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School Board Votes 5-3 Not to Renew Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci's Contract

Contract expires June 30, 2013.

After an evening of emotional speeches, the Pine-Richland School Board decided in a split vote Monday night not to renew Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci's contract when it expires at the end of June.

The 5-3 vote split mostly along the lines of newcomers vs. veteran board directors.

Voting not to renew the contract were four directors with less than a year's experience. Directors Peter Lyons, Laura Ohlund and Virginia Goebel were elected in November 2011. Director Katie Shogan was appointed in May to fill the vacancy left when Director Richard Herko resigned.

The veteran director who also voted against renewal was Treasurer Dennis Sundo, who has served on the board for seven years. He was the only director to vote against Bucci in May 2009 when she was hired to replace Superintendent Dr. James Manley.

Voting Monday in support of Bucci were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Dr. Jeffrey Banyas and Director Therese Dawson. They were elected in 2001, 2009 and 2007 respectively.

Director Mark Casciani, who was appointed to the board Sept. 20, abstained.

Bucci’s Response

“I have considered it a privilege to work for this district, to serve the students and staff and parents of the school district and the school board members who have supported me. I will always be grateful for the opportunity.

“I still say Pine-Richland is a great place to live, to learn and to work,” Bucci said with a smile.

Coming Out of the Blue?

Before the vote, Hawbaker said that although it might seem the issue “appeared from nowhere,” it did not.

A school board is required to express its intent on a superintendent’s contract renewal five months before the contract expires, he said, and the board was in the process of evaluating Bucci.

Apparently, the school board met in executive session on Monday, Sept. 24, to discuss Bucci’s contract.

Bucci was advised Tuesday that the board would not renew her contract and she advised her staff of that on Wednesday, Hawbaker said.

Directors’ Respond

Lyons, who made the motion to notify Bucci that her contract would not be renewed, said:

“This is not a vote against Dr. Bucci. To me it is a vote to simply choose not to  renew a contract that expires at the end of the (school) year and to vote to engage in more growth and perhaps more change— but with an eye toward continuing improving this school district while keeping all the improvements and all the changes and all the accomplishments that we have achieved in this district.”

Dr. Jeffrey Banyas countered by showing a slide show that summarized a long list of Bucci’s accomplishments and said he believed Bucci should be retained.

Dawson left her director’s seat and moved to the podium to give an empassioned speech that praised Bucci and her accomplishments, then asked fellow board members to “do what is best for the students.”

Hawbaker echoed Banyas’ and Dawson’s sentiments.

Katie Shogan noted the data board members received from community members who filled out evaluation forms.

“Steve alluded to the fact that we asked for some community input, in an evaluation form for this,” Shogan said. “As the newer board member, that was a piece of data I took seriously.”

Shogan said the comments showed a divide “that really took me by surprise.”

“I have gotten some community feedback, again from various sources, ... and I think there is a divide and a mistrust that is pervasive and that it is too much to overcome.”

“I think we need to clear up that distrust that seems to be out there," Shogan said. "The data that I have indicates a desire for more of a community presence than what exists currently. And I am disheartened that this is the way this is happening.”

 


