State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Penns Valley begins new school year

by on August 30, 2017 1:33 PM

SPRING MILLS — At 8 a.m. Aug. 28,  a school bus rolled down Manor Road into Centre Hall, stopping at James Avenue. The doors opened and a group of backpack-toting kids from the Grandview Terrace neighborhood climbed aboard for the short trip to the Centre Hall-Potter Elementary School.  

It was the first day of school for students in the Penns Valley School District.

Among the children on the bus were Nathan and Hunter Tomrell, twin sons of Matthew and Tara Tomrell. It was the boys’ first day of kindergarten, and their mother said they were excited about going to school. Their big brother, Jackson, was with them, beginning his year of second grade. Their parents waved to their sons as the bus pulled away, and Tara Tomrell shed a few tears.

Also tackling her first day was Penns Valley High School's new assistant principal, Jane Gessner, who holds a degree in agricultural business from Penn State University. She has spent 13 years teaching, most recently in the Warrior Run School District. She brings a wide variety of school related experience to her job in Penns Valley.

“I was a secretary, a bus driver and a teacher,” Gessner said. “I’ve held a lot of positions within a school. It definitely gives me a perspective on both sides.”

District superintendent Brian Griffith feels that Gessner is a good choice for Penns Valley.

“With her ag business background, she is very connected to the ag community,” Griffith said. “That brings a very nice flavor to the administration.”

Penns Valley’s agricultural program is well known and respected statewide.

Griffith said the high school’s wireless and hard-wired computer networks have all been upgraded, and a new network administrator, Cody Wian, has been employed. Wian is a Penns Valley graduate who brings a variety of experience managing networks to his new job.

Griffith said the district is in the process of hiring additional custodians, paraeducators and teachers. It also has added several advanced placement courses to its curriculum this school year, and has provided numerous professional development options for teachers.

The high school is undergoing a major year-long renovation project, which includes a new gymnasium, band room, air conditioning for the entire building, an upgraded entrance and library, a new life skills classroom area and more.

Griffith said steps have been taken to assure minimal disruption to students. Temporary walls have been erected to seal off heavy construction areas, and the main entrance has been temporarily relocated to the east side of the building and fitted with an automatic locking door vestibule for security. Students exiting buses will enter the building through the current gymnasium doors, and student parking will be at the rear of the building during the construction period.

Griffith said the district has two current goals: to create an innovative, content-rich school system with high levels of individualized student engagement and critical thinking, and to create a supportive and trusting environment for all stakeholders so that everyone has a mindset of lifelong learning and continuous growth.  


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