McKeesport Area School Directors voted at a special meeting on Tuesday to give Superintendent Dr. Mark Holtzman a new five year contract – a day after he had resigned from the position.
A video of the entire five minute meeting was published on Youtube by the Pennsylvania district located just south of Pittsburgh.
The five board members who voted in favor of the new contract were Board President Joseph Lopretto, Vice President Diane Elias, Ivan Hampton, Jim Poston and Tom Filotei.
In fact, they were the only school directors at the meeting. Steven Kondrosky, James Brown and Mindy Sturgess walked out of the meeting before it was officially called to order. Dave Donato was absent.
Holtzman’s new contract goes from July 7, 2021, to June 30, 2026.
Solicitor Gary Matta explained on the video that according to the state school code, the board couldn’t extend Holtzman’s old contract because he had more than a year left on it. The only way was for him to resign and then be given a new contract.
However, much about Holtzman’s performance and his new contract remain unclear.
The board had not yet completed an evaluation for the Superintendent for this school year and much about his new contract was not disclosed.
Many are speculating that this move was done to circumvent a change in power on the board after November.
Three of the five school directors voting for Holtzman’s new contract will be stepping down from the board in 2022.
Hampton, Poston and Filotei all will be replaced in January. They either lost re-election during the May primary or decided to step down. The other two board members – Lopretto and Elias – will be up for re-election in two years.
With five new candidates still in contention for four seats, much could happen politically.
Even if Matthew Holtzman, the Superintendent’s brother, wins a seat on the board in the fall, he wouldn’t be able to vote on the Superintendent’s contract because it would be a conflict of interest.
There is also a question about whether this week’s special meeting was legal at all.
On the YouTube video, it is announced that the meeting was advertised as being about “personnel.” Nothing more.
While that is true, it certainly goes against the spirit of the Sunshine Act. Most districts at least give the public a chance to comment on renewing a Superintendent’s contract.
Holding a last minute meeting right after a holiday with hardly any information about what is being voted on is not what most people would call good governmental transparency.
If the board had been secure that the public approved of Dr. Holtzman’s performance and wholeheartedly wanted his contract extended, it is doubtful any of these shenanigans would have been necessary.
Whether Dr. Holtzman did a good or bad job in his first contract with McKeesport will forever be overshadowed now by the shady way in which mostly lame duck school directors forced through his new contract.
Voters in the McKeesport Area School District deserve better.
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