Taschner hopes to inspire Coatesville with better schools

Posted: July 11, 2014

At Cathy Taschner's first school board meeting as superintendent last month, she and the Coatesville Area School District's board said they were stopping pay increases for some administrators while they reviewed how the district makes payments. Some employees were paid more than they should have been without school board approval, Taschner said.

"People said, 'I can't believe you did that your first board meeting,' " said Taschner, who officially became superintendent on June 13.

The move was a sign of changes to come.

Based on community input, Taschner's plans include rearranging resources to reduce class sizes and ensure students have the supplies they need. She and the district's business manager are continuing to examine costs to save money where possible, she said. She also plans to overhaul the district's website to make it more user-friendly, cohesive, and open for feedback in time for the new school year.

Taschner has been working for the last few months, meeting with students, teachers, and community members to plan how she can move the district forward from the texting scandal that ousted her predecessor and deepened residents' mistrust.

"I think parents will be pleased with what they see when the school year starts," said Taschner, who ended her time as assistant superintendent of the Susquehanna Township School District near Harrisburg early last month. "There's a fragile, but growing strong, hope" among residents that the district is earning back their trust, she said.

Taschner plans to present what she's learned during her months-long "listening tour" at the August school board meeting, along with a 90-day plan for the first three months of the school year. She said listening to community members about their needs and concerns is essential to the success of the district.

Residents and community groups have said they appreciate Taschner's transparency and the time she has taken to talk to them.

"That will be the backbone of what's going to push us forward," Taschner said.

Taschner replaced Richard Como, who resigned nearly a year ago after the district found out he and athletic director James Donato had exchanged sexist and racist text messages about students and staff using cellphones the district had given them.

After Como resigned, Assistant Superintendent Angelo Romaniello stepped in. At the end of October, the district named New Jersey educator Leonard Fitts as interim superintendent as the search for a permanent superintendent continued.

Taschner signed a three-year contract in the spring. Her yearly salary is $175,000 with the potential for annual increases based on performance.

But another kind of contract is on Taschner's mind. On her desk is a bright yellow marked-up copy of a book she said is one of her favorites, The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract.

"I think about that every day," she said. "The students are watching and want to know what we're doing this summer to make their year better."


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8207 @MichaelleBond

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