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Waynesboro School Board approves new superintedent, but not without argument

September 10, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School Board officially hired a Camp Hill, Pa., high school principal as the district's newest superintendent during a contentious and, at times, hostile meeting Tuesday night.

James L. Robertson will be paid $122,000 in the first year of his three-year contract - $2,000 less than the recently retired superintendent.

Five board members were excluded from the salary negotiations, and at least three of them claimed to not know Robertson would be hired until they read about it in a newspaper on Monday.

"We owe this to our constituents. We agreed from the beginning that it'd be the entire board involved in this process," board member Edward Wilson said.

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All board members agreed that they were given an opportunity to participate in the interviews, which started after Barry L. Dallara retired in April. They hosted two searches and eventually narrowed the field to Robertson and Sherian Diller, the district's director of elementary education.

Board President Stanley Barkdoll said he and the other board officers - John Fitz, Chris Devers and K. Marilyn Smith - handled the final aspects of the hiring process, along with interim superintendent Gloria Walker.

"Four of you made a decision, not a majority, to set a salary and select this man," Wilson said.

Pennsylvania's Sunshine Law requires open meetings when an elected board meets with at least half of its members. With nine members on the school board, a meeting with five members would have needed to be announced to the public, although the majority of personnel discussions could have been held in a closed-door period of that open meeting.

Board member Leland Lemley left the closed-door session of Tuesday's meeting in protest, saying he had already been excluded from any commitment to Robertson's hiring, as well as contract and salary discussions.

"If you were to not hire him now, would he not have legal action (because) you negotiated a contract with him?" Lemley asked.

Barkdoll, who apologized to Crutchfield and Lemley, reminded the board that Robertson's hiring would only be effective with a formal vote, despite any earlier announcement to the media concerning the board's intentions. That vote ended up being unanimous, with the angered members saying they had nothing against Robertson personally.

Lemley urged that Diller be the leading candidate for the position of assistant superintendent. Walker is expected to announce her retirement next Tuesday.

The board differed on Robertson's contract, voting 6-3 to accept it. Crutchfield, Lemley and Wilson voted against the motion.

"This job, I feel, is worth $122,000. We have a middle school principal making almost that much," board member Pat Heefner said.

"I think the salary is out of line. It's too much," Wilson said.

Barkdoll said the contract allows for salary increases in line with the annual Pennsylvania Act 1 inflationary index. The 45-year-old new superintendent, who can be retained by the Camp Hill School District for 60 days, will be given 25 vacation days and a monthly travel allowance of approximately $200.

Also, in a separate vote, the board purchased him a $2,800 Mac Book Pro laptop this week.

"I, as a taxpayer, am very disappointed that all the board members are not involved. We elected you people to represent us on school matters. Certainly selecting a superintendent is one of the high-end decisions you make," said Amos Miller, who lives on West Sixth Street.

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