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Mountain Echo

Online newspaper of Altoona Area High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania
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The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

The Student News Site of Altoona Area High School

Mountain Echo

New administrators lead district

Hatch, Harrington, Dambeck join administrative team
Paula Foreman
New Goals Superintendent Brad Hatch speaks to the entire district at the opening meeting on August 21. Hatch detailed his plans for the district.

At the end of last school year, the community was aware that the school district’s administration would soon change. The need for a new superintendent created a domino effect requiring a new assistant superintendent. A new assistant principal was also needed at the high school.

With Dr. Prijatelj’s retirement in July, the superintendent position became vacant. Former assistant superintendent, Brad Hatch, stepped up into the role. However, before becoming a superintendent, he originally intended to go into the medical field when deciding a career path.

When I took the MCAT, which is your entrance exam into medical school, I barely made the cut. I thought about it long and hard. I decided very quickly that wasn’t for me,” Hatch said. “Education was a pathway that I could teach the content that I like as a teacher, but then also be involved in other pieces, such as coaching and extracurricular activities.”

He attended Juniata College and has since received his bachelors and masters degree, as well as the principal certification program. 

“I also have what is called a superintendent letter of eligibility. It’s a license to be able to do the job I am doing, and I am currently working on getting my doctorate,” Hatch said. 

As new people fill the jobs in administration, changes follow. Hatch feels the biggest change has been a change in mindset.

Let’s focus on the important things; which are learning and making sure that kids develop and grow and have what they need to be successful.

— Brad Hatch

“I think we have had a change in mentality. It’s a change in approach. I think our administration team wants to be in sync with our entire educational community,” Hatch said. “We want our focus to be the same. We want the goal to be the same. We feel like we can create a better community for everyone, especially the kids.” 

With Hatch leaving the position of assistant superintendent open, a new face stepped into the role⸺Mark Harrington. Harrington has been involved in the education field for over 20 years.

“I was a special education teacher out at Hollidaysburg Senior High School. I also taught at Blair County Prison. Then, I went to Cove Forge, a residential treatment facility, for one year,” Harrington said. “I came to Altoona as an assistant principal for the seventh grade class for three years then became a Hollidaysburg assistant principal for 10 years. Now, I’m here.”

Harrington isn’t the only ‘Harrington’ in the school district. Multiple people from his family work in the high school and throughout the district.

“My wife is a 10th grade principal this year, and my brother-in-law is the senior principal. My father-in-law was a principal at the high school in the 80’s and 90’s. My sister is currently an elementary teacher at Logan and my sister-in-law is also an elementary teacher. I do have a pretty strong connection here with family,” Harrington said. 

A concern throughout the high school this year has been the dress code changing. Harrington agrees with the student body that trends are changing.

“[The clothes] that students, and even teachers, are comfortable in now is different from 10 years ago,” Harrington said. “What I have on and what I wear, I would not be wearing as a teacher, principal or assistant superintendent. The times are changing, and a lot of the time schools try and change with them too, but there is a standard we have.” 

Erik Dambeck has also been added to the roster of new employees in the district. Dambeck is the assistant principal for ninth grade students. 

“My daughter went through Logan elementary, junior high and high school here. And, my wife works at the junior high. So, [the district] is part of our family,” Dambeck said. “We have been involved with the district for over 20 years, and it’s a great place to work. It’s a great place for kids to come to school and learn. It’s been a part of my life for a long time.”

Dambeck had almost 20 years of experience of being in the district before he started at the high school, so the concept was not new to him. 

I think we genuinely want to help kids. And we want to do whatever we can to help the students.

— Erik Dambeck

“I was a junior high teacher when I started my career and then a principal at Penn Lincoln,” Dambeck said. “Working at those schools has guided me in learning how students think. And how we as a district want to deal with problems. So, when I got here I was able to hit the ground running because it’s not like everything was new to me.”

A new addition to the freshmen schedule this year is the freshman seminar class. This class is based on the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” With Dambeck being the freshman principal, he is excited for the implication of the book to these classes. 

“There are proven practices [in the book] that will help somebody to be successful in whatever they’re trying to do,” Dambeck said. “We’re excited to eventually get that implemented in all the grade levels so that everybody can get exposed to that. It’s not something that takes a ton of work but will make a ton of changes in your life.”

Welcome back. Former superintendent Dennis Murray joins new superintendent Brad Hatch to close the opening day district meeting. Murray shared his experience from his years as superintendent and offered Hatch advice. (Paula Foreman)


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About the Contributor
Charlie Kephart, Associate Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Charlie, I'm a junior and Associate Editor of the Mountain Echo. I was on the Livewire staff in Jr High and Mt Echo staff since 10th grade. I have had a passion for writing since 4th grade and even promised my 4th grade ELA teacher that I would publish a book some day. My main goals in life are to go into the medical field at Pitt. Whenever I am not at school, I enjoy watching Netflix, reading and hanging out with my boyfriend. I'm super excited to write stories to keep you guys updated on everything going on here at our school!

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