At 69 years old, Edward J. Myszka is what you call a homegrown boy in every sense. Having spent his entire life in Lancaster – one that led him to enjoy a 46-year career working for the Lancaster Central School District, ending with him at the helm as its superintendent for the last 7 years – Myszka is a household word in the community.
In fact, many fondly call him “Mr. Lancaster” and can’t imagine how different it will seem without him walking the halls after June 30, when he retires.
“I sound Pollyannish, but I do enjoy working for Lancaster,” Myszka said in a sit-down interview last week in his office. “The only place I’ve ever been in is Lancaster. It has made it rewarding to see the growth in the community and vast changes. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my experience here at Lancaster. Some days better than others, and some more challenging. I’ve been there for the good times and the bad times.”
Myszka is a legacy, both in the classroom and in the front office, as well as throughout the community, where he’s involved in a smorgasbord of Lancaster-based organizations.
“Ed is the ultimate Lancaster person from many perspectives – growing up here, he taught here, was the business manager, assistant superintendent and then superintendent. It doesn’t get any more involved and committed,” said retired Lancaster Superintendent Joseph L. Girardi, who worked with Myszka for 16 years.
“In this changing world, Ed has risen to the challenge, and for lasting as long as he has, he deserves all the credit,” said Len Jankiewicz, retired from teaching math for the district and a former high school athletic director and football coach. “He has been productive in the length of his tenure, which makes it remarkable.”
Myszka’s roots go deep. As a young boy, he grew up near farmland on William Street, starting school in what was once a one-room schoolhouse on Aurora Street for his primary grades. A few years later, he moved to another school for fourth grade, before moving on to the higher grades. Over time, some of the schools closed, as he graduated to a new grade level. “I close schools,” he quipped, referring to ones that closed after he left them as a student, and also as he presided over them as superintendent during downturns in enrollment and the fiscal climate.
The striking thing about Myszka, a tall, husky guy with a head of bushy white hair, is his quiet, reserved demeanor. He has a humble way about him and is soft-spoken as he recalls the achievements, along with some of the challenges faced in his long career at a district that he grew up in, graduated from in 1961, and taught business to students for a dozen years. It’s also where he met his wife, Marcia, a high school French teacher at Lancaster, and eventually raised his three children – before rising through administrative ranks to become the district’s top leader in 2007.
Myszka has seen Lancaster go through spurts of growth. The 1970s started out with nearly 7,000 students, then dipped to just below 4,000 pupils after Westinghouse closed in the late 1970s. A short while later, Bowmansville Elementary School was closed and then sold. The Central Avenue Elementary School was closed for a decade before being re-opened in the early 1990s, only to be closed again in 2010.
Myszka clearly remembers how sensitive the school closing was to the community. “They weren’t calling me Eddie,” he said.
Critical to Myszka’s success has been his knack for having a keen sense about the community he served. “He knew everything and has incredible insight into the community’s pulse,” Girardi said. “Knowing the pulse of the community is his greatest asset. You could count on him.”
Myszka also has “a great ability” to handle any vocal critics of the district with grace, without losing his cool. “Ed has the incredible ability to tell critics to come on down to his office. He would calmly put them to rest on any issue,” Girardi said.
And through it all, Myszka realizes the value in a healthy sense of humor. “You have to see the light side of things, or else it will really wear you down,” he said.
When the changing of the guard occurs July 1, Michael L. Vallely, who has been the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and pupil personnel services since 2006, will succeed Myszka.
At the top of Myszka’s retirement “to do” list? “I promised my wife I’d take her to Provence, France. It’s time to pay up,” Myszka said, with a grin.
Aside from trying to better his golf game and holding onto his Bills season tickets, he and his wife want to remain active in the school community and Lancaster civic groups.
Another thought has crossed his mind, as well. “I should write a book,” he said.