Published first on the Progress News, October 12, 2020

David McDeavitt’s ties to the A-C Valley school district go back a ways.  “My father, actually, was a mason on the high school in the early 60s,” he explained, which resulted in quite a few stories around the dinner table.  So, when a position for an assistant principal opened up in 2006, this Slippery Rock native jumped at the opportunity to become a part of the A-C Valley family.  The warmth of the community-focused district did not disappoint.  “A small rural school district is really rewarding to be a part of,” Dr. McDeavitt noted, adding that the gorgeous surroundings make the trip to work especially pleasant.  “You come across the Allegheny and it’s just absolutely beautiful.”

Over the last decade and a half, Dr. McDeavitt has held multiple administrative roles with the district, culminating in his appointment as superintendent in 2012.  Since then, he and his team have embodied the spirit of redevelopment and adaptability as they continually work toward creating the safest, most inclusive and responsive public school environment possible.

I had the pleasure to first meet Dr. McDeavitt when I took on the role of Blueprint Community Coordinator and was looking for ways to re-engage with the school.  A-C Valley is truly a community school, a tie that binds the nearly 6000 people in this widely-spread district, bringing folks together from four separate counties over 121 square miles.  The school had been involved in the Blueprint initiative from the get-go, offering meeting space and collaborating with the original Core Team to develop a youth program.  So, when I approached Dr. McDeavitt to restart the conversation, he was extremely enthusiastic and supportive. 

Since that first meeting, Dr. McDeavitt has become a trusted ally and friend, someone who truly appreciates the value of collaboration and flexibility to strengthen a community.  Our early conversations led to the development of the school farm project, which will be breaking ground in the next month.  Dr. McDeavitt explained that his main goal is to continue to integrate the school into the community, and the community into the school, and he is excited by the opportunities a school farm presents.  “I just absolutely love the fact of being outside, and that we’re going to have community members and kids up there, rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty, and, you know, enjoying the outside.”  It is also a chance to engage with students and families outside of the traditional public school setting, such as AC-Valley cyberschoolers, homeschoolers, or Amish youth, providing an additional opportunity to bring the entire community together to share skills, knowledge, and perspectives.

Next week we’ll take a more detailed look at the steps A-C Valley has taken to adapt to the evolving challenges and pressures of being a public school in a small, rural area.  We’ll also explore how the district is planning ahead, looking to not just overcome and adapt to existing challenges, but to build upon strengths and maximize the advantages of our idyllic river valley.