Joe Carrico Returns to Public Schools as Interim Clarion Area Superintendent
Carrico took over the reins of Clarion Area on January 1 on an interim basis, replacing Michael Stahlman who resigned to accept the acting Executive Director position of Riverview Intermediate Unit Six.
After graduating from Redbank Valley High School in 1982, Carrico earned his undergraduate degree from Clarion University, a master’s in education from Westminster College along with principal certification, and his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh.
He started his career at Abraxas, spending five or six years there, working up the ranks as a teacher, sports program. He was the education supervisor and education director when he got his Westminster degree.
“Next was Valley Grove School District where I was dean of students and an assistant principal for about a year and a half. I then moved on to West Forest High School as principal and spent nine years there. I was very blessed to be with West Forest.”
“I then had the opportunity to go to Oil City and spent a little over eight years there. We did a lot of great things there, changed a lot of curriculum, a big renovation project, brought some mental health services into the district, and brought a dental suite into the district.”
Carrico decided to “retire” from public schools and had an opportunity to enter into the private sector and still live in Oil City. He joined Mike Shaffer and worked at Pathways for three years. He also worked for a short time with Rina Irwin at the Child Development Center on Headstart and other educational items.
Meanwhile, he and his wife Debbie bought Fat Dogs by Carricones in Oil City to throw a little more diversity of work into their lives.
After working with Pathways and the Child Development Center, Carrico knew something was missing, and he wanted to get back into the public sector.
“I thought I still have a good run left. I really missed it. I just never was as happy fulfilled professionally as I was working in public schools.”
“The opportunity presented itself here at Clarion for an interim position. I know the area anyways – was raised around here. I’ve had a very diverse career, but it’s been within three counties: Clarion, Forest, and Venango. It’s time to come back to see if I can still cut my teeth on this work.”
Carrico said Clarion has a good reputation, and there are a lot of positive things going on in the school district.
“It’s a good school district and well-respected,” Carrico continued.
“In my opinion, what makes it a gem is a great facility, a great group of teachers, strong community support I’ve been to some of the events, and the kids are top-notch citizens. They’re good students, and they’re also good citizens. There are just good people here.”
“The culture reflects their perception, and I think there’re some high expectations here, and that matters. You tend to shoot for your expectations. Clarion has always had that reputation, and I think that’s because of the expectation of the community and staff here. Everything I see is that the students rise to the occasion.”
Missing public schools, Carrico admits he is tossing his hat into the ring for the permanent job at Clarion.
“They have a lot of candidates, and I am one. The superintendent position is your leader, and the board has to do a good search and be very thorough, interviews many persons as possible, and make sure they get the absolute right fit for their district. I’m just happy to be here and carry the water for a few months till they can make a long-term decision.”
Carrico acknowledges that the core purpose of any educational institution is academics. “As far as standardized testing, I think that as people are putting their energies into appropriate areas and really working hard, those things take care of themselves. When kids leave here, they’ll be successful and well-prepared because this is a great group of people and a very responsible and supportive community.”
A changing community can sometimes produce a changing student body, but Carrico isn’t worried.
“I think it’s not that the students have changed; the community is evolving, and there are several causes for that. There’s no one thing that anyone can point to. The community evolves as they all do. It’s not so much that the challenges are being presented. It’s how people embrace the opportunities. Am I being realistic about that evolution and those changes in my community? Am I being responsive to those needs? Am I being aggressive or active in trying to be the needs of the families and students, and teachers where they need to be met?”
The loss of industry such as Owens-Illinois over the years has presented challenges, but the area continues to respond and seek new opportunities.
“I think there was a philosophical gut punch, but this response has been tremendous. They will recover, and a lot of other communities just accept their fate. There was a funding issue that affected the university, and they have a big footprint in this community. It’s important for people to remember is that the last thing that individuals or entities should do when you’re faced with trauma is they should never be tribal. They should actually pull together, to be sitting at the same table.”
“We should be talking to each other, collecting our resources, and (see) how we can be helpful for each other because it doesn’t affect one person or entity singularly; it’s a collective effect. I really think the communities have done a nice job with their response.”
“The biggest issue is to be right; don’t be fast and don’t knee-jerk. You can do as much damage being as fast as you can make the wrong decision.”
Finding a new superintendent
“It will probably be until June because that’s when people have to transition to that position. I believe the board is looking to have someone in place by March or April. If it’s a candidate that’s currently employed in another district at the time of the transition. I view my job as trying help this place be as seamless as possible through two transitions; the transition for Mike Stahlman, and they’re going to be transitioning in another person in June.”
“My job is to really make that seamless, and how do I do that? I’m helping with the budget process, we’re going to be working on schedules, we’re going to be identifying areas of opportunity for the fall like programming and how do we make sure the supplies are getting ordered.”
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