Immaculata alumnus Brian Troop ’07 Ed.D. has been named the 2023 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). Troop is the superintendent of the Ephrata Area School District.
According to a PASA news release, Troop was selected for his innovative thinking and collaborative leadership. His drive to succeed has improved communication in the district, elevated student performance and led to the launch of several community-connected initiatives including the Life Ready Graduate (LRG), which is the collection of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that students need for success in the real world. The learning goals and priorities outlined in the LRG serve as the North Star to help guide decisions and inform instruction throughout the district. Additionally, the district’s Cornerstone Projects, which are series of themed cross-curricular units at each grade-level that serve as a vehicle for authenticity, relevance and community connection throughout the school system.
After 12 years working within the Ephrata Area School District, first as the assistant superintendent and then as superintendent, Troop understands that students need more than what is measured on the standardized tests.
“We need to equip students with some character traits, some skills that are beyond what’s on the test, like critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, innovation, resilience and grit,” he said, acknowledging that these are skills/traits that students will need to be successful in an ever-changing world. For over five years, Troop and his staff have made these efforts a priority within the school district by integrating them into the curriculum from kindergarten through high school.
Exemplifying this commitment to equipping students with additional skills and insights is Troop’s initiative focused on inviting community members to talk to high school juniors and seniors about their careers. These discussions help students make better decisions about career paths and help students understand how their lessons relate to tangible careers.
However, he admits that public education is still battling a culture that relies on tests, which, at its core, was designed for the industrial era, not for today’s smart-machine age.
“I think the factory model is primarily what you’ll find in districts across the country, but our kids are not going to grow up and work in a factory,” Troop points out. To address the disconnect, he wants to tightly align what students need to learn with what schools are designed to produce and then provide feedback on those skills. He emphasizes that it matters less what a student has memorized and more about how that knowledge is applied.
Troop is most satisfied when educators create authentic learning experiences that enable students to see potential that they didn’t know existed in themselves. As an example of authentic learning in the areas of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Design), the Ephrata Area School District created a computer coding contest where students work in teams to solve a problem or accomplish a challenge. In this annual contest, started in 2017, approximately 400 students collaborate, think critically, and display high levels of creativity and innovation as they present their solution to judges.
“The sense of accomplishment that you see on the kids’ faces, especially the elementary-aged kids, is the best,” Troop said proudly. “They are so authentic in their reaction; it shines right through.”
Learning new skills isn’t just for children. While Troop was earning his Ed.D. in educational leadership at Immaculata, he was fine-tuning the skills that he continues to use today. He learned to break a problem down to its smallest parts to understand the root cause, the power of professional networks and the importance of managing what matters. After he graduated, Troop took a job with the Intermediate Unit (IU-13 in Lancaster/Lebanon), where he served as a program director for two years before moving to the Ephrata Area School District.
Sister Carol Ann Couchara, IHM, who served as his dissertation chair, states that Troop embodies the educational leadership program’s aim to prepare leaders who have vision, communication and collaboration skills, and ethical integrity along with the ability to promote a positive school culture and learning environment.
“Brian Troop demonstrated these skills throughout his doctoral studies and continues to do so now in his role as superintendent,” Couchara stated. “We are proud of his selection as the 2023 PA Superintendent of the Year.”