Charles Sciandra was unanimously elected Pittston Area School Board's new leader at a reorganization meeting on Dec. 4. He replaces Anthony Guariglia, who served in that role for the past year.
Sciandra, 63, of Dureya, a business consultant, said the board has some deep challenges ahead, including the drain cyber/charter schools are having on the district's budget and negotiating a new teachers' contract.
I'd like to build a consensus and promote teamwork, he said. And try to get ahead of some of these problems as soon as we can.
One of the biggest caveats we're looking at right now is we have an $800,000 to $1million drain from cyber schools and charter schools, he added. When we look at our budget, these are dollars that are leaving our district that we have to find ways to bring back.
He said the current teachers' contract expires in June and negotiations will begin in January.
We have a great professional staff, Sciandra said. I know everyone in the district realizes that, as we go into negotiations, that we're in for some tough times.
Sciandra praised the district's leadership, including Superintendent Dr. Michael Garzella and said he looks forward to working together in the upcoming year.
Sciandra spent 10 years as a high school teacher, then left the public sector for the business world for the past 35 years. He's spent the past 20 years as a specialist for a private equity company, restructuring and turning companies around.
Kent Bratlee, a past board member from Avoca who was appointed to the board earlier this year to fill a vacancy, was elected vice president. Bratlee received five votes from Guariglia, Sciandra, Bruce Knick, John Donahue and himself.
Richard Gorzowski received votes from Marilyn Starna, Joseph Kelly and himself. Robert Linsky was not present for the vote, but came to the meeting later.
Donahue was re-appointed the legislative chairman/Pennsylvania School Board Association representative.
Knick was appointed as voting delegate for the tax collection committee. He replaces Sciandra. Tony Guariglia was appointed as alternate voting delegate.
Guariglia and Donahue were designated as board overseers for the district's purchasing policy.
The board voted to conduct public work sessions and meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the Pittston Area High School Library.
The board voted to hire Amy Linnen as Director of Special Education. Linnen currently holds the same position in the Dallas School District since 2010.
Linsky stated the district's administrative hiring policy wasn't followed in hiring Linnen.
He said the policy is for a selection committee to narrow the pool down to three or four candidates and the entire board then interviews the finalists.
That didn't happen here, Linskey said.
Garzella defended the hiring.
This is a high profile position in our district and we needed to get the best possible person in here, Garzella said.
I felt strongly we all worked together and made the best selection.
After some discussion, the board voted to suspend the hiring policy regarding that hire.
Linnen's undergraduate degrees are in psychology and elementary education. She holds a master's degree in special education from Wilkes University and reading from King's College. She is presently in the educational leadership doctoral program at Wilkes. She previously worked as a special education teacher and as a pre-school teacher at Head Start.
We are very lucky to get someone of her caliber, Garzella said.
Garzella said the district has between 250 and 300 special education students.
Garzella said the district's website is in the process of being redesigned.
We've been working on the new website with the (Luzerne Intermediate Unit), Garzella said. I was hoping it would have been ready by now, but I assure you it's going to launch in the very near future.
He said the administration is meeting with various department heads to determine what content will be posted and who will post it.
We're working hard to clean it up and we ask that you just give us a little bit more time.
The board appointed James Heffers as technology consultant at $163.94 a day on a per diem basis.