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Leaving 34 years of dedicated service

By Staff | Jun 24, 2015

PHOTO BY BARB BARRETT/The Luminary Bill Knapsack will be retiring from East Lycoming School District on June 30 as principal at Renn Elementary School in Lairdsville and Ferrell in Picture Rocks where he is standing. Bill greeted every one of the students each morning as they entered through the school's door.

PICTURE ROCKS – A long standing principal who will be sadly missed will end his education career at East Lycoming School District on June 30, 2015.

To many Bill Knapsack was a friendly face that greeted them every morning while attending Ferrell Elementary School in Picture Rocks, Ashkar in Hughesville, or Renn Elementary in Lairdsville.

He was always beaming with a smile and a warm welcome that made everyone feel special. Born in southern Connecticut, it was his marriage to Douglass Phillips who brought him to Lycoming County. The couple met while they were both teaching in Dallas, Texas in the early 80’s. Bill began his career at an inner city school. “This was a great experience for me,” he said. “It was raw teaching with little supplies, but great kids and families,” he added noting that 98 percent of the student body was on reduced lunches.

After spending 7 years there he said he learned the most about teaching. Bill who wanted to earn his master’s degree in administration, took the opportunity to pursue his graduate degree at East Texas State University.

Family matters brought the couple back to this area in 1991 and the Knapsacks settled into the Montgomery community. Bill earned his administrative certificate at Bucknell University and it wasn’t long before he was hired at East Lycoming School District. He taught at Curtin Middle School in Williamsport for 3 years and then at Renn Elementary in Lairdsville for three years before taking a principal position at Muncy’s Elementary School. However, he spent the last 13 years as Principal at Ashkar, Renn, and Ferrell Elementary schools in East Lycoming School District.

Bill said he is looking forward to spending time with his family and four daughters, but more than anything he said he is going to miss the faces of the kids he would greet first thing every morning. “I would try to be the first at the front door,” he told the Luminary. “This will stick in my mind quite a bit.”

One of the highlights of his career in education was when Ferrell was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. “We had a big celebration,” added Knapsack. “The community pride was really special – really cool!” he explained.

He credits the accomplishment to the entire school. “I feel I was at the right place at the right time with great kids, a great staff, and a great community.”

Being part of the education experience and what the community does for their families is what he is going to miss the most. “They help each other,” he said citing examples of the flood of 2011. “We became a distribution center for those in need,” Knapsack said. Students and families who lost their homes to a flood or fire could find relief at the school. “We would raise funds for clothing and food. At Christmas and Thanksgiving we would give presents and money.”

Knapsack would split his days between the two elementary schools, Renn and Ferrell, and rotate mornings. “Both schools showed a tremendous pride and I would see this in the next generation, ” he replied.

He summarized by saying, “It’s about us and we, and us working as a team.” He related three important lessons on life he learned from listening to the kids over the years. “They are great teachers,” he said. He learned from them to keep them safe, to have fun and make good choices, and finally to “try to be one of the good guys.”

Bill will be “passing the torch” on to Jill Warg who will be his replacement to “enhance things and make it better.”

A meet and greet was held in his honor on May 15th at Renn Elementary during their Spring Fling where special memories were shared by faculty members and students. With much emotion he added, “I have had great support from the school boards, the administrators and my family, and more than 400 students that I looked over during my years here.”