JENKINTOWN >> Dr. Timothy Wade is retiring as a superintendent of schools for a second time. The jury’s still out as to whether this time it will stick.
The Jenkintown School District superintendent for nine years, Wade’s last day will be Aug. 11, and he and his wife will head out to Washington state, where his two children and four grandchildren live.
“My wife told me we’re moving next to our grandkids. By December, I lost the debate,” he said.
The couple sold their house in Jenkintown and his wife went out about a year ago, and now it’s time to for him to go, he said.
“She made me promise I will do nothing for six months,” Wade said. “People are taking bets.”
After 46 years in education, Wade, 68, reflected in a July 26 interview how he was initially hesitant to apply for the Jenkintown position.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Wade lived most of his life in Haddon Heights, N.J., received his undergraduate degree from Glassboro State College, a Master of Education and an MBA from Temple University and a Doctor of Education from the University of Delaware.
Having served as a superintendent in Medford Lakes, Cinnaminson Township and Ewing Township in New Jersey, he retired from Ewing, which had an early retirement system, he said. After 15 months as the vice president of the state Chamber of Commerce — “it was not a world I was used to” — he spent the next 15 months as an assistant professor of education administration at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J.
He was also chief scorer at the Educational Testing Service, where he had always served as a consultant.
“I really liked what I had been doing,” but when a colleague told him of a job he would be “perfect for,” he hesitated. “Ewing had 4,000 students and four assistant superintendents,” he said. “I came up through small districts; I was not going small again.”
His colleague urged him to “just go and talk to these people,” and he was sold.
“I was really very impressed,” Wade said. The district “was in a construction mode,” and he “had done lots of buildings in New Jersey.”
His first three years were spent finishing renovations at the elementary and high schools and the new administration building, he said.
“I did a lot of things,” Wade said. “I had to pivot sometimes … the building came along very well.
“The Jenkintown schools have great teachers, great parents and a school board that will get you what you need. The school board wanted the best, but to spend as little as possible,” he said. “I felt like I died and had gone to Heaven.”
The rest of the administrative staff was very good; “we worked as a team,” Wade said. “Sometimes we disagreed, but we were not disagreeable.”
Referring to the recession of 2006-07, Wade said, “We came out better than most school districts; in a lot of ways we were fortunate.
“The board made some good decisions; they built on each other’s ideas.”
Jenkintown High School reached the rank of 135th out of 14,000 in the United States and fifth in Pennsylvania under his watch, Wade said, and recently won a national Green Ribbon Award for its energy conservation and environmental efforts.
“Education has a very important place with this community,” he said, noting full-day kindergarten was established under him. The district received 1,100 applications for the kindergarten position and was able to “hire the best we could.”
The district also instituted a number of security measures and has built a “strong technology, wireless program,” he said. “We’re close to the top in Montgomery County in innovation.
“The district is academically very good and we kept on that path,” Wade said, while building strong arts and sports programs, as well. “Eighty-two percent of students in grades seven to 12 are involved in some sports activity.”
Wade, who works out six days a week and arrives at school at 5:15 a.m. every morning, said his goal has always been: “How do we fix it, how do we get it to work? Our one objective was always to do what was right, first for the students and then for the community.”
The incoming superintendent, Dr. Jill Takacs, “will fit in here very nicely,” Wade said. “She can make it even better.
“I’m going to miss working with this community; it’s a great community. It’s a good way to end a career,” he said. “Jenkintown is a very special place.”