Lebanon School District on Monday announced the passing of longtime school superintendent Dr. Arthur Abrom.
Abrom, who had been superintendent of the city school district since 2017, died Sunday, according to a message sent out to the community by Nicole L. Malinoski, who is acting as substitute superintendent.
“It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that we inform you of the passing of our esteemed leader, Dr. Arthur Abrom,” Malinoski wrote. “During this difficult time, let us come together as a family to support each other and honor Dr. Abrom’s memory. Please keep his family and loved ones in your thoughts.”
His death, according to a message from Abrom’s family, came after a nine-year battle with cancer.
Malinoski said Abrom “was an integral part of our district and made significant contributions to our organization during his time with us.” She noted that Abrom, before taking the job as chief administrator in Lebanon, “spent 20 years making significant contributions to the students and staff in the School District of Lancaster.”
“Let us honor Dr. Abrom’s legacy by continuing to uphold the values he believed in and strive to achieve the goals he dedicated his life to,” Malinoski concluded. “As his mantra stated, please have HOPE for his family and friends, by Helping One Person Every day.”
Abrom, 56, was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, the son of Barbara Furo Abrom and the late Arthur Grant Abrom. According to his obituary, he completed his Ed.D. at Widener University, his M.Ed. at Arizona State University, and his bachelor’s degree in Music Education at Susquehanna University and Berklee College of Music.
Malinoski told LebTown on Wednesday that the school board had approved medical leave for Abrom in mid-August.
“He needed to take some time for himself to heal. He was struggling in August,” she said. “Unfortunately,” she added, “things went south very quickly.”
Everyone who knew and worked with Abrom “was definitely affected by his passing,” Malinoski said.
“He was a true leader, and the children were always at the heart of his decision-making,” she said. “He always wanted to do what was best for the students of Lebanon School District. He led with his heart. He always made a point of thanking the teachers. … I’m just grateful that he gave me a chance to be on his leadership team and to work under his leadership for the last two years.”
And, despite the seriousness of his condition, she said, “his illness never stopped him, never defined him. He never made it a point to make it the center of any conversation. He was a very private man.”
His legacy, Malinoski said, stands for “fighting for students in urban education.”
“He was a very vocal voice at the Intermediate Unit on fair funding,” she said. “He really wanted to ensure our students received the same access to resources, curricula and equipment as school districts with a bigger tax base.”
Appointed in 2017
Abrom was appointed to the Lebanon post by a unanimous vote of the school board in May 2017. He replaced Marianne Bartley, who had been Lebanon’s chief administrator for 15 years.
Prior to coming to Lebanon, Abrom was most recently Lancaster’s director of elementary education. He previously served in other administrative roles in Lancaster, including principal of Lafayette Elementary School, coordinator of school improvement and federal programs, and director of student services.
While in Lancaster, his obituary states, Abrom “raised millions of dollars to support both students and staff. Arthur oversaw student assistance programs, training programs for principals, support programs for homeless students and families, and initiatives that focused on drop-out prevention to ensure that every student remained in school ready to learn. He also established a family center for parents.”
When he came to Lebanon, the obituary adds, the new superintendent “set a new vision for Lebanon’s 5,000+ students, ensuring priorities such as student-centeredness and literacy. He launched the Community Schools Program, expanding access to services for students in the evenings and weekends. … He was remembered for his Monthly Moments messages to staff, good sense of humor, and for making students the priority.”
He played an instrumental role in building a new junior high school to alleviate overcrowding at Lebanon Middle School; the new building is set to open in August 2024.
“Here’s one of the things I would like to do,” Abrom said at his first Lebanon school board meeting in July 2017. “I want to shake the hand of every incoming kindergarten kid and I want to see them graduate 13 years from now. That is something that is in my heart.”
According to the obituary, Abrom’s family will receive guests for a viewing on Sunday, Oct. 1, at Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home & Crematory, 3110 Lititz Pike, Lititz, from 1 to 5 p.m. A service will follow at the funeral home at 6 p.m.
Abrom’s fellow superintendents were quick to offer their condolences and personal tributes.
“Dr. Abrom had a passion for education with a focus on students,” said Dr. Bernie Kepler, superintendent of the Palmyra Area School District. “When I think of Arthur I think of a kind and humble leader who advocated for students.
“As a colleague, he always brought a sense of humor to his work, yet with a focus on doing what is best for the students and community he served. He will be missed among our Lebanon County and IU#13 superintendent group.”
Krista M. Antonis, superintendent for Annville-Cleona School District, said she was “heartbroken” to hear the news.
“Dr. Abrom was a fierce advocate for students and was a wonderful colleague who would always lend a listening ear and provide sound advice,” Antonis said. “He will be greatly missed for his dedication to the education profession, his ability to see the silver lining in situations, and for being a great friend and colleague.”
Philip L. Domencic, superintendent of Cornwall-Lebanon School District, said Abrom “was an inspiring leader and an all-around person of outstanding character. It was a privilege to work as a colleague with him serving students and families in our respective school districts. He will be greatly missed.”
ELCO School District superintendent Julia Vicente also had high praise for the Lebanon educator.
“Always quick with a smile and never without a kind word, Arthur Abrom was a passionate and dedicated educator whose lifework focused on helping others,” she told LebTown. “He thoroughly enjoyed serving the Lebanon community as their Superintendent and was a champion for Lebanon’s students, staff, and families. After joining the Lebanon School District, he quickly became a well-respected community collaborator as he worked with others for the betterment of the district and community through innovative opportunities and programs.
