News Column

Poling tapped as new CEO at Lincoln Park

May 15, 2014

By Tom Davidson, Beaver County Times, Pa.

May 15--MIDLAND -- After spending most of the 2013-14 school year as acting CEO/principal, P.K. Poling is officially at the helm of the 8-year-old Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center Charter School.

Poling got the Midland school through a year that started with the abrupt resignation of former chief executive officer Rebecca Manning in September.

Manning quit on the heels of the indictment of the school's founder, Nick Trombetta, on federal charges for allegedly siphoning $1 million in public money and using a network of companies to hide $8 million from the Internal Revenue Service.

Trombetta also founded Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, which also is based in Midland.

Manning hasn't been charged criminally, but identified herself as vice president of one of the companies Trombetta used as his "retirement account," according to U.S. Attorney David Hickton.

The school is no longer tied to Trombetta.

Poling is focused on educating Lincoln Park's 700 students, something he's overseen as principal since 2007, he said.

The Lincoln Park board formally named Poling as CEO in April and his salary will be $120,000 per year -- about the same rate that Manning was paid, Poling said.

Chris Shovlin, Lincoln Park School Board president, said several educators applied for the job. The board narrowed it down to three finalists, and Poling was chosen because of his familiarity with school operations, Shovlin said.

During the process of picking a new CEO, Shovlin said it became apparent that staff members respected Poling and that he's "an effective leader."

"There were no hiccups; no bumps in the road" during Poling's tenure as interim CEO, Shovlin said.

Poling will serve double-duty and also work as principal of the school for the time being, something that will save the school money, although other administrative changes may take place to lessen Poling's workload, Shovlin said.

Lincoln Park is counting on Poling to lead it "to the next levels," he said, emphasizing more than one level the school aims to rise above.

"The school's in great shape," Shovlin said.

Poling, 49, lives in Chester, W.Va., and previously work as a middle and elementary principal in East Liverpool (Ohio) School District and as assistant principal in Northgate School District, which serves Bellevue and Avalon.

He's also worked as a teacher and head football coach at Oak Glen High School in West Virginia.

Poling said he "loves to come to work" each day at Lincoln Park.

"It's a special place to be," he said. "The students are just awesome. They really are. It's a joy to come to work."

His philosophy is to keep the focus on the students.

"Education doesn't have to be as complicated as a lot of people make it out to be if you just make decisions in the best interest of the students," Poling said. "The hardest thing to do is for the teacher to make a connection with the kids."

He's grown with the school, he said, and "this is a job I was ready for."

The school's working this summer on a strategic plan and setting goals for the future.

"It's actually a pretty exciting time," Poling said.

There are also challenges, as state leaders debate how charter schools should be funded in Pennsylvania, but Poling said at Lincoln Park, "I think we have a model here that's working."

"We just ask that everybody get treated the same," he said of brick-and-mortar public and charter schools.

Lincoln Park's students come from 75 different school districts in seven counties. It has a $7.8 million annual budget.

Because its students choose to attend the school, leaders at Lincoln Park have a built-in accountability that other public schools don't face, he said.

"We are truly here to take care of the kids, because they don't have to be here," he said. "If everybody operated like that, it wouldn't be as complicated."


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Source: Beaver County Times (PA)

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