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Palmerton hires elementary principal

Ralph Andrews’ titles in Palmerton Area School District include student, coach and teacher. As of Tuesday night, he can add elementary principal to that list.

Palmerton’s school board unanimously approved Andrews as principal of S.S. Palmer/Parkside, where he will take over for Mary Brumbach, who recently retired. His effective start date is Aug. 1.

“I’m tickled to be back as a Blue Bomber,” Andrews said after the meeting. “I feel like I’m always a Blue Bomber, but my wings are back now and I’m excited.”

For the past two years, Andrews has been assistant principal for middle/high school at the Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown. Before that, he taught math at Palmerton Area Junior High School and was the head Palmerton girls’ basketball coach for two seasons.

“I knew to be able to step into this role I’d have to leave the district,” Andrews, who was hired at a $90,000 salary, said. “It was an extremely tough decision to leave in the first place, but this is exactly why I did it, to have an opportunity to move into this type of leadership role.”

A member of the Palmerton Area High School Class of 2004, Andrews credited many of his teachers and coaches with helping to mold him into the educational leader he is today.

“They shaped me to be the lifelong learner I am today,” Andrews said. “Without them, this wouldn’t be possible. A lot of them are still here in a variety of roles with the district such as board member Mrs. (Audrey) Larvey. She was a huge influence in my career path to get into education.”

Andrews said he plans to use what he learned in two years at Roberto Clemente to help build on the success of Palmerton’s academic programs.

“Even though the demographics are certainly a lot different, the needs of the schools are parallel,” he said. “We have to take care of the kids and make sure they are in a good state of mind to come into the building and reach their fullest potential.”

There is little question Andrews is battle tested. Just after he was hired at the charter school, the middle/high school principal was put on administrative leave and never returned, leaving Andrews to fill both posts for the first four months.

Two months after a principal was named, the COVID-19 pandemic hit schools.

“It’s been an interesting ride, but I think the experience really sharpened my skills,” Andrews said. “I feel like I’m ready for anything now. Here in Palmerton, we’ll strive to improve the academic achievement rates of students as judged by the state, but also create students who can prosper in this 21st century and compete for jobs.”