The Phoenix Reporter & Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Mayor Scoda goes back to school


By FRANK OTTO, fotto@21st-CenturyMedia.com

Monday, September 16, 2013

PHOENIXVILLE — A chance encounter at a weekend yard sale ended with Mayor Leo Scoda visiting a class of second graders at Renaissance Academy late last week.
Scoda, who’s been mayor in Phoenixville longer than Renaissance Academy has held class, said he was continuing his habit of heading out to yard sales when he got to one on Dayton Street.
Cassandra Stinger and Colin Harrison, students at Renaissance Academy, were introduced to Scoda by one of their mothers.
“The kids said, ‘Oh no, the mayor of Phoenixville is at our yard sale!’” Scoda laughed.
Almost immediately, the second graders invited the mayor to come to visit their class, which just so happened to be learning about government.
“I said, well, I’ve gone into the schools often talking mostly about local government,” Scoda said. “Call in and I’d be glad to come in.”
It only took a day for Scoda to get a call looking to schedule a time when he came in.
“I am very proud of the initiative these students took by inviting Mayor Scoda to speak with their classmates,” said the class’ teacher, Amanda Qureshi, according to a release from Renaissance Academy.
Scoda went in to Renaissance Academy Sept. 6 to speak to the students before the official ribbon-cutting of the new borough hall building.
On an outdoor stage, Scoda spoke before dozens of green-shirted students.
“I really enjoy going to the elementary schools,” Scoda said. “The kids are so enthusiastic.”
A science teacher for 35 years in the Phoenixville Area School District’s secondary schools, Scoda said it “was really kind of nice” to go into a classroom where children were raising their hands and excited to ask questions or speak.
Trying to put things on a level where the kids could understand, Scoda said he tried explaining the differences between a mayor in a big city like Philadelphia and his duties in a borough, such as overseeing the police department and serving as a tie-breaker occasionally for borough council.
Since Renaissance Academy pulls from several areas, including townships, he said some students were a little confused why they didn’t have a mayor like their Phoenixville classmates.
One question Scoda said he fielded was whether a woman could run for mayor.
“I said, ‘What do you think, girls?’” Scoda chuckled. “They all said, ‘Yeah!’”
Many of the children were interested in the fact that Scoda has the authority to marry couples, which he’s done 210 times since becoming mayor in 1998.
Scoda said he’s gone to Renaissance Academy several times before and has also made multiple appearances at other elementary schools around town including Barkley, Schuylkill and East Pikeland elementary schools as well as Holy Family School.
Mostly, he’s coming in with police for presentations or reading Dr. Seuss on special days.
He said he doesn’t think he’s missed a DARE graduation since he became mayor.
Visiting classes is something Scoda believes to be “a public service.”
“When I started as mayor, I went into office January 1998, then retired from teaching June 1998,” Scoda said. “A lot of people don’t have time during the day but I do ... it’s another one of those things for people that you just do.”
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.