Patricia L. “Pat” Skebeck, a longtime influential Harford County public schools educator who was an inveterate Ravens and Orioles fan, died Thursday from cancer at her Kingsville home. She was 75.
“Pat was one of those kinds of people who really made good decisions with the kids in mind. It was always the kids first,” said Peg Goodson, of Bel Air, a retired Harford County public schools educator and administrator.
“She got a great deal of respect because she kept tweaking until she could make it right,” Ms. Goodson said. “And she took full responsibility for her decisions and never forgot what it was like to be a teacher and a principal when she became an administrator.”
Diane Rasinksi, who was Mrs. Skebeck’s administrative assistant when she oversaw the elementary school program for Harford public schools, said Mrs. Skebeck was “an advocate for elementary age students, programs, teachers and administrators.”
“She looked at the whole picture all of the time and it was very inspiring, and it will be her legacy,” said Ms. Rasinski, a Bel Air resident.
“She was just a wonderful, warm and caring woman who worked tirelessly and seldom missed a day of work. She had just an incredible work ethic and integrity,” she said. “She was a brilliant public school educator and never went to a meeting that she didn’t have her elementary students at heart.”
The former Patricia Lee Gatti, the daughter of Dr. Joseph Gatti, a physician, and Lena Ross Gatti, a milliner, was born and raised in Indiana, Pa., where she graduated in 1960 from Indiana Joint High School.
“She taught for one year in Baltimore County public schools and then got pregnant with her first child. In those days, you weren’t allowed to teach if you were pregnant,” said a daughter, Lori Lynn Mitchell, of Kingsville.
After she raised her three daughters, Mrs. Skebeck returned to teaching in 1978 as a substitute teacher at George D. Lisby Elementary School at Hillsdale in Aberdeen, and became a permanent faculty member the next year.
“When we were teaching at Hillsdale together there were kids who had a lot of needs and Pat had them eating out of her hands,” Ms. Goodson said.
From 1986 to 1989, she was assistant principal at Meadowvale Elementary School in Havre de Grace until being named assistant principal in 1989 of Fallston’s Youth’s Benefit Elementary.
Mrs. Skebeck was promoted to principal in 1990 at Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary in Aberdeen, a position she held for six years, until taking over as principal at William Paca/Old Post Road Elementary in Abingdon.
In 1997, she was appointed director of elementary education for Harford County public schools and continued to do so after the job’s title was changed to executive director of elementary school performance in 2003, until 2009.
In addition to Mrs.Skebeck, fellow Harford educators and administrators Belinda Cole, Barbara Douglas, Linda Chamberlin and Ms. Goodson were members of a group they called the “Girly Girls.”
“She became our boss when she was director of elementary education,” Ms. Goodson said.
“She really helped us balance our personal needs, careers and families. She had figured it out,” said Linda Cole, a retired assistant principal, who lives in Jarrettsville.
Mrs. Skebeck was remembered as being firm but fair.
“She could make corrections if they needed to be made and she could put you in your place in a most graceful way,” said Ms. Douglas, of Forest Hill. “She had diplomacy in spades.”
“If you had a problem, Pat would say, ‘I’ll help you turn it around and make it work,” Ms. Douglas said.
After the sudden death of superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas in 2008, Mrs. Skebeck was named interim superintendent of schools, a position she held for six months until retiring in June 2009, when Robert M. Tomback was hired for the position.
“No one could have done what Pat did at the time. Dr. Hass’ death was such a shock and she made it a seamless transition,” Ms. Rasinski said.
“She was the perfect person for this difficult situation. She knew how to calm things down,” Ms. Goodson recalled.
In 2017, Mrs. Skebeck became the 172nd member to be appointed to the Harford County Public Schools Education Hall of Fame.
Mrs. Skebeck was the recipient of many awards and honors during her career, including the $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award in 1994.
She was also selected to be a member of the state superintendent ‘s talent pool, where she served on its statewide task force on norm-referenced testing and was an adviser to the Maryland State Department of Education.
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She had been president of the Retired School Personnel Association and had been a board member of Citizens Rehabilitation and Nursing Home in Havre de Grace.
Mrs. Skebeck was an avid Orioles and Ravens fan. She also served as chair of the Ravens Nest No. 1’s scholarship program, which awarded scholarships to student athletes in each Harford County high school. She also had been president and a member of the board of the Miss Maryland pageant and its scholarship program.
“Beauty is not what I’m interested in …. I became involved at a time when not many scholarships were available to young women,” she told The Baltimore Sun in a 1994 interview.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two other daughters, Lisa Marie Brown of Joppatowne and Julie Skebeck Allen of Yorktown, Va.; three brothers, Joseph Gatti of Indiana, Pa., Thomas Gatti of Monroeville, Pa., and Robert Gatti of Columbus, Ohio; and four grandchildren.