Aiken stepping down as superintendent after 8 years

Dr. Sean Aiken when Shaler Area was named one of eight Lighthouse school systems across the country the School Superintendents Association. (submitted by Dr. Aiken)
Dr. Sean Aiken when Shaler Area was named one of eight Lighthouse school systems across the country the School Superintendents Association. (submitted by Dr. Aiken)

After eight years of service here at Shaler Area, Dr. Sean Aiken is stepping down as the Superintendent of school district.
Early on in his career, Aiken was already a man of high aspirations. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree from Malone University, Dr. Aiken began his course in the special education field. At first, even the role of principal was foreign to him, but something changed during his time at Regent University for his master’s degree after one of Dr. Aiken’s professors saw potential in him.
“She told me, ‘you could do anything that you want to do in education.’ At that time, I was still trying to wrap my head around whether or not I could be or should be a principal one day, let alone anything further. I had been working on my master’s degree and my principal certification, so when she said that to me, it kind of planted the seed.”
Soon enough, Dr. Aiken rose through the ranks. Always looking to move forward and never staying at the same place for too long.
“One of my mentors in Norfolk almost 30 years ago said to me, ‘it’s a good idea to stay in one place, do really great work, and then move on.’
He landed a job as assistant principal of Shaler Area Middle School for four years before rising to the principal position at Quaker Valley Middle School.
Aiken ended his seven year service to Quaker Valley and was appointed to be the assistant superintendent of West Allegheny School District. It only took two years there before an opportunity arose for him to return to Shaler Area as the superintendent.
“If you track my experience, this job as superintendent has been the longest time that I’ve ever been in one location. My career has been built on doing or at least attempting to do really good work before moving on,” Aiken said.
Returning to Shaler was a nostalgic experience for Aiken. His previous experience in the district gave him some perspective on what some of that really good work might include, starting with the school culture.

One of the things that I’m most proud of, and this is hard to quantify, but I hate the mindset that we’re ‘just Shaler,’ or that we’re lesser. I hate that with a passion. I saw it when I was an assistant principal here and I feel like we have since taken significant steps to drop that whole mindset. I am so proud of the fact that I feel like there’s a sense of pride, that we’re not less than other districts around us, not academically, not athletically, not musically, not anything.”

— Dr. Sean Aiken


“One of the things that I’m most proud of, and this is hard to quantify, but I hate the mindset that we’re ‘just Shaler,’ or that we’re lesser. I hate that with a passion. I saw it when I was an assistant principal here and I feel like we have since taken significant steps to drop that whole mindset. I am so proud of the fact that I feel like there’s a sense of pride, that we’re not less than other districts around us, not academically, not athletically, not musically, not anything.”
During his time here, Aiken always made the effort to connect with his community. He could often be seen attending sports games, plays, concerts, and many other student oriented events.
“I recognize how important extracurriculars are; not just athletics. Extracurricular activities are for students, and whether it’s track, cross-country, basketball, soccer, baseball, musical, concerts, or anything else, those things are the lifeblood of the culture of a district,” Aiken added. “So when I see athletes competing and see students up on the stage, it to me just brings such a sense of joy and enjoyment because I know that what they’re doing there is going to be something that sticks with them forever.”
During his time here, the most important thing to him was always a sense of community. He attended those events and worked hard to preserve our district because he cares about the people here through and through.
“I am always looking to build strong relationships. I know there’s not any accolades or anything like that, but I feel like those are the things that sustain. Those are the things that last. I feel like the relationships that are built with parents, with community members, with students, with teachers, and with principals are the things that are the most meaningful.”
However, it wasn’t always a smooth ride for Dr. Aiken. The pandemic was a notoriously difficult time for everyone in the education field, but few struggled as much as the superintendent did. With a position built upon trust, having it cast away in an instant was a major obstacle.
“I feel like COVID had such a dramatic impact on my time here. I’ve been in education for 30 years, and the last four years have been absolutely the hardest and most challenging years. My goal as a superintendent has always been to build relationships and build trust. So, when all of a sudden people don’t trust you, how do you regain that trust?” Aiken explained. “There’ve been hundreds of meetings that I’ve done in the past 3 or 4 years face to face because I knew that a phone call or email was not going to be sufficient. If I’m going to regain that trust and rebuild that relationship, I’m going to have to do it face to face.”
With the end of his days at Shaler Area just around the corner, Aiken is excited to broaden his horizons. The next step may not be clear for him yet, but he fully intends to continue his work.
“I’ve been a teacher, coach, athletic director, principal, assistant principal, assistant superintendent, and this. I’ve loved this position just as much, if not more, than any,” Dr. Aiken said. “I’m leaving here (soon) and I’m more passionate about this work than ever. And I feel like my next ten years are going to be my best ten years.”

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