Meet the new WCSD superintendent
Whitehall-Coplay School District will welcome a new superintendent May 3 - Dr. Robert Steckel Jr.
Steckel replaces Dr. Lorie Hackett, who is retiring after 33 years in the district, five as superintendent.
Steckel began his career in 2003 as a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Orefield Middle School in the Parkland School District. He was also an assistant football coach for both East Penn and PSD and spent five years as the head football coach for Northampton Area High School.
Steckel left PSD in 2007, after accepting a position as an alternative education teacher at Northampton Area Middle School and became a social studies teacher at NAHS one year later. In 2012, Joseph Kovalchik, superintendent of Northampton Area School District, along with the school board, offered Steckel a position as assistant principal at NAHS.
From there, he moved up the ranks, becoming principal in 2016 and, most recently, assistant superintendent.
Steckel was interested in becoming an educator because his parents were teachers in the Allentown School District, as well as coaches and activity advisers. Steckel said he “witnessed firsthand the lifelong relationships they were able to develop and the tremendous impact that they had on their students.”
Steckel also credited Rich Sniscak, his high school football coach and the current PSD superintendent, with his decision to pursue a career in the education field, because he knew Sniscak truly cared about the futures of his student-athletes. Steckel said Sniscak remains a support for him to this day.
“I had so many great leaders and role models in my life, so there was no question that this was the path for me,” Steckel said.
Steckel earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and social studies from Kutztown University in 2003, then master’s degrees in classroom technology and educational leadership in 2007 and 2011, respectively, both from Wilkes University. He received a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Lehigh University in 2020.
Steckel has spent the last two months getting to know WCSD administration, staff and school board members. He toured the campus and individual schools and examined a variety of data from district operations.
“There are many successful programs, and our faculty and staff make a tremendous positive impact on our students. I aim to continue that progress, but also find opportunities for efficiency and improvement,” Steckel said.
Some changes Steckel wants to make include designing and implementing a pandemic recovery plan that recognizes both the academic and social-emotional needs of district students and staff, developing strong ties with the WCSD community through “effective communication strategies,” ensuring the campus facilities allow students in all extracurricular activities to learn and excel and assessing district operations to ensure all available resources are being allocated to help students succeed.
According to Steckel, his goal is also to “continue, support and expand our efforts to provide equitable educational experiences for students of all backgrounds by evaluating and planning for improvements in the areas of curriculum, school culture and community connections.”
“Ultimately, I want to collaboratively lead the district to develop a reputation as a community that supports the needs of all students and guides them to achievement in school in years to come,” Steckel said.
Becoming superintendent of WCSD will be a big change for Steckel, who had developed many relationships during his time at NASD that resulted in significant improvements in academics and extracurricular activities, such as athletics and the arts. As a new employee, Steckel is most looking forward to developing trusting relationships with the community and WCSD administration and staff.
Steckel said the transition was made easier with the help of Hackett, whom he called kind, supportive and dedicated to WCSD families and students.
“She has embraced me, and she taught me so much about the district in the past two months. I can’t thank her enough, and I know that she will continue to be a resource for me,” he said.
Steckel acknowledged today’s generation faces some unique challenges, such as exposure to mature subject matters at an earlier age, compounded by the influence of social media and technology. Steckel said technology can be a “great resource and tool,” if used responsibly.
“It is incumbent upon our schools and school staff to stay with the technology trends, engage students with proactive and accurate information and teach digital citizenship,” Steckel said.
Every generation differs from the last, and Steckel feels today’s students have their own unique strengths, due to more exposure to the world around them.
“As a father and an educational administrator, I see how our students and children are so inclusive, attentive to their peers’ needs and endearing to others,” Steckel said. “We, as parents and educators, need to embrace this and implement inclusive practices, learn about people of all backgrounds and help to develop future leaders.”
While Steckel will miss his colleagues at NASD, he said he has felt welcomed by everyone he met at WCSD and thinks he will fit in well with district staff and community members.
“I couldn’t be more excited about May 3,” Steckel said.