Contract Controversy Dominates Clarion-Limestone School Board Meeting
The issue first came up during an announcement from executive sessions by board president Molly Greenawalt.
“I’m going to start out the public comment period to address a couple of questions that some of us board members have had and try to provide some answers to some questions that I know some people have,” Greenawalt stated.
According to Greenawalt, the contract was worked out over a period of a couple of months, and included providing board members with a standard evaluation form in August. However, because the September meeting, where the board intended to sit down and review the evaluations, was canceled, the board did not sit down and discuss the individual contents of the evaluations, although the information was compiled and distributed to all of the board members.
Greenawalt noted that Glasl fell into either the proficient or distinguished range in all of the categories in the evaluations.
“That being the case, it makes sense that we offer her another contract,” Greenawalt said.
She went on to state that the executive discussion of contract negotiations occurred over several emails.
Further addressing some perceived concerns, Greenawalt also noted that she contacted Pennsylvania School Boards Association Member Services Manager Jim Summerville and asked him if the board had an obligation to incoming board members when it came to negotiating a contract so close to the end of the current board’s term.
According to Greenawalt, Summerville said they did not, and noted that as a sitting board in office, they have the same legal authority to do so as they have throughout their term of office, and because they are the seated board, it is their decision to make.
She also went on to note that Clarion-Limestone School District has a long history of offering five-year contracts, like the one under consideration for Glasl, in the past.
A concern that she brought up was the public circulation of the draft contract.
“While a voted upon contract is certainly a public documents and can be made available to anybody, when you’re in a draft phase, it can lead to a lot of questions, a lot of comments, and some undermining,” Greenawalt said.
“I’d like to stress that we’re very careful, we’ve always been very careful, about doing our homework, trying to stay very transparent, and that’s why I wanted to present this information to help you understand, of course there is a process to everything, and moving forward with a contract with Amy offers us a good deal of continuity.”
“Ultimately, I believe the process itself was a good one and all above board, and I wanted to take the time to address that straight-up with those who might have been interested in that.”
During the following public comments segment of the meeting, those assertions were somewhat challenged by incoming board member-elect Nathaniel Parker.
Parker noted he met with Glasl recently to discuss his concerns, and she noted that her contract could also be extended by one year.
“I didn’t know that, and I told her I thought that was a great idea. I thought that would provide continuity from this board to the next board,” Parker said, noting that he felt the new board wouldn’t have the basis to make a long-term determination a few months after taking office.
“I do not support the five year contract,” he continued.
Parker went on to cite the legal requirements for a superintendent contract, noting that the board has until April to make a decision.
“There’s absolutely no urgency to do this now, and there’s no legal requirement to do this now,” he stated, calling it a “political question.”
He then cited several concerns with the provisions of the contract, including the handling of the evaluation and review process, and a question of a retirement provision, which Greenawalt and Solicitor Peter J. Halesey said is actually a standard post-retirement healthcare coverage benefit, which is not a “lifetime” benefit, that is provided to teachers and support staff, as well.
However, Parker had one last final statement addressing the issue.
“I guess the bottom line is, this is clearly a political move, and it is clearly designed, the new contract, I believe, is designed to insulate this position from the new board, and there’s no two ways about it, it’s a political move. It looks bad, the optics are bad, and it’s another issue for the C-L community to deal with.”
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of our kids, our district, our taxpayers, everybody.
“I think it’s a political move, and I think it would be a much more noble and right thing to do to let the new board, after having time to get to know Ms. Glasl, make a decision as part of a comprehensive plan to move the district forward, rather than have people doing it at their last meeting, out the door. I just don’t think it’s right.”
Parker’s knowledge of the draft contract, which was not intended for public review, also brought up the question of how he got a copy of it.
“It’s been on Facebook,” board member Jamie Mahle stated. “I actually – before I was notified of the terms of the contract – heard from the public, before I got an email.”
Discussion centered around how a copy of the draft contract made it’s way to social media, however, no answers were forthcoming.
Local resident Bob Sawyer was the next to speak, keeping his statements short and to the point.
“If any of your arguments hold water, Nathaniel, then this board better not vote on anything on the rest of this agenda.
Because we’re talking about Stephanie’s contract, we’re talking about support staff, so we can paint the whole thing with the same brush and say it’s all being political – doesn’t hold much water with me.”
Incoming board member-elect David Eggleton also stood to speak during the public comment segment.
“I would like to thank the board for cleaning up the contracts, because we have five new board members coming on,” Eggleton said.
“You have worked with these people for two, three, four years, whatever. The support staff, I’m thankful that this contract is being settled, I’m thankful we’re hiring a supervisor for building and grounds for the evening. I’m thankful that you’re taking care of these folks’ contracts. I can’t do the same evaluation in five months that you folks can do in two years. Thank you.”
