Porembka Makes His Mark


     There may be a difference in the way their shoes look and sound walking around the halls of Greater Latrobe, but the new superintendent is looking to carry on the legacy and vision of the previous one. 

      After the retirement of former superintendent, Dr. Georgia Teppert, back in January, her shoes needed to be filled at the top of the Greater Latrobe School District. 

     When the news of her retirement came apparent, the Board of Education asked the assistant superintendent if he would be willing to take her place. And on January 4, 2022, Michael Porembka, the assistant superintendent at the time, became the next superintendent of the Greater Latrobe School District. 

     “It’s very interesting being in the superintendent’s seat because every decision that is made in my office has a direct impact on somebody involved with this school district”.

     Porembka is a graduate of St. Vincent College with a degree in history and his certification to teach secondary social studies. He began teaching at the Greater Latrobe Junior High School in 1998 and was a social studies department chairperson. While teaching, Porembka went back to school to receive his master’s degree in curriculum and education and also his certification to become a principal. 

     He worked for three years as an assistant principal at the junior high school and then served as the principal at Baggaley Elementary School for four years. He then left Baggaley to go to the Central Office to serve as the director of teaching and learning for six years. After his time in the Central Office, Porembka served as Teppert’s assistant superintendent during the two and a half years that Teppert served as the superintendent of the school district from 2019 to January of 2022

     While working together, both Porembka and Dr. Teppert didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. But during their time working together, they not only developed a strong working relationship, but also a friendship that will last a lifetime. “Working together in the Central Office over the past eight and a half years, we became very close friends. I think we realized that we saw the same things in a very similar light”, said Porembka. 

     “Even in retirement, we talk at least once a week. It might not be school-related, but she still texts me and rubs in her retirement and tells me how stress-free her life is. We still keep in touch, and it’s a unique relationship because it’s not like we always hit it off”, said Porembka. 

     Throughout his time at Greater Latrobe, Porembka has been involved in several accomplishments that have taken place in the district. Porembka was mainly involved in the one-to-one laptop initiative that gave each student at the junior high access to a laptop. It started the growth of technology that is used today, throughout all of the classrooms at all of the school buildings in the district.

     When he was the director of teaching and learning, he helped build a strong police force and train the staff to deal with intruder situations. The main reason for that is for the safety and the protection of each and every member of the district. “You see the officers walking our halls today, and their main purpose is to protect everyone that is involved with our school; staff, students, and anyone who works here. Their job isn’t to discipline you, their job is to protect you, and I’m really proud that we were able to put those things in place. It’s been a benefit to us in some situations”, said Porembka. 

     Porembka also played a small role in the development of the new sports complex that was built at the senior high school during Teppert’s time as superintendent. That includes Rossi Field, Graham Sobota Field, and the Arnold Palmer Field House. He also is the voice of the Greater Latrobe Wildcats football team for each of their games on Friday nights. 

      But the one that stays with him the most is the construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School in downtown Latrobe. “I really got super involved in the design and the construction of Latrobe Elementary School. When I walk into that facility, it’s something that I helped to create. And that’s really neat and I kind of look forward to doing that over the next several years with our other buildings,” said Porembka. 

     The main thing that Porembka will be monitoring will be the Master’s Facility Plan. The plan was kicked off in January where the board looks at all of the buildings in the district and sees the things that need to be renovated. It came to mind after the district decided to construct the new Latrobe Elementary School. And it won’t just be school buildings, but facilities that host events for the school as well. “Sometimes the changes we make in a school district aren’t visibly noticeable, but by the end of 2022, I hope to have a clear plan on what our buildings will look like over the next ten years,” said Porembka. “One of the things that we learned at the new Latrobe Elementary School is that we were able to construct a facility that made learning, teaching, and being a student more efficient, and it enhanced the instructional program going on there,” said Porembka.

     “Do they need to be renovated? Do we reimagine what our buildings look like? The way it is constructed, does it fit your needs as a student? Does it fit the needs of your teachers? Those are some of the questions that we have to ask ourselves”, said Porembka.

     Additionally, senior high school principal, Jon Mains, will become the assistant to the superintendent for secondary education for both the senior high and junior high schools. Mains will be keeping an eye on the secondary curriculum, he’ll be working with senior and junior high principals, and work on professional development for secondary teachers. Becki Pellis is becoming the assistant superintendent for elementary education (Baggaley, Latrobe, and Mountain View), and Laurie Havrisko is doing the same thing for student services. “That’s the structure that I decided to move forward with. That obviously means that we need a new high school principal. I don’t know at this point who that will be,”said Porembka.

     While one of his goals is to make sure that the buildings are up-to-date, he wants to make sure that what’s happening inside of the classrooms is what the students truly need. “We have a first-class education currently happening in our classrooms every day,” said Porembka. 

     “I think it’s my responsibility to look at those other buildings and ask those same questions; do they meet our needs,” said Porembka.

     Now that he is the one calling the shots, Porembka is making sure that he takes into consideration what the effects of each decision are for every member of the district.