Cocalico names Musser superintendent

By on January 27, 2016

ER20160127_COCEllaMusser625Assistant to Sensenig succeeds him July 1

The Cocalico School Board has promoted long-time employee Ella H. Musser to serve as the district’s next superintendent.

Superintendent Dr. Bruce Sensenig announced in December that he planned to retire June 30, saying the same night that the district would begin its search for a replacement by interviewing internal candidates.

Musser, 46, currently serves as assistant to the superintendent, overseeing federal and state funded-programs across all grade levels.

The board approved her five-year contract 8-0, with member Douglas Graybill absent. The agreement does not include a salary. Sensenig said pay will be determined when the board conducts its annual evaluations for all administrative employees, typically in May. Musser’s current salary is $111,910.

Musser will take over the reigns from Sensenig on July 1.

Board President Allen Dissinger said Musser was the only candidate to apply for the job, and she was interviewed during an executive work session on Jan. 11. She presented the board with a portfolio of her work, after which members peppered her with questions about her leadership style and vision for the district’s future.

Vice President Kevin Eshleman said he had “absolute confidence” in the selection, noting that Sensenig had worked closely with Musser during his 10 years as superintendent.

“He’s raised up a lot of leaders,” Eshleman said. “Our entire leadership team is very strong. I look forward to what the future holds.”

Musser said she was humbled by the approval, adding that she would “give it her all for the students, for the team.”

She started with the district after earning her teaching degree from Millersvillle University in 1991, originally serving as a first- and second-grade teacher at Adamstown Elementary. In 1998, she left the district and took several part-time education roles while raising her own children.

Sensenig recalled Monday how, filling in as a building principal, he convinced Musser to return to Cocalico as a reading specialist in 2002. She spent the next several years working closely on literacy programs and training other educators.

In 2007, Musser was promoted to director of reading and coordinator of services for students learning English as a second language. In 2009, she became director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

She has served as assistant to the superintendent since 2012, overseeing curriculum, spearheading textbook purchasing efforts, and rolling out a one-to-one technology initiative.

Sensenig said his successor would bring the district a “new, fresh vision.”

“A good test of anyone’s character or abilities is if they do a role well,” he said. “She’s done every role we’ve given her very well, and I have no doubt it will be the same with the role of superintendent.”

A mother of three boys, including two in college, Musser lives in Newmanstown with her husband, Dave. She is an active member of Midway Church of the Brethren and volunteers for Eastern Lebanon High School.

In a biography provided to the press, Musser said her goals as superintendent include adding more opportunities for students to take Advanced Placement courses and increasing the use of digital resources both for accelerated and remedial education.

She also wants to better address the needs of students in crisis. Musser has at times served as Cocalico’s liaison for homeless students and its coordinator of Title I programs, interventions aimed at students living in poverty.

She said the district saw its percentage of students receiving free or reduced price lunches climb from 16 to 33 percent over a six-year period. That’s meant a change in how classroom teachers must adapt their strategies.

“Those are the stories that always come my way,” Musser said after the board meeting. “I’ve worked with many, many students who had a lot of challenges. They sometimes just need a lot more support to attend to the instruction, instead of thinking about whether they’ll eat dinner tonight.”

Musser’s appointment continues a Cocalico legacy of promoting top leaders from within. The current superintendent spent his entire 41 years with Cocalico. His predecessor, William Worley, started in Cocalico as a principal in 1980 and stayed in administration until announcing his retirement in 2005.

Board Treasurer John Lorah noted Sensenig had mentored Musser in much the same way Worley mentored him.

Cocalico was one of three local districts looking for a new leader. Superintendents in Manheim Township and Columbia recently left their posts less than half way through their initial contracts.

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