Dover superintendent Tracy Krum reflects on her past four years before May retirement

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch

Superintendent Tracy Krum will retire May 1, four years to the day from when she started her tenure with the Dover Area School District. 

Her replacement, Kelly Cartwright, started her job Monday as the district's assistant superintendent, giving her two months to learn the job alongside Krum before she takes over.

Dover Area School District superintendent Tracy Krum, left, and Kelly Cartwright pose outside the district administration building Monday, March 8, 2021. Cartwright is replacing Krum, who is retiring. Bill Kalina photo

This is a stark contrast to how Krum took on the role in 2017. 

Krum began her time at Dover as the assistant superintendent May 1, 2017. But shortly after her first day, the previous superintendent resigned, and the staff asked her to become the interim superintendent. She said she was "shell-shocked" by the request. 

"I walked around stunned," she said. 

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She agreed to be the interim superintendent but said she initially had no intention of seeking the job permanently. She wanted to be the assistant superintendent, she said, and focus on updating the district's curriculum, which was the reason she was hired. 

However, Krum said working with her administrative team convinced her she should pursue the superintendent's position. They helped her adjust to the role and repeatedly assured her that she was right for the position. 

"They had my back from day one," Krum said. 

Krum applied for the job that August and officially started as Dover's official superintendent in September.

From the beginning, Krum said her team had a lot to deal with. The first day of the district's 2017-18 school year was the 2017 solar eclipse, and Krum said she called for early dismissals that day to avoid students going blind. Just two days after she was appointed as the permanent superintendent, a Dover student was hit by a car and died. 

These situations would be difficult enough to manage on their own, but Krum said things were even more challenging because the district didn't have specific procedures for how to respond to them yet. The day the student died, she said, she and her team were up all night putting together a response plan for the following day. 

Dover Area School District Superintendent Tracy Krum speaks during a meeting at Dover Elementary School Tuesday, June 16, 2020, regarding a vote to approve an appeal of the Commonwealth Court's decision to allow Washington Township to transfer school districts. Bill Kalina photo

Much of Krum's first few months on the job were focused on establishing these sorts of procedures, but now she said the staff knows how to respond to difficult situations. Unfortunately, Dover has had other students die since 2017, but Krum said employees are prepared to handle it now. 

The craziness of Krum's first year at Dover played a role in her decision to bring Cartwright on board two months before she started as the new superintendent. Krum said she wanted Cartwright to have access to resources she didn't have when she started. 

"I had no one," Krum said. 

Cartwright previously served as assistant to the superintendent for elementary education for the Conestoga Valley School District in Lancaster County. She worked at that district for 19 years, also serving as a principal there. 

Though Cartwright didn't aspire to become a superintendent when she started her career, she said she "got the bug" early on. Eventually, that became her goal. She said she applied for the position at Dover because the district had a lot of similarities to Conestoga Valley. 

Dover Area School District superintendent Tracy Krum, Monday, March 8, 2021, is retiring. Bill Kalina photo

Although a lot has changed at Dover under Krum's leadership, including hiring the district's first social workers and introducing school-day counseling, Krum said she considers her biggest accomplishment to be the new administrators coming in. Along with Cartwright, Dover is also getting a new assistant superintendent, a new chief financial officer and new principals in all but one school. 

Krum said Cartwright has a good vision for how to move the district forward. Though Cartwright said she did not know anything about Krum before applying for the job, as soon as they met she said they felt like "soul sisters." Cartwright said she wants to further the progress Krum made at Dover in areas such as student achievement and district culture. 

Cartwright will take over Krum's role during a challenging time for the district. Washington Township families will officially leave Dover and join the Northern York County School District as of July 1 following a court order, which Krum said translates to about 220 students. Krum said she considers this issue to be the most challenging part of her job. 

"It's just so sad," Krum said. "We're losing a part of our family."

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Cartwright will also be superintendent as the district continues to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has created countless challenges for schools across the country. The pandemic was so challenging, Krum said she postponed her retirement about six months after it was originally set to happen in November. 

"Leaving in November would have been awful," she said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has "become a way of life" for many school employees, Cartwright said. But she said she hopes to move the district away from that and return to a model resembling normalcy if that is possible in the fall. 

A more normal form of instruction might be possible by then, as doses of the COVID-19 vaccine make their way to educators under a new plan from Gov. Tom Wolf. Although Krum said it was difficult dealing with the pandemic in her final year as superintendent, she is happy that there now seems to be "light at the end of the tunnel."

Retiring from Dover brings Krum's educational career full circle, as her first teaching job was at a Dover school in 1984, she said. Krum said she is leaving with no regrets, knowing the district is in good hands. 

"I just couldn't have asked for a better situation," Krum said.