Husar files to have suspension reversed
Palmerton Area High School Principal Paula Husar is seeking to reverse the school board’s decision in April to uphold her nine-month suspension from Sept. 7, 2017, to June 7, 2018.
Husar’s attorney, Mark Bufalino, filed an appeal in Carbon County Court on May 20, calling the board’s decision “improper.”
Husar was suspended Sept. 7, 2017, when Palmerton Superintendent Scot Engler recommended her dismissal to the school board and cited over 20 charges against her.
In April, the board voted 7-2 to uphold nine months of Husar’s suspension and reinstate her as principal.
Board members Kathy Fallow and Barry Scherer voted against the suspension.
“The district did not meet its burden of proof of establishing any of the charges alleged against her by Mr. Engler, including, but not limited to the charge that she engaged in persistence negligence of her duties,” Bufalino wrote in the appeal.
Before the board chose to vote on upholding part of Husar’s suspension instead of terminating her, it voted on whether it felt sufficient evidence had been presented to terminate her on eight individual charges.
The closest vote, a 5-4 decision, came on the charge that Husar engaged in persistent negligence in the performance of her duties as outlined in the dismissal charges. On that charge, directors Charles Gildner, Scherer, Tammy Recker, Josh Smale and Josann Harry voted that there was sufficient evidence, while Fallow, Baumgardt, Earl Paules and Sherry Haas disagreed.
Several of the other votes were unanimous in that the entire board felt there was insufficient evidence to terminate Husar. Those charges included that Husar was insubordinate on Sept. 7, 2017, by failing to report to the district office for a Loudermill hearing or to return her district belongings, that Husar caused a serious disruption in the district when she failed to return school property to the administration office and caused rumors and gossip to spread, and that Husar failed to adequately address or inform Engler of ethnicity-based harassment complaints leading to a Pennsylvania Human Relations complaint filed against the district.
On two charges, Scherer was the lone board member to find there was enough evidence for termination. Those charges were that Husar intentionally attempted to discredit Engler by making false and derogatory comments about him, and that Husar failed to comply with a board policy related to field trips and the appropriate number of chaperones.
The lone remaining charge, that Husar harassed and intimidated fellow employees, had a split vote. Scherer, Recker and Harry thought there was enough evidence for that charge to support termination. Smale, Gildner, Fallow, Baumgardt, Haas and Paules did not.
“Despite the absence of a supermajority of the board regarding the persistent negligence charge, the board improperly voted to suspend Mrs. Husar for a period of nine months,” Bufalino wrote.
Bufalino, in his appeal, argued that most, if not all, of the charges brought by the district stemmed from incidents dating back to 2015 or 2016.
“Those are incidents for which the district had already imposed discipline against Mrs. Husar or had the opportunity to impose discipline, but did not,” he wrote. “Any of those incidents should not have formed the basis for Mrs. Husar’s suspension, let alone termination. Double jeopardy is an area of labor relations law that enshrines the idea an employee should not be penalized twice for the same infraction.”
Husar received a three-day suspension in 2017 for what the district described as mishandling a bus incident.
“Additionally, the district was improperly permitted to present hearsay statements of several students whom the district failed to identify and whose identities would not present issues of disclosure or discipline and, therefore, denied Mrs. Husar from exercising her right to cross-examine those individuals,” Bufalino said of the termination hearing.
Husar is requesting the reversal of the suspension along with back pay and benefits for the nine-month period.