James Boyle, the Wire
Less than two months into his post as the new superintendent for the Council Rock School District, Dr. Robert Fraser’s office has the look of someone too busy to finish unpacking.
It’s not a complete disaster area by any means, but the hardwood floor has a few piles of folders awaiting the filing cabinet, and the desk has some space for the computer and a cup of coffee, but not much else.
“It’s been 41 days, and I’m still in the moving-in phase at the office,” said Fraser. “It’s been lots of meetings with everybody in the district, the staff, faculty, parents, key members of the community and local organizations. I need to know the ‘who’ of Council Rock, then I will learn the ‘what.’ ”
The summer weeks have been an educational preamble to the main event: the return of Council Rock students to the classrooms this week. Fortunately, Fraser knows he has the preparation and support from the dedicated community of staff, parents and students to make the new school year a smooth one.
“Everybody has been amazing,” said Fraser. “They all have the intelligence and commitment to public education and making Council Rock the best it can be. Of course, I am going to take advantage of that.”
A rigorous six-month search by the Council Rock School Board to find a replacement for the retiring Dr. Mark Klein ended in May with the selection of Fraser. An assistant superintendent from the West Chester Area School District, Fraser has the unenviable position of not only following in the footsteps of a beloved educator who spent more than 40 years with Council Rock, but also maintaining the school district’s reputation as one of the top in the state.
“Any stress is self-induced,” said Fraser. “There has been no external pressure. I have high standards for myself, and I am my own worst critic. It will probably take a full year of school to completely understand everything.”
Fraser quickly dispels any notion that he intends to completely upend the district and turn it into something unrecognizable. There is no “West Chester Way” of doing things, he says, and the districts’ similarities, such as demographics and student body, played a part in his hiring.
“I am becoming acutely aware of the things that work,” said Fraser. “But it’s important to strive for continuous improvements. We will identify those areas that need help and make sure they are at the highest level of standards.”
It doesn’t hurt that, since starting on July 1, Fraser had access to the best possible resource: Dr. Klein himself. Klein resigned as superintendent on June 30, but held off retirement until Sept. 1, giving him time to work alongside Fraser and give him a head start in the community.
Fraser suspects that a man who dedicated most of his life to the school district won’t be able to completely walk away and is grateful to know that he can call Klein anytime for advice.
“He has been a phenomenal mentor and has become a good friend,” said Fraser. “I’ve been very fortunate to have him next door to my office. If it were up to me, he wouldn’t leave.”