Dr. Chrys Harttraft, superintendent of Somerset County Vocational and Technical Schools (SCVTS), has been selected by the Somerset County Association of School Administrators (SCASA) as the 2021-2022 Somerset County Superintendent of the Year.
After being named the 2021-2022 Somerset County Superintendent of the Year, Harttraft was “both shocked and appreciative for the recognition.” While being a personal accomplishment, Harttraft felt the award gave her an “opportunity to shine a light on the good work that is being done at SCVTS and in the realm of Career and Technical Education (CTE).” Harttraft went on to add, “CTE is no longer only for academically disenfranchised youth, although we happily take on such individuals in the hope of engaging them, it is however a good choice for high achieving and significantly focused youth who are interested in a particular field. Their experience in the field may strengthen and refine their career choice, it can also lead them away from that field and into a more appealing one. The more awareness they have at a young age the better informed they are to determine the right career pathway.”
Recently, SCVTS was granted a $23 million grant through the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act to expand CTE within Somerset County. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for Somerset County,” said Harttraft. “The County Commissioners not only supported the idea but leveraged additional state funds to increase the project from $23 million to $26.7 million. This has the potential to almost double the number of seats currently available, expanding CTE programs and opportunities for students in Somerset County.”
When asked about operating a school district in the midst of a global pandemic, Harttraft said, “In any field, managing people during the pandemic took careful attention to keeping everyone healthy and safe, while introducing the right level of creativity and flexibility into the organization, without “going under.” Specifically, in education, balancing the wants and needs of families and staff which were often contradictory, became central. Several months into the pandemic, it was obvious how difficult it would be managing the educational and mental health challenges of the adults and students, while providing sound health and safety measures, while utilizing the most current information. The uncertainty of the situation seemed to be exacerbating the human factors involved.”
Speaking on behalf of SCVTS’ success during the challenges of the past year, Harttraft said, “Without a doubt, the willingness of all staff including administrators, teachers, support staff, and outside contractors to step up and take on whatever was needed when it was needed, contributed to our overall success. Their selflessness, commitment and endurance during the crisis paid off largely in our ability to remain open throughout the year. The students’ positive response to being at SCVTHS throughout the pandemic made it both meaningful and worthwhile.”
Somerset County Executive County Superintendent and Somerset County Vocational Board of Education Member Roger A. Jinks spoke of Harttraft receiving the award stating, “This award for Dr. Harttraft is certainly well deserved. Especially for a county vocational school during a challenging year with COVID regarding scheduling and virtual classrooms. She is recognized and appreciated by the other superintendents in the county.”
Reflecting on her tenure, Harttraft stated, “In public service, you have opportunities to do work for the greatest good. Over the years I feel that I have had experiences that have directly and positively affected individual lives through providing mental health services, and been fortunate to have helped struggling youth and their families find safe and healthy ways to navigate through life’s challenges. As I became involved in policy and program development, I was able to impact lives more broadly by creating and sustaining programs and resources for mental health and educational entities designed for those less fortunate and in need of public services. Working in the Career and Technical education world, provides more lasting opportunities for youth and their families to strengthen their educational achievement and develop skills that will help improve their lives and ultimately their future with less need for outside interventions and services.”