By Jack Mariano
About sixty people attended a farewell get together in the gymnasium/cafeteria in the Octorara Area on Sunday, June School District’s Primary Learning Center on June 3rd to share some final moments with Octorara’s Superintendent Dr. Thomas Newcome who will be retiring at the end of the month.
Several teachers and administrators both present and past came to wish the Octorara icon for the past twenty-two years and his wife, Connie best wishes as they move back “home” to the Raleigh North Carolina area.
Several speakers recounted their experiences with the tenured head of the District for as many years. Larry Althouse President of Althouse Transportation, spoke about calling the Superintendent at 4:30 in the morning during snow says to determine that school should be closed, and a current administrator Ms.Elena Tachau looked back on her early career at the District and remarked how Dr. Newcome as a mentor, really enhanced her career. Parkesburg Point Director Dwayne Walton spoke of Dr. Newcome’s continuous support of the point and elaborated on a personal friendship they have developed.
Board Of Education President Lisa Bowman upon ending her remarks, called the attending past and present Directors onto the stage where they jointly unveiled a large plaque and read a resolution that will name the technical wing at the high school [The] ”Dr. Thomas L. Newcome II Career and Technical Education Wing” citing the leaders’ support of technical studies during his tenure.
Following some closing remarks by Dr. Newcome, he and Connie entertained a long reception line and they both spoke to each and every person who waited to speak personally to them.
An article published on Lancaster online in July of 2017 cited Newcome’s annual income of $142,000.00 one of the lowest in Lancaster or Chester Counties. In our estimate, Dr. Newcome was worth much more. Some criticized Newcome because he commuted daily from his home in York County to Atglen. We’re not so sure he did this on a daily basis because quite often, the Superintendent was seen at the school until all evening activities were completed, some of which he took part in, himself. We believe that Dr. Newcome spent many nights in his office or as a house guest of local friends. His participation in extra curriculars is legendary. According to the Lancaster Online Article (July 2017) Read The Article “He (Tom) was always involved in extra curricular activities” says School Board Vice President Brain Norris, whose tenure as a Director parallels Newcome’s career. Dr. Newcome had cameo appearances in several of the school’s plays over the years. He could also be seen at many sporting events and especially when a team had to travel long distances to participates in playoff games. In fact, we once saw Tom at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School awaiting his wife Connie, who was driving straight from a business event in Richmond Virginia. Newcome was a huge sports fan and in several occasions, paid hundreds of dollars out of his own pocket to help start or complete a project that he endorsed. And….yes, that was Tom Newcome running around like a wild man carrying a sign at the Carlisle Car Show a few years back promoting the Corvette Stingray that the Octorara Back on Track committee raffled off. This memory was also shared at the retirement get together which was followed by a personal greeting reception by Dr. and Ms Newcome along with some light refreshments.
Looking beyond athletics, Newcome once hosted a summit on Octorara’s stage inviting local civic leaders and political figures to discuss funding of public schools. He helped create the Octorara Regional Planning Commission to bring to light the problems that uncontrolled development of land within the District could severely impact the population of the schools and the impact that would have on already burdened taxpayers. Newcome “took the show on the road” holding several town hall meetings in local churches and other meeting places so that residents could be heard without travelling to Route 41 and Highland Road.
A lasting reminder: The Octorara Salutatorian Award has been given to an outstanding, graduating senior basically since the school opened in 1954. Three years ago, funding for this award expired. Tom and Connie Newcome came to the rescue. As announced by Dr. Newcome at the most recent awards evening, he and Connie picked up this award and will continue to fund this award even though they will no longer be living in the area.
We remember the days when the School Superintendent was a name you read on a plaque on the building or a name printed in a yearbook. I don’t believe Octorara had a person as easily accessible as Dr. Newcome. So as the new “captain” Ms. Michele Orner, former Superintendent of Halifax School Diostrict in Dauphin County takes the ship’s helm, we wish her well. The path that Dr. Newcome and the local Board Of Education has forged should make her feel very welcomed. She will be making a salary of $155,000.00 annual according to the Lancaster Online article Read The Article
This salary still places the Octorara Superintendent Salary below many neighboring Schools. According to an article recently in Lancaster online Read The Article
The Superintendent of Schools in the Solanco School District, Mr. Brian Bliss garnishes $170,000.00 per annul and Pequea Valley’s Erik Orndorff hauls in $156,000.00 per year to service that school district’s 1,557 students.