Merging Together as One District
By Glenn Cook
In small towns across America, high school athletics are a hub of social and community activities. This is especially true in football-rich Western Pennsylvania, called the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” because of the number of NFL stars who come from the region.
So it was a big deal when the 2,400-student Central Valley School District won the AAA Championship of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League in 2010. A very big deal, considering the team was in its first season and was the product of the first voluntary district merger in the state’s history.
“Everyone rallied around it,” says Dan Matsook, the first superintendent of the merged district. “The school spirit was on fire.”
The football team’s success was a victory in more ways than one for Central Valley, located about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. It represented the success of a years-long effort to merge two districts -- Center and Monaca -- in adjoining towns only two miles apart. Both were suffering from declining enrollment, aging facilities, and fewer advanced class offerings for students.
Today, the district has embarked on a one-to-one iPad initiative for students, a project led by then-Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Perry, who now heads the district following Matsook’s June 30 retirement. It also is offering 10 Advanced Placement courses, up from two offered in Center before the merger. Two older schools in Monaca have been sold, and the town’s high school has been converted into a middle school serving all of Central Valley’s sixth- to eighth-grade students.
“We’ve done a lot of great things in forming this district, but it was still difficult,” says Tom Mowad, who joined the board in 2008 and is now its president. “You’re giving up your school mascot and team colors, and there are changes in the buildings. Matters of the heart are difficult to overcome, but we’ve made it work.”