VERNON TOWNSHIP — Two candidates with experience as administrators in or near Crawford County were interviewed by Crawford Central School Board for the assistant to the superintendent position at Monday’s committee meeting.

Thomas Fortin and James LaScola were interviewed for the open position and one will become acting superintendent when Charles Heller retires on Jan. 13. Both men came into the interview with the understanding that he will not be a candidate for the superintendent’s job.

Fortin is a retired school administrator with the Union City and Oil City school districts, where he served in superintendent capacities in both districts.

Fortin started his interview with a mission statement “To provide the best possible education for the children of Crawford Central School District during the superintendent search.”

Fortin, a former teacher who started his career at Union City School District in 1971, unsuccessfully ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1980 against Jim Merry.

“That got me to thinking I had more to offer than the classroom,” Fortin said.

He became a middle school principal and served as assistant superintendent before becoming superintendent of Union City School District. This was a position he served for five years and was among the people instrumental in establishing the guidelines for Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie, which opened in 1997 and now boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate among recent graduates.

“It’s a good school,” Fortin said. “It serves its purpose.”

Fortin left Union City for Oil City Area School District, where he served first as assistant superintendent, then superintendent.

“It was more of a challenge,” Fortin said. “The budget was driven by the curriculum.”

Fortin retired from his Oil City position in 2005, but he keeps busy as president of the Harbor Creek School Board.

Board members asked Fortin several questions regarding leadership styles, educational philosophy and what ideas he’d bring to the budget process.

“I’ve accomplished a lot in education, but I have a lot to go,” Fortin said.

The second candidate interviewed, LaScola, was very familiar to several board members. He served 36 years at Crawford Central, with 31 being as an administrator and the last nine as superintendent of the district. He retired as Crawford Central superintendent in July 2001.

“What I hope to provide for you is a transition,” LaScola told the board on Monday.

LaScola has kept busy during his retirement as an adjunct professor at Gannon University in Erie and served on the Community Athletic Project committee.

While Crawford Central superintendent, LaScola oversaw two major construction programs at Meadville Area Senior High School and Cochranton Junior-Senior High School that totaled $32.5 million.

“I think what I bring to this is experience, dedication, and one other thing I think is important, is fairness,” LaScola said. “We don’t need to look in the past; the future is what is important.”

LaScola referenced the recent school climate survey, which is nearing completion. He told the board he would help implement any changes it felt was needed from the data received due to the survey.

The board will vote to hire one of the candidates at its monthly meeting next Monday.

The Crawford Central School District will hire an assistant to the superintendent at its monthly meeting next Monday at 5 p.m. at the district’s Instructional Support Center, 11280 Mercer Pike, Vernon Township. The public is invited to attend.

Earl Corp can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at

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