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Montoursville Area School Board creates new assistant superintendent position after 5-4 vote

By a 5-4 vote, the Montoursville Area School Board this week approved the creation of an assistant superintendent position.

A person has not yet been hired for the job that will involve serving as curriculum director and assisting with communications in the district.

The position has been the subject of much debate at recent board meetings and once again drew both opposition and support from the public and school directors.

Board members voting in favor of creating the job were William Ruffing, Dale Ulmer, Dottie Mathers, Jennifer Marriott and David Shimmel. Voting no were Ron Snell, Susan Beery, Scott Konkle and Daniel Albert.

Snell said he opposed hiring an assistant superintendent.

Rather, he supported hiring someone to serve as director of curriculum, which is the biggest part of the overall job description for assistant superintendent.

He noted that the district’s student body has shrunk since Superintendent Christina Bason was hired for her job several years ago.

“I think our superintendent did a good job on her first contract. Now she feels she needs more help. This year, I am stressing it even more that we need to watch expenditures,” he said.

He added that the creation of an assistant superintendent position will remove some of Bason’s duties.

Mathers disagreed.

“I don’t see that,” she said. “We all agree we need a curriculum director. We will get more bang for our buck if we hire someone to do things we need.”

Some district residents stated their opposition to hiring an assistant superintendent.

Brenda Oberheim said the superintendent has not done a good job of communicating with the public.

“We are supposed to go out and hire someone to cover her tracks? A good solution would be to fire Mrs. Bason and hire someone else who lives in the area,” she said.

Another resident suggested the hiring of an assistant superintendent be taken off the agenda.

Ruffing said most people have no idea how much additional work the superintendent has been doing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For people who say she is just not doing her job, they can’t explain what she’s not doing,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s just your opinion.”

Konkle said he could support hiring a curriculum director, but not an assistant superintendent.

Shimmel said Bason recently received an above-satisfactory assessment for her job performance.

The salary for the position is to be determined.

In other matters, school directors were asked when they plan to resume in-person board meetings.

Shimmel said the reason for virtual-only sessions is to comply with the state’s order on masking at public meetings.

“I knew we wouldn’t get mask compliance indoors, and the state says we have to do it,” he said.

Snell said other schools in the area are conducting in-person meetings.

Beery asked, “Are people willing to follow the mask order?”

The board approved consent to Levin Legal Group’s concurrent representation of Bason, Shimmel and the school district, defendants in an ongoing case involving parents opposed to the masking of children in the district.

The firm, which serves as legal counsel to the district in other matters, noted it does not believe representation of “one of its clients will be adversely affected by representation of the others. However, we will remain sensitive to any developments that may change our analysis of the situation, and we ask that you do the same and that you bring any such developments to our immediate attention.”

The board approved an agreement with the Bloomsburg University Nursing Program for its students to take part in clinical health experiences in the district. The nurses are enrolled in the bachelor of science, master of science and doctor of nursing practice programs.

In other action, the board approved:

• A one-year $6,800 contract with Conrad Siegel to provide Affordable Care Act reporting

• Acceptance of a check for $14,300 from the Montoursville Area Education Foundation for auditorium lighting.

• A policy on anti-bullying on first reading.

• Promiseland Bussing rates of $2,493 and $2,712 for September.

• Matthew Bolt as assistant junior high wrestling coach at a stipend of $2,600 and Robert Labatch as a volunteer girls basketball coach.

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