From our readers
The month of August marks the 30th anniversary of the departure of Dr. Robert R. Cummings as Superintendent of the East Lycoming School District in Hughesville. Cummings served as Superintendent from July 1975 to August 1981. I wanted to take just a moment or two to fondly recall, and deservingly so, his distinguished service to the district and the greater Hughesville area.
Cummings’ persona was a cross between the legendary James Dean, Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke, and Bob Crane’s character of Colonel Hogan in Hogan’s Heroes. Simply put, Cummings was one Cool Cat! The epitome of grace under fire, you never saw him sweat and he never had a hair out of place. Possessing a very rare gift, he was always calm, cool, and collected regardless of the circumstance at hand.
Cummings possessed a distinguished doctorate in educational administration from Penn State at a time when few area public school administrators held field related doctorates. He was a rare find for sure in the Lycoming County area for those times. Youthful and brilliant in his own right, he would go on to even bigger things, retiring as a middle school principal in a prestigious Philadelphia area school district, collecting numerous awards and commendations along the way.
Cummings was masterful at many things that you might expect a superintendent to simply be competent in, notably teacher supervision. Heading for the rear of the classroom with a pen and notepad in hand, by the end of class he would have noted specific examples warranting commendation as well as areas for improvement. Teachers in the district in 1975 were clearly better teachers in the classroom by 1981. To this end alone, the district was well served by his leadership.
Cummings was an outstanding motivator, holding faculty and administrators alike accountable for conduct and performance, and doing so in a manner that was both “old school” and at the same time “cutting edge.” His two notable expressions were not only spot on, but also clearly epitomized his leadership and educational philosophy. “The business of education is not business, it’s education” and “What’s right isn’t always what’s popular and what’s popular isn’t always what’s right.”
It should also be noted that the district’s businesses on his watch was managed with exceptional care as the record points out. The Department of Education conducted a three year examination audit of the district spanning a period covering much of his final three years in the ELSD. The report was released at the end of 1981 conducting a perfect audit (no errors) with notable commendation from the State for a job well done in the district’s handling of its business affairs.
Cummings was also adept at sourcing top talent both from within and without the district. By the time of his departure in August of 1981, the district had two outstanding principals in place and one outstanding business administrator (of whom my family is particularly proud of).
In a final tribute, please indulge me for a moment as I attempt to adapt a common vernacular expression from the period in reference, that of course being the early 1980’s.
You Rock Doc!
Robert M. Stroup II