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Five Questions … With Pat Abrunzo, Director of School Support and Improvement

September 10, 2013

resizedPatAbrunzoThroughout the year, The Bulletin will feature a five-question interview with someone in MCPS. Today’s five-question interview is with Pat Abrunzo, a native of Williamsport, Penn., a descendant of Italian immigrants (his father was a shoe repairman in Italy), who always stressed the importance of education.

You must have seen incredible changes in education in 50 years. Talk to me about that.

Instruction has changed. When I was a teacher, we had textbooks and each textbook had a teacher’s edition. You opened that and it was scripted, everything you were supposed to teach was right there. There was no differentiation, no acceleration and no supports.

Technology has changed. We had 16 millimeter projectors! Now with the Promethean boards and the Elmos, it’s just unbelievable.

Parent outreach. Now, we get people involved. In the early years, you seldom saw a parent in a classroom volunteering. They weren’t encouraged to come in.

Oh, how school buildings have changed. I started out in a three-story, red brick building. If a school had 400 or 500 students then, that was a lot. The size of schools are huge now. It used to be you have to have at least 600 students to get an assistant principal (AP). I was a principal at four different schools (Lynnbrook, Bells Mill, Chevy Chase and Lake Seneca) and I never had an AP.

And salaries have changed! When I started out in 1961, I was making $3,800 a year. My second year, I made $4,000. When I came to Montgomery County, I was making $6,100. I thought, ‘Man, I am rich!’

What hasn’t changed?

The dedication, hard work and perseverance of our employees. Let’s face it, people don’t go into education to make money. To meet the needs of all our kids is not easy.

It’s still true that parents send their most precious thing to school. Parents still want the best for their kids.

How did you decide to go into education?

In my junior year at Lycoming College, I got to know the director of the education department. He told me they needed someone to go over to South Williamsport and read to students. So I said sure, I’ll do that. I fell in love with those students. They were so attentive and so interested. Before that, my major was biology and I planned to be a pharmaceutical salesman. That one moment changed my whole direction.

Do you have any plans for retirement?

My wife, Jean, asks me all the time. She was a staff development teacher at McNair (Elementary School) and retired a few years ago. I really enjoy getting up every day and coming to work. Working with principals, I love that part of the job. I love working with Donna Hollingshead and with the entire OSSI staff.

One day I’ll probably get up and say ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I love what I do and as long as I have my health, I’ll keep doing it.

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

I love sports, especially college football and basketball. When you grow up in Pennsylvania, you’re a Penn State fan. I love working outside. I have four acres, so I do a lot of yardwork. I enjoy fishing; I go with my son in the Everglades when I get down to Florida. I work out; I do the elliptical for 40 minutes regularly and the weight machines for toning. I’m the same weight I was in high school.

Do you have an MCPS colleague that you think would be a good candidate for “Five Questions?” Let us know!