One last incoming board member-elect, Rebecca Allison, stood to speak, as well.
“I believe in being an advocate for our district. In order to be an effective advocate, I must listen, acknowledge, and act from a collaborative point of view, not simply the point of view that is similar to my own,” Allison said, noting she has already been speaking with and listening to board members, supervisors, teachers, students, parents, and members of the community.
“While I’m happy to stand here and say that we have these amazing people in our district, I also have to be willing to speak the difficult truths as well,” she noted.
“Our current school board has been overshadowed by controversy. The members have been plagued by poor communication, self-serving agendas, personal vendettas, and back-stabbing.
“Regrettably, this negativity has a damaging effect on the overall morale within our schools. Due to the micromanagement and the manipulation of the board, our school leaders have been unable to establish effective and professional communication within our schools. Instead, when they raise an issue, they’ve been met with double-talk, or finger pointing, or a complete lack of action.
“And, rather than encourage and empower our school leaders, this board has basically taken the reins. And now tonight, with a majority of members finishing their active terms, it feels that you are continuing this trend of manipulation and strong-arming by proposing this eleventh-hour contract extension for our district superintendent.”
Allison went on to state that it did not seem that the contract had been discussed and considered collaboratively by the entirety of the board, and asked that the board members consider leaving the contract negotiations to the incoming board.
“I implore all of our current members to set aside any personal agendas that you may have and truly look at what is best for the Clarion-Limestone School District. Table this agenda item.”
Following the public comments, the issue of the contract came up again immediately, as it was the first item on the agenda.
Board member Jamie Mahle made a motion to table the issue, and board member Roger Powell seconded the motion. However, the motion failed in a 2-7 vote, with only Mahle and Powell supporting the motion.
Board member Lee Stewart then made a motion to amend the agenda item to modify the contract to a period of three years, rather than the initially proposed five years. The motion was seconded by board member Terry Leadbetter, and passed in a 6-2 vote, with board members Roger Powell and Molly Greenawalt voting against it, and board member Jamie Mahle abstaining from the vote.
Finally, board member Gary Sproul made a motion to approve the modified contract and board member Terry Leadbetter seconded the motion. It was then passed in a 7-1 vote, with board member Roger Powell voting against the measure, and board member Jamie Mahle abstaining from the vote.
In other business, the board:
- Notified Stephanie Smith, district business manager, of the intent to renew her agreement which will expire on June 30, 2020.
- Approved a five-year contract between the Clarion-Limestone Area School District and the Clarion-Limestone Support Professionals Association, effective July 1, 2018, though June 20, 2023.
- Approved Andrew Rawson as Evening Custodian Supervisor with an anticipated state date of December 4, 2019, at a pro-rated annual salary of $45,000.00 for the 2019-20, pending receipt of all required legal documentation. His accumulated sick and vacation days shall carry forward.
- Approved a Memorandum of Understanding to the Clarion-Limestone Area Education Association Contract for the Senior High Assistant Cheerleading Coach supplemental position.
- Approved of a Memorandum of Understanding to the Clarion-Limestone Area Education Association Contract for the amendment of the Co-Athletic Directors supplemental positions to Athletic Director and Assistant Athletic Director.
- Approved to amend the 2019-20 supplemental position description and pro-rated salaries for Stacey Wiles and Brad Frazier as per the Memorandum of Understanding.
- Approved SAT Prep Course Instructor supplemental contracts for $223.00 per course/per instructor for Holly Pence and Jen Simpson.
- Approved an uncompensated leave for employee No. 226, contingent upon the receipt of a doctor’s note indicating that the employee has a medical condition preventing the employee from returning to work, effective November 7, 2019, for up to six months.
- Approved an addendum to the Keystone SMILES Community Learning Center agreement for the period beginning November 4, 2019, though June 10, 2020.
- Approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Community Action, Inc. Senior Corps – RSVP and the Clarion-Limestone Elementary School to provide volunteer services in the elementary school.
- Approved a $20.00 SAT Prep Course fee for students (the same as the previous year).
- Approved the Academic Decathlon team to attend (if qualified) the National Championship in Anchorage, Alaska, from April 30 through May 2, 2020, and to cover up to $5,000.00 in expenses after fundraising and donations.
- Approved a high school choir trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, from December 2 through December 7, 2020 (at no cost to the school district).
- Approved a change of dates for the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. (dates of April 5-8, 2020, were approved in October) to April 17-30, 2020.
- Approved construction of a courtyard at the elementary school.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article misidentified Bob Bubb as a local resident who made a statement at the meeting.
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