Cindy Cusic Micco October 03, 2012 at 09:05 PM
The district hired a new athletic director, Joshua Shoop, who started working for the district this summer. As a taxpayer, you (and many others) are indeed paying his salary. From everything I have heard about him, he has a very good reputation.
Fred Freitag October 03, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Cindy - I just heard that Dr. Rondinelli would have been a better choice from people who worked with both because of her talents, convictions, etc.. Not trying to compare PSSA scores with South Fayette School District.
Alan October 04, 2012 at 09:37 AM
Setting the Record Straight - Are you friend or family with Bucci? Based on your "passionate" comments it certainly looks that way. All I know is that we are better off without Bucci. Bye Bye Bucci
Kiki Schleiff Cherry October 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
In his resignation letter Mr. DiTomasso stated his reason for leaving as his acceptance of a position with the Community College of Allegheny County. In that same letter, he wrote the following: "It has been my great pleasure and honor to serve with Dr. Bucci during her tenure as Superintendent of Schools, and I am proud that I have been able to be of assistance to her as she has worked tirelessly to navigate the district through difficult times over the past three years. Dr. Bucci has consistently demonstrated the courage to make the necessary, if not always politically popular decisions, during her tenure, and modeled the form of leadership that I hope to carry with me into and exemplify in my next endeavor. The Pine-Richland school district is fortunate to have a leader such as Dr. Bucci as its Superintendent. Although Dr. Bucci was not the Superintendent when I was originally hired, I can truly say that there is no other Superintendent for whom I would have desired to serve over the last three years."
Elizabeth October 04, 2012 at 09:28 PM
and your point is?..... nice letter for Dr. Bucci but why did he resign........hmmmm
Bob Necciai October 05, 2012 at 01:58 AM
If you were not involved in the decision to select Dr Bucci as superintendent, then you have absolutely no standing to state that another candidate was more qualified. Anyone that wants to get that involved, there is an election every two years, jump on in, the water is fine, lets see how you do when you are tasked to make statements and decisions when people know your name. It is easy as pie to hide behind a pseudonym cover name and anonymously throw out blather.
PR Proud October 05, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Fortunately, I guess, the current school board disagrees with your perceptions as to who the best person is to lead our district. Instead of taking Dr. Bucci's termination as our superintendent as a personal affront, why not move on yourself? You are an ex-board member tearing apart the board members who have visions different from your own. Quite simply, they are more apprised of the current (and sometimes confidential) state of the educational/financial/personnel affairs of our district than you are. The decision has been made, and now, we need to support our board through the process of finding the best person to lead our district.... in much the same way that I/we did when you served. We may not agree, but the time has come to move forward.
Kiki Schleiff Cherry October 05, 2012 at 01:05 PM
All that many of us in the community are asking for is some evidence to back up the swift judgment and condemnation of Dr. Bucci. Genuine grievances should have first been presented to Dr. Bucci following her performance evaluation. She should have been given the opportunity to defend her positions, or attempt to make agreed upon changes. When it was decided not to renew her contract, then the PR community should have been given legitimate reasons why this action was being taken. This whole thing has been handled terribly It carries a shroud of secrecy and smacks of personal vendetta. I have honestly been asking for reasons because I genuinely want to know. But my inquiries have been met with hostility, resentment, and sarcasm. I did not come into this with an agenda. Monday night when I attended the board meeting, I was open to hearing both positives and negatives about Dr. Bucci, and dealing with any issues we had in a respectful and dignified manner. What shocked me most was the rude behavior of some board members towards fellow members. I believe in the law of reciprocity---a culture of negativity, rumors, in-fighting, and disrespect will have a domino effect and be perpetuated all around. What kind of example does this set for our children? Many of you commenting here serve on significant boards in our district. Let's show our children how to handle conflict in a respectful and civilized manner.
Dr. PR October 05, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Checked - those gates spin each direction so you can go in and out.
Fred Freitag October 05, 2012 at 01:53 PM
You could file a "Right to Know" request as to the evaluation forms used to make the decision to not rehire Dr. Bucci. As the Patch reported, "Katie Shogan noted the data board members received from community members who filled out evaluation forms. “Steve alluded to the fact that we asked for some community input, in an evaluation form for this,” Shogan said. “As the newer board member, that was a piece of data I took seriously.” Shogan said the comments showed a divide “that really took me by surprise.” “I have gotten some community feedback, again from various sources, ... and I think there is a divide and a mistrust that is pervasive and that it is too much to overcome.” “I think we need to clear up that distrust that seems to be out there," Shogan said. "The data that I have indicates a desire for more of a community presence than what exists currently. And I am disheartened that this is the way this is happening.”"
Fred Freitag October 05, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Additionally Kiki, there were five board members who voted against rehiring Dr. Bucci - that's more than just a personal vendetta obviously.
