When Erica Kolat began her career in education 16 years ago, she never dreamed of taking on an administrative role.
But as she gained more teaching experience, Kolat said she started to see the “bigger picture.”
“I saw the potential to impact more students than those within my four walls,” she said.
Now, as the superintendent of the McGuffey School District, Kolat hopes she can help her district prepare students who are better equipped in the 21st century.
Kolat took over the role as superintendent Jan. 2, after the previous superintendent, Beverly Arbore, retired after 40 years as a public school educator. Kolat said she worked closely with Arbore during the three-and-a-half years she served as the district’s assistant superintendent.
“I was blessed with a great mentor. She made the transition easier,” Kolat said. “We partnered on most of the decisions and opportunities that came our way. It was really a collaborative partnership.”
Shortly after Arbore announced she was leaving, Kolat said the McGuffey school board hired her as the new superintendent through Jan. 1, 2019. The school board also hired Laura Jacob as the new assistant superintendent. Jacob has been with the district since 2006, as an English teacher, educational technology coach and assistant principal. Much like Kolat’s relationship with Arbore, Jacob said her relationship with Kolat is “very collaborative.”
“We worked togther (in the past),” she said. “We understand what the district’s needs are and what the community’s needs are. It helps in knowing where we want to go.”
Kolat said she was sad to see Arbore go, but was thankful she laid solid groundwork for which Kolat could get her footing. Kolat said the district is building on ways to expand the district’s use of technology.
“We are looking at increasing students’ access through technology, through one-on-one devices, as well as developing our own blended learning courses,”she said.
Kolat said the district is considering introducing Google Chromebooks or some other similar device to students, and integrating flipped classrooms. Kolat said a flipped classroom allows teachers to provide more individual attention to students as they complete their homework during class time and listen to prerecorded audio- or videotaped lectures when at home or during their free time. Kolat said the district is still evaluating the costs and benefits of such programs.
“These are not one-year plans,” she said. “It would take time to implement.”
Kolat graduated from West Virginia University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. She worked for a year at Albert Gallatin Area School District in Fayette County before accepting a position with Waynesburg Central High School in 1999. Kolat was employed with the school as an English teacher until 2003, when she accepted an assistant principal position at Claysville Elementary School. She left in 2004 to pursue an elementary school principal position with Chartiers-Houston School District, and eventually became the district’s assistant superintendent in 2008. Kolat left Chartiers-Houston to return to McGuffey in 2010.
Along the way, Kolat earned a master’s degree from Point Park University in curriculum and instruction, a principal certification from the California University of Pennsylvania and a superintendent’s letter of eligibility from the University of Pittsburgh.
Kolat said many of the parents within the district were already familiar with her through her role as assistant superintendent. She’s hopeful that they’re happy with her in her current role.
“Besides the winter weather, things have been going very well,” she said. “I’m blessed with a supportive school board, excellent staff and parents, and I will continue to advance the district.”