New Castle News

January 16, 2013

New Castle superintendent search could carry cost

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle Area School board’s route to a new superintendent could hit the taxpayers in the pocket.

The board was divided in a straw poll taken Monday, but the majority indicated they would spend between $5,500 to $15,000 for its search by using the services of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The amount spent through that agency would be determined by one of three pricing levels it offers. The deluxe package for an executive leadership program is the most expensive at $15,000 and could include additional fees and travel costs for finalist candidates.

The board’s other choice — using the services of the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, of which it is a member — would be free.

The IU IV’s work would include advertising in educational publications and online, printing and mailing applications to interested applicants, conducting preliminary background checks, presenting complete application files to the board, securing interviews, videotaping interviews and arranging for the board to visit each finalist’s community. The advertising would include the School Leader News, which has statewide distribution.

The board expects to officially approve one of the two agencies at its meeting Wednesday.

The district needs someone to replace superintendent George Gabriel, who is retiring Jan. 31. He submitted a resignation letter amid heated arguments with the board about proceeding with the Lockley Early Learning Center project.

At a special meeting last week, the board heard presentations by the intermediate unit and the school boards association.

Monday’s straw vote indicated Stacey Fleo, Allan Joseph, Mark Kirkwood and Karen Humphrey favor using the intermediate unit, while Dr. Marilyn Berkely, Barb Razzano, David DiGiammarino, Mary Ann Tofel and Anna Pascarella were for the state association.

“I had a problem with the amount of money with PSBA,” Fleo commented.

“I was leaning toward PSBA,” Razzano said, noting she felt the state agency would conduct a national search for applicants. “It’s a top position. It’s well worth it.”

DiGiammarino, the board president, commented that he, too, favors PSBA. The savings in the superintendent’s salary “would balance it out. It would be cost-neutral. We’re looking at a CEO. It’s a top position.”

He noted that PSBA has conducted 100 searches since 2005.

In the past decade, the intermediate unit has assisted the Neshannock, Laurel, Wilmington, Mohawk, Union and Shenango school districts in searches for superintendents and New Castle for other administrative posts, at no charge.

“That’s a lot of money,” Kirkwood commented of the $15,000. “People told me, yeah, you’re going to get 10 candidates.”

Pascarella said she likes the school board association’s idea of surveying teachers and administrators to get district employees’ feedback.

“We have candidates in our own district who are very capable of doing the job, but some board members here are afraid of them,” Joseph commented.

“They’re free to apply,” DiGiammarino responded.