“Arthur Abrom exuded remarkable joy, a zest for life, and fearless resilience. He has left an indelible mark on those he knew through his vision, leadership, and generosity. Arthur will be missed, yet his legacy will live on through his contributions and connections to so many.”
Gary Messinger, superintendent for Northern Lebanon School District, recalled that Abrom “was the first superintendent that called me when I was hired at NL. He graciously offered to meet with me and said I could call him any time with questions. Those were more than words for Arthur.
“Anyone that knew him saw a servant leader. He was willing to do whatever he could to help others. He had such a passion for the students and families of Lebanon and devoted his time there to serving that community. He will truly be missed.”
School board comments
Lebanon school board president Robert Okonak spoke to Abrom’s legacy on behalf of the board of directors, which also includes vice president Debra Bowman, Scott Barry, Cesar Liriano, Janice Falk, Matthew Hershey, Tracy Johnsen, Cedric Jordan, and Joshua Spaulding.
“He’s been an integral part of our district,” said Okonak. “He’s made a lot of significant contributions to us during his time.”
When Abrom became superintendent of the Lebanon School District, Okonak said he completed a “systems-based review” of the district to determine the matters of greatest importance. Okonak said he established a consistent, “evidence-driven” culture.
“A big highlight of his legacy is student-centered culture and then also college and career readiness and a culture of community connections,” the board president said. The “decisions made and impacts sought” by Abrom always had children in mind.
In addition to his goal of “the literacy of our students improving and improving our school culture,” Okonak said Abrom prioritized the Community Schools Program, which “places other services that can be accessed outside the normal school hours right in our school.” Supported by the YMCA, the program was able to be implemented in several schools, connecting community members with available services.
The board president said Abrom’s Monthly Moments messages to staff “enhanced communication, transparency, and it kind of engaged the community as far as the school community. … Those messages were aligned to the district priorities, again everything came back to the priorities that I mentioned … and that was again part of his legacy.”
Okonak said Abrom “picked up what we had started as a district in terms of our building projects.” In addition to the construction of the new junior high school, the district superintendent made plans to have the existing middle school renovated into an intermediate school for fifth and sixth grade.
“He saw what we were doing as far as those endeavors and continued moving those forward … to provide just a great educational environment for the kids in the community and the district.”
Okonak closed by referencing Abrom’s HOPE mantra. “We’re going to strive to continue that and achieve those goals that he dedicated his life to,” he said. “And that is Helping One Person Every day.”
Late Monday evening, Abrom’s daughter Amanda launched a GoFundMe campaign to create a scholarship fund in his memory.
Speaking on behalf of her mother, Joanne Abrom, and her sisters Emily and Hope Abrom, Amanda said her father “left an incredible mark on the hearts and minds” of the communities he served.
Amanda explained that her father was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2014. “During the past nine years, we watched as he valiantly battled cancer with unwavering determination and grace. He demonstrated power in the face of adversity and resilience with kindness, courage and faith,” she said. “To honor his legacy, our family has decided that in lieu of flowers, we will be creating a Dr. Arthur Abrom Memorial Scholarship that aims to keep his spirit alive for generations to come.”
Proceeds of the $100,000 campaign with create an endowed scholarship for students pursuing degree programs in education or music. “These interests and passions align closely with our dad’s legacy – the power of education to change lives,” Amanda explained.
During his rigorous treatments for cancer and the “serious side effects” he endured, she said, “he continuously persevered and pushed forward so that he could continue to serve his school, church, and community, as well as pursue his passions as an educational leader.”
Although Abrom was told by his oncologist in 2019 that “he was cancer free,” the cancer quickly and aggressively returned, demanding additional treatments and surgeries.
“Despite all of this, our dad remained an inspiration to us. He never gave up or hesitated to try the next treatment, looking for his miracle. He endured all of this so that he could continue supporting his community, church, students, district, and us. We know that he truly believed in the power of prayer and was looking forward to going back to doing everything that he loved.”
He refused to let his health slow down his efforts for the students and staff he led, Amanda added. Once he was hired by Lebanon in 2017, she said, “he wasted no time in setting a new vision for Lebanon’s 5,000+ students, focusing on five key priorities: community connections, data-driven culture, college and career readiness, student-centeredness, and a culture of reading.”
“His colleagues have told us that they remember him as a servant leader who prioritized literacy and students,” Amanda wrote. “He improved transparency through monthly messages to staff and initiated the Community Schools program, expanding access to services for students in the evenings and weekends, beyond regular hours. He played an instrumental role in building a new junior high school to alleviate overcrowding at Lebanon Middle School, and the new building is set to open in August 2024. We are so proud of his legacy – one of transformative leadership and unwavering dedication to education.”
She concluded: “Dad loved music and the arts. He was a man of great faith and enjoyed serving in church as a musician. He played 5 instruments; loved to play golf; served on the worship team; was an avid NY Giants fan; and traveled together with us all over the world. He loved his family and encouraged others to put God and family first.
“We know that one of his visions was to help create a pipeline of students pursuing education degrees that would then become teachers that would service the Lancaster/Lebanon community. This scholarship will further uplift that vision and honor his memory and legacy. Thank you to all of our friends and family for making a donation to honor our dad’s life, give back to the community, and make a difference in the lives of his students.”
As of Wednesday evening, the GoFundMe campaign had raised $9,953 toward its $100,000 goal.
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