GJSD board names Geelan interim superintendent

posed headshot of woman with shoulder-length brown hair wearing glassesDr. Karen Geelan was appointed interim superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District during a meeting of the district’s Board of Education on Tuesday, Sept. 17. She will begin her position on Sept. 30, and her contract expires June 30, 2020.

“Dr. Geelan will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with her when she joins our district. Her ability to effectively communicate along with her willingness to be visible, transparent and honest are qualities we need from a superintendent who will be leading this district going forward,” said Christopher Tallon, president of the GJSD Board of Education.

Board members were unanimous in their selection of Geelan as interim superintendent. Geelan replaces Dr. Patricia Kilburn, who was named district superintendent at Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES over the summer.

Geelan served as superintendent at Valhalla Union Free School District in Westchester County for the past two years, and before that, she spent six years as superintendent at Allegany-Limestone Central School District in Cattaraugus County. As a school district leader, she has been active in regional and statewide initiatives, advocating for the students and taxpayers of her districts.

“When I met with the Johnstown Board of Education members, they described a close-knit community that values its schools, is proud of its talented faculty and staff, and truly cares about the welfare and achievements of their students. This is closely aligned with my core beliefs for public education,” Geelan said. “Secondly, the district is facing some challenges with which I may be able to assist. I am ready to put my experiences and education to work alongside the Greater Johnstown learning community. Together, we can continue the good work that is in motion and chart our course for excellence.”

Geelan has held leadership positions at elementary, middle and high schools in both rural and suburban school districts. Before moving in to school administration, she taught math in Western New York for 12 years. Geelan earned her doctorate in education from the University at Buffalo, where she focused her studies on how schools and districts become adept at change so they can resiliently bounce back from adversity.

“Dr. Geelan’s background and experiences closely align to the Johnstown School District’s most critical areas of need. She brings a record of collaborating to create budgets through the lens of established priorities, using those priorities to guide difficult choices,” said David Ziskin, HFM BOCES District Superintendent, who helped the board complete the search for Johnstown’s interim superintendent.

Geelan plans to relocate to the Johnstown area for the length of her term. She said she’s looking forward to living in an area with such a high quality of life.

“Spending time outdoors has always been a priority for our family, and being here provides quick access to a number of new trails and waterways to explore,” Geelan said. “To me there is no greater professional joy than to work with dedicated educators, with students as our central focus in a beautiful community.”

What others are saying about Dr. Geelan

Statement read by Christopher Tallon, GJSD Board of Education President, during the Sept. 17 board meeting:
It is with great pleasure to announce that the GJSD BOE has concluded its search and has selected a new interim Superintendent of Schools. We are pleased that Dr. Karen Geelan will be joining the Greater Johnstown School District as the interim superintendent on September 30, 2019 through June 30, 2020. We would like to thank Capital Region BOCES Superintendent Anita Murphy and HFM BOCES Superintendent Dave Ziskin for their assistance during this process.

Dr. Geelan is a seasoned superintendent having served in the same capacity, in two prior districts, with a total of eight years of experience as a superintendent. Prior to becoming a superintendent Dr. Geelan had served as principal at the high school, middle school, and elementary school level. Dr. Geelan’s start in education began as a teacher with a concentration in mathematics.

Dr. Geelan is well regarded by previous staff and district administrators in the previous districts she has been employed. She will be bringing with her a great deal of knowledge and experience working with districts of similar size and operating budgets, which will be helpful given our district’s current situation.   Her impressive background, with curriculum and emphasis on student achievement, will also be a welcomed asset to this district. We not only face financial challenges but we are currently in a transition of how we offer our curriculum to our students.

Dr. Geelan is an accomplished, confident, enthusiastic, and passionate individual. Her interview process with the BOE was extremely comfortable, well prepared, and detailed as it pertains to how she feels she can help our district moving forward.

She will be entering the GJSD with the unanimous support of the BOE and that of the Assistant Superintendent. We have great confidence that she will develop a great working relationship with the current administration, teachers, and other district staff. And, she expressed an interest in being visible, involved, and a member of this community. We are eager to begin working with her and we are excited for the future of this district.  On behalf of the GJSD, we welcome Dr. Karen Geelan to our Johnstown family.

David Ziskin, HFM BOCES District Superintendent:
“Karen Geelan’s background and experiences closely align to the Johnstown School District’s most critical areas of need. She brings a record of collaborating to create budgets through the lens of established priorities, using those priorities to guide difficult choices. Karen also has a thorough understanding of school accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act and has deeply engaged with the Next Generation Learning Standards, both of which are extremely important to the future of Johnstown’s schools. Additionally, Dr. Geelan’s experiences as a policy advocate at both the state and national levels adds another strong voice to the district’s lobbying efforts.”

Ruthie Cook, GJSD Assistant Superintendent:
“Dr. Geelan values community connections, and she has experience establishing collaborative relationships to share resources and ideas regionally. In addition to her strong fiscal background, she is a curricular leader with educational leadership experience at all levels.”