First Posted: 3/20/2013
The March 19 meeting of the Pittston Area School Board was punctuated by sharp disagreements and heated internal debate.
In what, at first, seemed like a mere formality, board member Anthony Guariglia made a motion for the board to formally accept an “organizational chart.”
The chart is a document mapping out a specific hierarchical order of employees or officials in a company or other organization. They are typical in government structures and large corporations.
The Pittston Area School District had been operating without one. District Superintendent Dr. Michael Garzella had sought to have one created and met informally with most of the school board members to discuss the chart and present a tentative model.
At Tuesday’s meeting, however, Guarglia presented an alternate organizational chart which he claimed incorporated Dr. Garzella’s initial chart while enhancing it. That chart was adopted by a vote of 5-4.
Guariglia was joined by board members Ken Bratlee, Joe Donahue, Bruce Knick and Charles Sciandra in accepting the new chart.
Board members Michael Gorzokowski, Joseph Kelly, Robert Linskey and Marilyn Starna each voted against it.
Linskey, who had not met with Garzella, or any other board member regarding the chart prior to Tuesday’s meeting, decried the motion. He accused board members who approved it of failing to act in a transparent matter.
Knick, Gorzokowski and Starna defended Garzella and noted that each had met with him and had seen his “grey” version of the organizational chart. They took issue, however, with Guariglia’s amended “blue version,” stating they were not aware of its existence prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
Guariglia responded that he gave his version to borough secretary Debora Rachilla on March 14 so that other board members might have it by the following day. He offered to forward the e-mail to his colleagues in order to verify the date and time.
Rachilla was not available immediately after the meeting to confirm whether or not she ever received the chart.
Linskey went on to make, and later withdraw a motion, stating that no board member could discuss district matters with the school superintendent outside of official meetings and work sessions.
Following the meeting, Garzalla explained that he repeatedly requested that meetings be made at the convenience of board members. He elaborated that some board members came in groups, although always cautious to avoid having enough members present to create a majority.
He stated he was never contacted by Linskey to confirm any meeting time.
Debates over the need for an organizational chart spurned another debate regarding the need for additional administrative support at the high school level.
This prompted Gorzokowski to recommend that current Pittston Area Primary Center principal and former high school principal Janet Donovan be returned to her position as Pittston Area High School principal.
Donovan is currently in her fourth year as a principal with the district. In August 2012, she was removed from her position at the high school and placed as principal for grades three through five at the elementary school.
At that time, Donovan requested to work as both primary and secondary principal but was denied by the board. Since then, she has volunteered to continue to perform many of her secondary principal duties.
Board member Bruce Knick spoke in favor of Donovan but cited budgetary concerns in his hesitancy to restore her to her former role.
Kelly added he, too, was sensitive to budgetary concerns but felt the district would stand a greater chance of receiving grant funding with Donovan in place to alleviate some of the responsibilities currently being shouldered by Dr. Garzella.
“Dr. Garzella is doing an amazing job, but he is overwhelmed,” Kelly said.
After the meeting, Garzella responded to Kelly’s statement by saying, “I’m not overwhelmed but I want to put a team in place. Some of the pieces are already here.”
Linksey joined Gorzokowski and Kelly in supporting the move while all other board members voted against it, most of them citing budget uncertainties as the sole reason for their vote.
In other matters, the board intends to conduct a public hearing to solicit public input regarding the potential closing of the Pittston Area Kindergarten Center on Walnut Street in Dupont.
Garzella was careful to point out that the district had not made any decision regarding the fate of the aging building.
Due to numerous maintenance issues, the closure of the building could bring cost savings to the district. Garzella stated that students at the school could be absorbed into the Primary Center without problems.
The next Pittston Area School Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16.