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State College Superintendent Bob O'Donnell leaving to become superintendent in Downingtown

Bob O'Donnell in a suit and tie talking at a podium.
Anne Danahy
State College Area School District Superintendent Bob O'Donnell speaking to the Downingtown Area School District board of directors after it voted on Monday, April 18, 2022, to appoint him its new superintendent.

The State College Area School District is losing its superintendent, Bob O'Donnell, who accepted the same position in the Downingtown Area School District in Chester County effective July 1.

The Downingtown school board voted Monday to approve hiring O'Donnell to take the job. The current Superintendent Emilie Lonardi is retiring.

School Board President LeeAnn Wisdom said the board was impressed with what O'Donnell has accomplished.

"We feel certain that he can bring his knowledge, experience and thoughtfulness to the task of bringing us closer as a community and closer to our goals as a district," Wisdom said.

While O'Donnell was superintendent, the State College Area School District completed a major high school construction project. That came after getting voter approval of a referendum that allowed the district to borrow money to pay for the project, and therefore raise taxes.

O'Donnell, speaking at the meeting, said building trusting relationships is central to his approach to leadership.

"To bring people together, we have to get to know each other and trust each other. Through coming together, we're going to figure out where some common beliefs are. And if we're really going to do the tough stuff, we have to be aligned. And if we have that alignment, we're really going to impact kids in the right way," O'Donnell said.

In an email to the State College Area School District sent after the Downingtown meeting, O'Donnell he is grateful to the State College board for giving him "the opportunity to lead this stellar district and to this community for embracing my family during our time in Happy Valley."

"This move affords me the opportunity to be closer to my mom and extended family while still serving in a meaningful leadership role for another excellent school district," O'Donnell said.

He said his resignation would be on the school board's next meeting agenda, and that he'll be continuing in his position through the end of June.

He has been with the State College school district since 2011.

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.