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Hamburg superintendent preparing to wrap up his 40-year career in education

Dr. Richard Mextorf isn’t counting down the days, he’s not anxiously awaiting the end.

The Hamburg School District superintendent has announced he will retire on June 30 after 40 years working in education, the last nine leading Hamburg. And although he is comfortable with his decision to call it a career, he’s not exactly in a rush to get out.

“I’m enjoying every day here, because it will be over soon,” the 61-year-old Mextorf said. “You blink and 40 years have gone by.”

Those four decades working in education, Mextorf said, have been a blessing. He’s spent them doing something he loves, he’s dedicated himself to something he feels truly has value.

“Having a job with a compelling purpose is important, and I think education is a pretty important purpose,” he said in an interview. “I have a profound commitment to our young people that are in our care because I really believe in our young people.”

Mextorf started his career in education back in 1984. He worked as a music teacher in the Williamsport School District for 12 years.

He also was an assistant football coach. And one day, after practice, he was approached by the high school principal.

She was talking about the difficulties she was having finding an assistant principal she was happy with. The next day, she asked him if he wanted to take over as dean of students for the rest of the year.

If he didn’t like the move into administration, she told him, he could go back into the classroom after the year was over. It turned out, the move fit him perfectly.

Mextorf would go on to serve as an assistant principal for about four years. After that, he headed to the nearby Loyalsock School District to serve as a middle school principal.

Unexpected move

Dr. Richard Mextorf
Dr. Richard Mextorf

Eventually, Mextorf became assistant superintendent and then superintendent at Loyalsock. After stops in the State College School District and Grove City School District — both as superintendent — he found his way to Hamburg in 2015.

It wasn’t a move he expected to make.

“I thought I was going to retire in Grove City,” he said. “But all of my family were living out east. I moved here to be closer to my children and my grandchildren.”

Despite not being expected, Mextorf said he’s glad he made the move to Hamburg. Working in the district, he said, has been an incredible pleasure.

“Everybody who walks through these door, I think, are committed to theses kids,” he said. “I see that every day. I see our teachers and support staff really being champions for our kids. And not just the easy kids, but the ones who struggle.

“There is a really special culture here.”

That dedication to kids fits perfectly with Mextorf’s own views. He said he takes very seriously his role helping students traverse their educational paths.

“Watching kids get that spark, watching them grow, to me that’s the most important thing in the world,” he said.

That mindset, and that dedication to nurturing students, has left those who have worked with Mextorf to hold him in high regard.

“Dr. Mextorf has been an invaluable instrument of learning to the Hamburg Area School District over his past nine years at his post,” said Ryan Gebely, president of the Hamburg School Board. “He has helped guide our district through some of the most challenging times in modern history while creating an atmosphere of uniting talent and passion together.”

Gebely said the district has thrived under Mextrof’s watch.

“He has helped raise the Hamburg Area School District to new heights and created an environment that has made our district, not only desirable for parents to want to raise their children in, but also for teachers to want to come to and make a lifelong career at,” he said. “Our district is set on a path of true success because of the efforts and vision Dr. Mextorf is leaving as his legacy.”

All about the students

Mextorf said he sees that legacy — as well as that of all educators — as helping students figure out what they like and what they’re good at. He said he sees it as helping kids to become curious, about allowing them to develop self-confidence, grit and determination.

“It’s about helping them become good human beings,” he said. “That’s the greatest hope for our future. Theses kids, they’re going to invent new things, they’re going to serve their communities and contribute to the wider world.”

Mextorf said working with students gives him hope. He sees a lot of talent in them, he said, and a desire to make a difference in the world.

“The young people we are educating today have tremendous potential,” he said. “They have ideas and courage and curiosity. They want to do good things in the world, and we just have to open up the pathways for them.

“They’re going to go out and they’re going to improve the world.”

Family time

Listening to Mextorf speak, it would be easy to question his decision to walk away from the education world. But he insists his decision to retire is the right one.

For him, it’s all about family.

Mextorf said his third grandson was born three years ago, right in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of his duties as superintendent, as well as some health problems he dealt with, he wasn’t able to spend as much time with him as he would have liked.

“I feel like I missed a lot of his first three years.” he said.

Mextorf said he has another grandchild on the way. And, he said, this time he wants to make sure he’s there for every major moment.

He said he and his wife plan to really dive into being grandparents to their grandchildren, who live in Hamburg, Williamsport and New York.

“We just want to be the best grandparents we can be to them,” he said. “I’m excited to have the freedom to be ‘Pops.’”

Mextorf also has some other plans for retirement. He said he and a buddy of his play acoustic guitar together, and they plan to travel to each of the 25 nursing homes in Berks County to perform for senior citizens.

“We’re going to each of them to entertain the old folks,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”

The event included music by the Front Porch Strippers band, featuring Richard J. Mextorf and Terry Laughlin performing a wide range of familiar songs on guitar, "stripping music down to the simplest form" and "singing from the heart." (Lisa Mitchell - MediaNews Group)
Dr. Richard Mextorf and Terry Laughlin perform at an event in 2023. (READING EAGLE)

Although he’s excited by his retirement plans, Mextorf admitted leaving his career in education will be tough. But, he added, his exit comes after a long, fulfilling career.

“Leaving here, my heart is heavy but my heart is full,” he said. “I feel privileged to have worked in the profession, and also to have worked here in Hamburg.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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