Dr. Thomas Seidenberger, superintendent of East Penn School District, announced his retirement at Monday night’s school board meeting.
Seidenberger became choked up when making his brief announcement and had to pause for several seconds to compose himself.
He is in his seventh year as superintendent at East Penn.
“It’s been the best job I’ve ever had,” said Seidenberger, who will be ending a 43-year-career in public education.
He said he had informed the board that he plans to retire “after some soul searching and looking in the mirror and reaching the age of 65.”
Responding to Seidenberger’s announcement, board president Charles Ballard said: “While we wish you the best in retirement, we are deeply saddened by your impending retirement. You will be sorely missed after you leave.”
Board vice president Alan Earnshaw told Seidenberger: “It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with you. I can’t think of a more dedicated, more experienced, more professional educator than the one we have as our superintendent. Thank you for your service, not only to our school district, but to education in general.”
Perhaps still caught up in the emotion of his decision, Seidenberger uncharacteristically refused to answer any questions at the end of the school board meeting.
No one at the meeting revealed when Seidenberger will begin his retirement.
He said he will work with the board to find a mutually convenient time for him to leave.
Earnshaw thanked him “for giving us ample advance notice so we can try to find a successor. We can never find someone who can replace you, but we will find someone to succeed you.”
The school board took the unusual step of going into a closed-door executive session at the end of Monday night’s public meeting. When Ballard was asked when Seidenberger was retiring, as he headed into that meeting, the board president replied: “That is a matter for discussion with the board, which I’ve got to go do.”
Retiring with Seidenberger is Cecilia Birdsell, the superintendent’s executive assistant and secretary to the school board. Seidenberger called her his “valued colleague” and said she has served East Penn for 40 years.
At the end of the meeting, Birdsell said she has worked for five different superintendents since 1974.
“It will be a tremendous burden trying to replace two such valued members of our team,” said Ballard.
Speaking for himself and Birdsell, in the public meeting Seidenberger said: “It’s our commitment to continue our jobs without interruption of service and we will work with the board on developing a succession plan.”
Last year the school board approved increasing Seidenberger’s annual salary to $166,193.
Seidenberger is a Bethlehem native who grew up in the Lehigh Valley.
When making his announcement, he said he has been in the education business for 43 years.
He began his career as an elementary teacher in Bethlehem Area School District in 1970. In 1981, he became principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Bethlehem.
He was superintendent of Brick Township School District in Ocean County, N.J., when hired by East Penn’s school board in June 2007.
Seidenberger also served as superintendent of Avon Grove School District, in West Grove, Chester County, from 1999 to 2003 and of Phillipsburg School District from 1993 to 1999. He was assistant superintendent in Phillipsburg from 1987 to 1993.
He served as both a superintendent and a principal for the Sherman Board of Education, in Sherman, Conn. between 1984 and 1987.
He earned his doctorate at Widener University, his master’s degree at Lehigh University and his bachelor's degree at Kutztown University