Is it a coincidence, divine design or a twist of fate that a young boy began his education at Pleasant Valley and ends his career there as well?
Dr. Douglas Arnold, 57, says he never could have imagined that he would someday become Pleasant Valley School District's superintendent but he always knew he would be emotionally tied to PV. His life-long affiliation with PV even predates his birth.
His roots to the community date back to the 1700s. His mother, Grace Bond Arnold graduated from Chestnuthill High School in 1945 as class president. His father, Charles Arnold, began his teaching career at Chestnuthill High School and retired as a Pleasant Valley Assistant Superintendent.
"Our family bought a yearbook every year. I remember looking at those books and always looked up to those upper classmen and women and believed PV to be a great place to be," he says.
When his older sister, Cynthia Arnold, became terminally ill at the age of 20, Arnold witnessed first hand how she was helped and cared for by others in the West End community and knew they lived in a special place.
It was when he was writing a term paper on Down syndrome that he decided he wanted to do something to help children with special needs.
A football linebacker and team captain at PVHS, his favorite pro team was and is, the Green Bay Packers. He was heavily influenced by coach Vincent Lombardi. Arnold played football at Wilkes College after graduating from PVHS in 1974. Then he suffered an injury that prevented him from playing the game he loved. He transferred to Kutztown University because of its special education program, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor of science degree.
He envisioned working at PV but a job opportunity arose at East Stroudsburg Area School District (ESASD). He taught: seventh- and eighth-grade special education; social studies and math; gifted students; and was the special education department chairman. While continuing his education, he accepted more administrative positions, eventually serving as assistant superintendent for Pupil Services.
"East Stroudsburg treated me well. I have made many life-long friends there," he says.
While working on his doctorate at Marywood University, his wife, Dora, was diagnosed with breast cancer. He remembers how she encouraged him to continue his education, so he'd sit at the dining room table working on his studies with her on the couch, so he could be near her if she needed anything.
In 2005, he received his Ph.D in education administration, was an adjunct professor at Marywood from 2005-2008 and awarded the McGowan Medal for Excellence in Doctoral Studies.
He has had several articles published in various publications, presented a paper and was inducted into the ESASD Meritorious Hall of Fame.
When he heard there was an opening at PV for the superintendent's position in 2007, he applied.
"I got lucky," he says of being hired. "I thought it was very special to be finally working at PV."
Over the years, Arnold has worn many hats, with one being very near and dear to his heart ... that of coaching. He coached East Stroudsburg High School football for 20 years (16 paid and four on a voluntary basis), serving as offensive coordinator from 1984-93. He was a part of nine championship teams. He coached at Penn State University's summer football camp 1992-1993.
"A special bond develops between players and coaches that never goes away. You develop life long bonds. I've loved so many of the kids I coached. I believe our purpose is to be champions and to be better people. I'd get my players' grades and keep abreast of how they were doing in school because I wanted them to be good students first."
Arnold also coached Little League baseball from 1990-97 and 2000-04, and was integrally involved in construction of two new major league-size playing fields. He served as a Babe Ruth baseball coach (ages 16-18) from 1997-2000, and created and developed the sponsor book as a fundraiser to finance the program. He founded the ESASD's strength training program and served as high school strength and conditioning coach from 1979-93.
Over the years he has continued to be involved in several service organizations, including serving on many boards as an officer.
Arnold and Dora, who have been married for 32 years, built their home in Brodheadsville in 1984, where they raised their two sons, Derek, 31 and Dennis, 21, both Pleasant Valley graduates. He hopes to spend more time with family in retirement and plans to continue serving the community.
"Sometimes you wonder how you end up where you do. I never dreamed I'd be doing this job here someday. It's special, from being a little kid working at a desk to having a job where you can make a difference in the same school district. It became a humbling experience. It was my hope to bring honor to the school district where I once looked up to all the teachers and administrators, like John C. Mills, Kenny Reid, John Nye, all excellent administrators, a tradition of fine leadership."
Arnold is just as sure of excellent leadership to continue under the helm of Carole Geary when she begins her duties as PV's new superintendent Aug. 1.
"Carole did an excellent job as our assistant superintendent. She is extremely knowledgeable and a top-level student administrator. She is dedicated to the district and a hard worker. I know she will do a terrific job," he says.
"When you coach, you hope to be undefeated, have a perfect season. Teaching is like coaching. You want every kid to come to school and leave having a perfect day. I remember what the great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi said, 'Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.'"
Dr. Arnold would like to be remembered for having chased perfection, catching as much excellence as he could for his students along the way.