Keira Scussa has deep roots in Medford.
She was part of the first graduating class at Cranberry Pines Elementary School, graduated from Shawnee High School, bought a house and gave her kids the same education.
Now, she hopes to bring her love and understanding of the township to the forefront in her new role as administrative director of educational programming and planning at the Medford Township School District.
“Coming to Medford, to me, was really like coming home,” Scussa said.
Prior to joining the school district, Scussa worked as a reading specialist, gifted and talented, special education and basic skills teacher. She recently left a job as assistant superintendent of curriculum in New Brunswick.
Scussa’s new role will allow her to apply skills she’s learned throughout her 23-year career in education. As administrative director, she’ll cover curriculum, testing, program planning and more.
Scussa took over the role from Rich Lacovara, a longtime staple in Medford schools who’s retiring this year. As Superintendent Joseph Del Rossi explained at December’s school board meeting, she’s got “big shoes to fill.”
“Rich gave me all the time that I needed to sit down and have conversations with him,” Scussa explained. “His roots were here as well. I think that he set a really good example of the importance of knowing the teachers, recognizing the work that the teachers and administrators do every day and keeping a close handle on what’s going on in the schools.”
As director, Scussa hopes to continue that hands-on tradition. For her, the learning that goes on within the classroom is paramount, something she learned from her own experience as a student in Medford.
“I could go year by year and think about characteristics of teachers who I had growing up and say, ‘I want to do this the way that they did, I want to teach this the way that they did,’” Scussa noted. “But to be able to come back and talk to people about those experiences, and they know the people that I’m speaking about, is really amazing.
“Some of my colleagues now are people who I grew up with, so that really makes it special.”
For now, Scussa is focused on learning and building relationships with school staff and faculty. With their guidance, she hopes to build a curriculum that takes advantage of technology available to the district and makes the transition to high school easier on students.
“There’s a lot of possibilities and a lot of things that I’m excited about,”Scussa said. “This is really an opportunity for me to listen and learn right now, and then determine where my strengths can match what the opportunities are from that.”
Of course, Scussa faces a unique challenge: education during a pandemic. She believes the best way to learn is in person, but understands the importance of keeping the district community safe.
“I believe that our schools are safe,” she maintained. “We’re looking ahead to 2021 and we’re hoping for the best, and we’re planning ways we can make this best not just for our students, but for our staff as well.”
During her transition period, Scussa met with several groups of parents, teachers and others. The one theme they all had in common? Family.
“Over and over again, I heard people saying to me that Medford is a family,” she noted. “You walk into school and you feel like it’s an extension of your home, and that really resonated with me.
“It really is that homecoming family feel for me.”