David E. Panebaker, perhaps one of the most recognized names in our school district’s history, began his distinguished career as the Liberty High School principal in 1931. The start of his 34 years in education came during one of the most difficult periods in American History – the Great Depression – and he would retire during one of the most turbulent periods in our history – the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
During Mr. Panebaker’s tenure, numerous programs and classes were introduced to Liberty students. Programs including instrumental music, orchestra, home economics, and guidance; the formation of the Student Council and the National Honor Society; the resurrection of the baseball team and the formation of the football, track and wrestling teams were also accomplished during his time as principal.
Two major accomplishments would highlight his time at Liberty. The first accomplishment was the centralization of the many small schools in this locale into one school district known as Liberty Central School District. The consolidation helped to provide more educational programs for the students. After this was accomplished, Mr. Panebaker assumed the title of “District Principal,” the precursor to today’s “Superintendent of Schools.”
The second major accomplishment, just a few years before the conclusion of his extraordinary career, was the planning, construction and completion of the Buckley Street Junior/Senior High School in the early 1960’s. The new building was state-of-the-art and modern. To honor Mr. Panebaker’s devotion to the district and its students, the high school auditorium was dedicated in his honor.
Outside of school, Mr. Panebaker was fully engaged in the numerous volunteer and civic organizations, before and after his retirement. Within the community, he served as the Liberty Public Library President, Executive Board member of the Orange-Sullivan Council of the Boy Scouts of America, was a member of the Sullivan County Community College Board of Trustees during the formation of the college; President of the New York State High School Athletic Protection Plan and President of the NYS Athletic Association, member of the Red Cross and Sullivan County Health Association, a member of the Liberty Lions and Past President of the Sullivan County Golf and Country Club. He was also the club champion at one time.
He is remembered as stern, yet fair-minded, an advocate for
students as well as the greater community of Liberty. His one
daughter, Shirley Krum recalls “Indeed my dad was a ‘past
faculty,’ in fact he was leader of the pack.” His other daughter,
Helen Farrell said that today, June 23, 2012, she will be
reflecting back to June 23, 1942, when her father, then Principal
of LHS, presented her with her diploma.