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Palmerton weighs timing of superintendent search

Published July 17. 2019 11:51AM

The Palmerton Area School Board discussed options Tuesday night about when to begin its search for a new superintendent.

Board President Kate Baumgardt said the Pennsylvania State Education Association advised them that they could begin the process now, but they would probably get only six or seven resumes. If they wait until November, then they have a better chance of getting more resumes.

She recommended that they wait and advertise the position in November. They could accept applicants through January, begin interviewing in March and select a replacement in May. It looked like a done deal until board member Charles Gildner spoke up.

“I think we are going to get ourselves into the same problem we had before,” he said.

With the resignation of Superintendent Scot Engler, Director of Human Resources Thomas McLaughlin stepped in as the interim superintendent.

Gildner explained that if an employee has a problem that involves the superintendent’s office, then he or she doesn’t have anyone to go to about it since McLaughlin is holding both positions.

Gildner said he thinks the board should begin the search now for a new superintendent.

Board member Kathy Fallow added that, “This has nothing to do with personalities.”

“My concern is continuity,” said board member Barry Scherer. “The staff would go through three changes in a year (Engler, McLaughlin and a new superintendent).”

“That’s an incredible amount of workload for a modest increase,” Fallow said. “And I don’t think it’s fair.”

McLaughlin is being paid an additional $136.45 a day to take on the new responsibilities as interim superintendent.

The board asked McLaughlin his opinion about handling both positions through next school year. He said he could do it, but had originally anticipated handling both positions only until December.

“I do want an out,” he said. “I don’t want either position to suffer.”

Prior to coming to Palmerton, McLaughlin was the superintendent of the Weatherly Area School District and an elementary school principal.

Fallow suggested the district could post the position now and if they don’t find the right person, then they could post it again in November.

Baumgardt said it could make the school district look bad to potential candidates. She stood by her original position and said the PSEA said the district could get 21 to 30 candidates if they wait to post in November. Most potential candidates know by December if they are going to continue in their position as superintendent, she said. This is because they have to be given 150 days notice if there is going to be a change in their position.

Gildner reiterated his concern about the current setup and suggested that they at least hire someone else to be the interim superintendent.

Board member Tammy Recker said, “I think we’re looking to protect each layer.”

Fallow suggested that maybe PSEA could send to them resumes of people who could be interim superintendents, maybe someone who is retired.

Baumgardt said she would talk to them.

So advertise now and get a half dozen candidates that WANT to make a change and be part of something different. OR wait until November and get two dozen candidates that HAVE TO make a change so they can pay their bills.

All the CRAP that’s been in the papers lately about the school district and they’re worried about a second posting looking bad? UGH.

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