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Chambersburg assistant school superintendent removed despite public support

March 13, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • The Chambersburg Area School Board meeting drew a large crowd Wednesday night as the board removed an assistant superintendent from her role despite public outcry for her to remain in the position.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The Chambersburg Area School Board on Wednesday removed an assistant superintendent from her role despite public outcry for her to remain in the position.

Catherine “Cathy” Dusman was assistant superintendent of elementary services. She will now be director of early childhood education with an emphasis on pre-K through second grade.

The shift in titles and roles means Dusman will lose her desk in the central office and possibly a four-year contract.

The school board chose to not renew Dusman’s current contract when it expires Aug. 23. Board President Stanley Helman told The Herald-Mail the new position will have the same salary and a four-year contract, but Dusman said she believes the role actually comes without a contract because it is classified differently.

Dusman’s supporters filled three rooms and a hallway for the school board meeting. They carried signs, wore red, and chanted “Ca-thy, Ca-thy” and “Joe Must Go” in reference to Superintendent Joe Padasak.

Dusman hugged the supporters.

“I’m overwhelmed with the support I have here in the community. ... I’ve tried to do the very best I can for the benefit of the children in the district and the families in the district,” she said.

The board voted 5-3 to make the changes to Dusman’s role. Voting in favor were Norman Blowers, Kim Amsley-Camp, Joseph Tosten, Fred Rice and Helman. Voting against the move were Anne Boryan, Joan Smith and Carl Barton. Phillip Miracle abstained.

Smith was outspoken about the issue, saying she did not have Dusman’s performance evaluations, reasoning about school performance or feedback from the principals Dusman supervises.

“As a school board member, I truly believe I deserve answers. ... I have concerns about how this whole matter was handled,” she said.

Helman told The Herald-Mail that Padasak is like the CEO of a company and he needs the latitude to put people where he feels they would best serve the district. Helman would not discuss the particulars of Dusman’s situation, but said closed-doors sessions about personnel generally involve verbal discussion without supporting documents.

Padasak, who issued a news release on the topic before the meeting, said little about the changes during the public meeting itself.

“We have a need for pre-K to second grade for more leadership. This is not a punitive measure,” he said during the meeting.

Renee Sharpe, of Philadelphia Avenue, is a former school board member. During the public comment session, she described executive sessions where one person is handing out papers and others are talking, and in the chaos the school board members are asked for direction.

“It’s almost too much to handle,” Sharpe said, saying she regrets some personnel decisions from her time on the board.

She alleged the superintendent had “backed (the board members) into a corner where you have no time to investigate.”

“This decision tonight will directly affect one of the most dedicated employees I think Chambersburg Area School District has ever seen and will adversely affect the district,” Sharpe said.

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