The Scherrer family enjoying a Pirates game at PNC Park.

For this bustling back-to-school week, NEXT Up heads to North Allegheny School District to check in with Dr. Robert Scherrer, who oversees more than 8,200 students at 12 schools. The Whitehall native, who lives in Wexford with his family, recently launched a successful technology initiative called Focus 2020, and implemented the district’s Educator Effectiveness Model.

Monday, August 29

School starts for our students this Thursday, so over the next three days we’re holding various in-service activities for our staff members. With over 1,000 staff members, it’s important that everyone understands our mission, vision and goals for the coming school year. We’re digging into some exciting work this year around measuring school success beyond just test scores and exploring ways to truly cultivate a growth mindset among our students. Smart is not something you are; it is something you become.

Dr. Scherrer with two elementary students during a bus ride on the first day of school last year.

After visiting our buildings throughout the day and attending various readiness meetings, I’ll grab a quick bite for dinner at Totin’s Diner.

Then I’ll visit a few of our Kindergarten Curriculum Nights, where parents have the opportunity to meet their child’s kindergarten teachers prior to the start of school.

Tuesday, August 30

Today I’m attending the 2016 Pittsburgh STEM Summit at the Carnegie Science Center, an event designed to bring together education leaders with technology companies from the Pittsburgh area to see STEM in action. We are very fortunate to have these types of learning networks in Western Pennsylvania. There are a number of unique and innovative educational opportunities available in the region, and connectors like the Remake Learning Network and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit are bringing both formal and informal learning opportunities to young people throughout our area.

When school begins, there are typically 3-4 evening events I attend per week. I’m going to take advantage of the night off and either head over to LA Fitness after work or go for a run in North Park. Running the five-mile loop around the lake is just beautiful, and there are so many other activities that my family likes to take advantage of such as Go Ape!, renting kayaks from Venture Outdoors or just biking on the trails.

Wednesday, August 31

Today is the last day before the students return. I left this day open to address any last-minute needs so that everything is perfect for our students when they return. We had a number of renovations over the summer, and this is our last opportunity to make sure that everything is ready to go.

My daughter has a field hockey scrimmage this evening then we’ll meet my wife and son for dinner at The Wexford Pub. Their braised brisket tacos are excellent. We’ll probably walk over to Graeter’s Ice Cream afterwards and enjoy the last night before school starts.

Thursday, September 1

Dr. Scherrer with his Executive Assistant Sally Scherling at the Central Administration Offices.

It doesn’t matter how many years you have been working in education, the first day of school is always exciting. Last year I rode on one of the school buses as it went through its high school, middle school and elementary school runs. I love seeing school experiences through the students’ eyes, whether it’s riding a school bus or being in a classroom.

This year I plan to visit all 12 school buildings throughout the day. I’m very fortunate to work with great teachers, administrators and support personnel every day who truly inspire excellence in academics, athletics, arts and activities for every student every day. School districts are only as good as their people, and we have some of the best.

This evening my son has a swimming lesson at the Baierl Family YMCA. Afterwards we’ll go back home and catch the final Steelers preseason game.

Friday, September 2

This morning I’ll be meeting with our IT Department. We’re working extremely hard to leverage technology in a way that transforms the learning environment for our students. This is evidenced through FOCUS 2020, which involves a significant 1:1 initiative, creating equitable learning environments for students and providing the necessary supports for educators to be successful. Technology is an important tool in creating personalized learning experiences that are engaging, authentic and meaningful to students.

Dr. Scherrer presenting a trophy to the winning staff members of the first annual NA Marathon Challenge.

Tonight is our second home football game of the season against Bethel Park. Friday nights in Western Pennsylvania are true community celebrations. In addition to the game, you get to see the marching band and cheerleaders perform, and witness the pride that students take in their school. Go Tigers!

Saturday, September 3

Today is the first Pitt football game of the year. We have season tickets and are looking forward to a great season. My parents both went to Pitt, and I earned my doctorate from Pitt; so we’re lifelong fans. Of course, this week is a warm-up for next week’s festivities against Penn State. I’m so glad that the rivalry is back. H2P!

Sunday, September 4

With the three-day weekend, today will feel like a Saturday. After church we might go hang out in the Strip District and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells. We’re always up for a great lunch at Osteria. Or, we may decide to go to the Pirates game. I am often scheduled to the minute during the week so it’s nice to be a little spontaneous on the weekend.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...