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LASD looks at Cleaver’s contract

An investigation into the validity of Lehighton Area School District Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver’s contract is ongoing, board members and the firm representing the district said this week.

During a meeting Monday night, attorney Tim Gilsbach, of Fox Rothschild LLC, said the firm is in the process of reviewing Cleaver’s contract, which was approved 5-4 in late June, extending him through the 2023-24 school year.

No additional details were given Monday as to what specifically was being investigated, but a motion the board approved last week indicated it pertains to “the possibility of the board submitting fraudulent documentation to the Pennsylvania Department of Education concerning the superintendent’s contract extensions and/or contract renewals since July 1, 2012, to the present date.”

“I think the lawyer should be allowed to do his work, and when that work is complete it can be shared with the public,” board President Joy Beers during Monday’s meeting. “I’m not sure it makes sense to discuss it during a public session while they are still investigating.”

Cleaver, per the terms of the extension approved in the summer, will receive a 2% raise each year of the pact, making his base salary for the 2021-22 school year $147,900. He will then be set to make $150,858 in 2022-23 and $153,875 in 2023-24.

He was also extended by unanimous board vote in 2017. Lehighton hired Cleaver as superintendent in June 2012. He was first employed at Berwick as a special-education teacher in 1999. He then held dean of students, acting assistant principal, assistant principal and principal positions at Berwick High School. In December 2010, Cleaver became Lehighton Area School District’s coordinator of curriculum, instruction and grants.

Eric Christman, district resident and LASD alum, criticized the board’s contract investigation, predicting it will end up costing taxpayers in the long run.

“It seems this is a personal agenda, when it comes to Mr. Cleaver’s contract,” Christman said to the board. “You claim the contract is not valid, but there was a 5-4 approval in June. I’m sure Mr. Cleaver will seek litigation, and I couldn’t blame him.

“It looks like the district taxpayers are going to have to pony up some more money if we’re going to go that route.”

Should the district no longer employ Cleaver, Christman questioned who would be making leadership decisions.

“I’m sure all of this is going to come back on our teachers and they are going to get loaded up working on more stuff, and we’re working on a skeleton crew to begin with,” Christman said. “Have you considered working with Mr. Cleaver? Have you ever considered sitting down and having goals and reviews and seeing what’s going on? You have three board members in here that are entrepreneurs. Is this how you run business?”

Beers addressed rumors circulating in the Lehighton community that Cleaver had been given a termination notice on Tuesday morning.

“They are not true,” Beers said in an email addressing the rumors. “Mr. Cleaver remains our superintendent. The solicitor’s investigation is ongoing. From what I understand of school code, any such termination would occur in a public meeting as it requires the board’s approval, therefore a nonpublic termination would be impossible.”