HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak announced Thursday night that he is stepping down after five years to become superintendent of the Allentown School District in Allentown.
Zahorchak was hired on a unanimous vote of the Allentown School Board. He will resign as Secretary of Education effective May 7 and will formally assume his new duties on July 1. He will succeed Dr. Karen Angello, who plans to retire. Allentown is Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest school district with 18,300 students and 2,500 teaching professionals and staff.
“It was an honor to serve Governor Rendell and help to implement his extraordinary vision for public education in Pennsylvania,” Zahorchak said. “I am proud of our accomplishments. From enhancing early childhood education to making it easier for students to transfer college credits, the Governor has done much for our children.
“I respect and will miss my valued colleagues in the Department of Education who worked tirelessly to achieve our goals, as well as the many fine school superintendents with whom I worked all across Pennsylvania.”
Zahorchak, 52, was superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District before Governor Edward G. Rendell named him Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education in 2003. He was appointed Secretary of Education in 2005. Zahorchak taught or was an administrator in various schools in Cambria and Somerset counties prior to becoming superintendent at Johnstown.
Zahorchak leaves a strong and lasting legacy at the Department of Education. His notable accomplishments include:
• The first new school funding formula for the state in 20 years, one designed to meet the specific needs of individual districts and give them the resources they need to meet state education standards.
• Dramatic growth in student achievement. When Zahorchak took office, only 50 percent of Pennsylvania students were performing at grade level. Today, 75 percent are.
• The first-ever state funding for quality pre-kindergarten programs and full-day kindergarten
• The establishment of the nationally recognized Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Project that has provided training for school principals in educational leadership.
• Pennsylvania’s first-ever high school graduation requirements, which will require students to demonstrate their mastery of what they have been taught.
• Making it much easier for students to transfer academic credits from one college to another, saving them time and money.
“I am really pleased to be going to Allentown. My goal was always to return to the public schools. The Allentown School District was extraordinarily well-aligned with our initiatives at the Department of Education over the last seven years, and receives strong support from its local business community. There is a strong foundation upon which to build.
“But even though the Allentown district is in a strong position, there is work to be done and room to grow – and I look forward to the challenge,” Zahorchak added.
Rendell is expected to name Zahorchak’s successor by May 7.