the search process and those involved.
“I think we’ve selected a person who will take us quite a way in terms of development and student concern, and just working as a real member, partner of our community,” Lovett said.
“As a board, (Suppo) rose to the top very quickly, and then when he met with teachers and staff, he was a very highly rated candidate, and then after the community meeting, we looked at all the evaluations from the community members, and he received very positive feedback,” said Spicka. “He just has a vision, and he is a very kind person. I think he will be very dedicated to this school district, and I believe he wants to be here for the long-term. He would always talk about putting students first. Students were at the focus of our conversations, not anything else. I think he also is somebody who has a proven track record of being very much involved in the community.”
Suppo has been married for 27 years, and has a 22-year-old daughter. He is a 1985 graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School. One of his big hobbies is fishing.
“We are absolutely thrilled with Shippensburg,” Suppo said. “We are very pleased with everyone that has been so pleasant. The process has been very thorough. At this point, I’m really looking forward to getting here and immersing myself in the Shippensburg school district and the community. I’m learning as much as I can, as quickly as I can. I just look forward to working with everyone.”
Suppo noted one of his first steps will be working to get out and meet as many people as he can, then make decisions based on what people feel are the district’s strengths and needs for improvement.