Dave Scanga received a standing ovation during his final meeting with the Pasco County School board and district leaders, at the beginning of March.
Superintendent Kurt Browning lauded Scanga for his 27 years of service to the district.
“I’ll tell you, when Dave walks out the door, there’s going to be a great deal of institutional history that is walking out with him,” Browning said.
“His fingerprints are on so many things around here,” the superintendent added.
“Dave has been a rock,” Browning said, characterizing Scanga as “the voice of reason” during various staff discussions.
School board members praised Scanga’s ability to work through issues.
Board member Colleen Beaudoin recalled her first encounter with the assistant superintendent, which came when she was parent attending a board meeting, to call attention to an issue.
“He took me aside afterward and we problem-solved and worked together, and it was a really great experience,” Beaudoin said.
“He really listens to parents and community members, and I greatly appreciate that,” she added.
Board Chairwoman Cynthia Armstrong said the board could count on Scanga to be responsive, whenever it was warranted.
“I didn’t have to worry, you were going to be there, and you were going to handle it with such calm and reason and grace,” Armstrong said.
Board member Allison Crumbley said, the way Scanga worked through a problem, “everybody felt pretty good by the time it was solved.”
Board member Megan Harding appreciated Scanga’s presence — not only when a situation needed correction, but also to celebrate a success.
“You’ve always been there and you’ve been advocating for our kids,” Harding told Scanga. “I am unbelievably grateful for you.”
Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd weighed in on Scanga’s even temperament.
“Over the years, he’s come into my office a few times, just madder than heck about a few things. And, he was very calm, when he was mad,” Gadd said. “Rarely is he mad, but even when he is mad, he is calm.”
In his final role, Scanga was an assistant superintendent. Before that, he was director of research, a principal, an assistant principal and a behavioral specialist.
Scanga arrived in Pasco County after working overseas for 10 years in Saudi Arabia, Africa and Japan. He worked in student services in those schools.
Scanga grew up on a farm outside of Pittsburgh, in a family of nine children.
He said his international experiences broadened his perspective and deepened his understanding of himself.
He was attracted to Pasco County through a recruiting effort, and once he arrived had no desire to leave.
“At our core (in Pasco County Schools), we do believe in supporting the whole child and we do believe in connecting to the family,” Scanga explained.
He also admires that the district gives principals the autonomy to work with the community.
Scanga said he was attracted to serving in an administrative role because he desired a wider sphere of influence. He wanted to focus on helping others develop their leadership skills.
“The joy of my career has been working with principals, and the great ones … they create the context for everybody to feel like they’re part of the work,” Scanga said.
Role of principal complex, challenging
Scanga holds principals in high esteem.
“They are excited. You can barely contain them. They want to be so successful. But they also are stepping into a role that is very complex and very challenging — a lot of responsibility,” Scanga said.
“Every principal I’ve ever worked with has basically said: ‘I thought I knew what it was going to feel like. But I didn’t.’”
It’s a tough job, Scanga said.
“Principals are at the apex of everything below them and are a conduit to everyone above them,” Scanga said.
He said he appreciated being able to be a mentor to new principals, and to help them build a network of support, where they could learn from one another’s experiences.
In a group meeting, Scanga said, one principal might say: “’I have this problem.’
“And everyone else in the room will go: ‘So, do I.’’
The quality of a principal’s leadership has a direct bearing on the effectiveness of a school, Scanga added.
“It doesn’t matter, the context of the school — the socioeconomic level, high or low, (or) where you are geographically — a good principal will make a difference in whatever situation you put them in, whether it’s a brand-new school, or a school that’s been there for 100 years.
“Helping principals transition into the role is part of what I’ve been able to do and what I’ve enjoyed,” Scanga said.
Whether on the front lines, or working at a higher level, Scanga said his driving motivation has been same: To foster a culture where children had the opportunity to learn, and to thrive.
Although stepping away from Pasco County Schools, Scanga will remain active in education — continuing in his role as an adjunct professor at Saint Leo University.
He is passionate about public education.
“I believe it’s the bedrock of our democracy, and even though, we’re under attack sometimes, it’s the people in this (district board) room that are going to make the difference,” Scanga said, during his last school board meeting..
“They’re going to keep public education viable. They’re going to keep it so that every student has that opportunity that they need to have to become a strong, literate citizen in this country,” Scanga said.
Public educators must stay the course, he said.
“If we ever blink, it will be our fault because basically without it (public education), the country just won’t be what it is meant to be,” he said.
Published April 06, 2022