New Castle News

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October 13, 2012

Nepotism, volunteer policies go back to square one at Neshannock

NEW CASTLE — It’s back to square one for the Neshannock Township School District’s nepotism and volunteer policies.

Board members, considering the first readings of updates to these policies this week, deadlocked 4-4 with Jay Vitale, P.J. Copple, James McFarland and president Mark Hasson opposing and Richard Loudon, Amy Na, Kathy Snyder and Karen Houk in favor. Board member Dr. Richard Papa was absent.

Following much discussion, which included Copple and Vitale calling for the board to return to the prior policy and Houk offering to resign as committee chairman, board solicitor Michael Bonner explained that approval of the first reading would not change the policy. He said it would just make the proposed changes available to the public for review.

A second reading by the board is required before any change is validated. The deadlocked vote resulted in the policy being returned to the committee.

The proposed policy change would reinstate a more restrictive anti-nepotism policy. The policy would prohibit spouses and relatives of staff and board members — including siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins — from being hired by the district.

This had been the board’s policy from July 8, 2004, until May 12 of this year when a new, less-restrictive policy was adopted by the board.

The current policy bans the hiring only of spouses, parents, children and siblings of staff and board members.

Houk explained that the committee was recommending a return to the more restrictive policy at the request of the administration.

“Half want a change, half do not,” Houk said. “How can we compromise?”

Vitale said a straw vote in August indicated that five board members preferred to leave the policy as is.

Dr. Mary Todora, superintendent, said the less-restrictive policy is creating difficulties for administrators.

“Everyone has kids who graduated from college and they want them interviewed and hired for a position,” she said. “It’s hard to look at a staff member and try to explain why their son or daughter didn’t get (hired).”

Changes to the volunteer policy also caused board members to deadlock 4-4.

Houk noted that the biggest proposed change limits sports, academic or extracurricular volunteers from accepting compensation greater than $100 for providing services.

This caused Hasson to say the district could be short-changing its children.

“If the football coach brings in a volunteer strength trainer, could the boosters give him $1,000?” Vitale  asked.

“They cannot,” Houk said. “Volunteer means volunteer. They can’t accept anything but a thank you.”

Bonner, however, said the board doesn’t govern the booster program.

“You govern your hirees, the volunteers. You can tell them they can’t accept money from boosters. If they do, and you find out, you can dismiss a volunteer for accepting.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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