Fred Freitag October 05, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Hi Dr. PR. I'm sure you're correct. However, I have been there many times where they only "spin" one way - to exit the facility. That's actually why I even made the statement to begin with because usually they only spin to allow one to exit and not enter the facility. I don't know when you were there to "check" in the gates but it could be an unlikely coincidence as to me and my history. Not to challenge you or anything, but I will check them out the next time I'm there to be certain of my statement. However, thank you for your continued effort, objectivity, and honesty!
Parent #2 October 05, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I don't know the details of this situation but I do know that none of us should assume that the current board is completely on the right track. Can I recommend that all of you monitor these elected (and appointed) individuals to make sure that their VISION matches yours. The times I have been to board meetings, I have seen them talking in exhausting circles and at times are downright rude, unprepared and even incoherent (not all, but some). The board members that seem to take the heat the most are the only ones that I have seen act in a dignified and professional manner. All I can say is- don't assume they are on your side. Do we even know what side they are on? Or what vision they have? One has been appointed, one appears to be out for himself, one has called for tax increases every year, and the others are so fresh and I question that they have a pulse on what is going on. I cannot say that I am at all close to the details, but I hope that everyone here keeps tabs on them. You all seem very smart also. I am glad to see that there are so many people that care about the future of this district. I personally am waiting it out to see if we will send our kids there.
Fred Freitag October 05, 2012 at 02:12 PM
One more think Kiki - also reported in the Patch: "Before the vote, Hawbaker said that although it might seem the issue “appeared from nowhere,” it did not. A school board is required to express its intent on a superintendent’s contract renewal five months before the contract expires, he said, and the board was in the process of evaluating Bucci." So, to the community at large it might seem the issue came from no where but the board it would appear had been doing their "homework" on the matter.
a mom October 05, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Dear Parent #2, I hope by incoherent you do not mean hearing impaired.
Parent #2 October 05, 2012 at 06:07 PM
No- not at all. I am talking about talking in circles In a very confused and unprepared fashion. Unprepared for the topic at hand.
Kate October 05, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Dear Parent #2, I would love to hear a specific circumstance in which the board was "confused and unprepared". You seem so eager to give your opinion even though you admit you "don't know the details of the situation". If you are going to insult every single member of the school board, at least you can give some real facts to back it up.
Fred Freitag October 05, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I would agree with you Kate. Although I might not like a particular decision of the board - I'm not insinuating that they have an ulterior motive or are rude, unprepared and even incoherent. I believe that we just disagree.
Concerned Parent October 06, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I want to thank the board members for volunteering their time in our district. I agree that they should be monitored to make sure their VISION matches the needs of our community. I hope they will learn to agree to disagree and act in a dignified and professional manner.
Kate October 06, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Dear Concerned Parent, What is the "Vision" of our/your community and how do I "monitor" the school board directors? Do you think the school board directors are not concerned about the needs of our community? Why are they there? These are people who spend countless hours to figure out what is best for PR. Have you ever lasted till 12 am at a school board meeting? They have..many times. The needs of PR is clearly all the school board cares about. Disagreements among them is called DEMOCRACY...it's what out country was built on.
Fred Bloggs October 06, 2012 at 02:04 AM
That is a CLEAR violation of WPIAL/PIAA rules. Not surprising though is it in a district that preaches "win at all costs" from the top down.
Fred Bloggs October 06, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Hampton is a tiny school district. It is the ONLY school district in PA that is comprised on a single Township. Having said that - and having 3 kids that graduated from there I can say it is an excellent school district run by a competent board and Super. To try to compare it to a school the size of P-R would be unfair - but it seems they do have a good handle on the operations. Sure - there are problems with drugs, truancy, bullying - show me a school anywhere in the world where that doesn't exist and I'll show you some wonderful beachfront property in Arizona.
Concerned Parent October 06, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Kate, I agree this country is about DEMOCRACY, so why are the other 3 board members being ridicule for voting to retain Dr. Bucci.
NotBornAYinzer October 09, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I have a question on this statement of yours: "When it was decided not to renew her contract, then the PR community should have been given legitimate reasons why this action was being taken." Does Dr. Bucci's contract state that she must be retained beyond the contractual period? Does it also state that if contract is not renewed, specific reasons are to be given? Does anyone outside of Dr. Bucci, her representatives, and the board know what is in her contract? Just curious, since many of us do not have any expectation that our employment will be there the next day, as Pennsylvania is a "work at will" state, which means our employer can "let us go" at any moment for any reason. A person under an employment contract, such as Dr. Bucci, has no expectation that their contract will be renewed beyond the original period. I don't understand why there needs to be a reason - the contract period was to end in June 2013, the board is to review at least 5 months prior, and a decision was made - well in advance of that 5 month time period.. You don't agree with the decision, and that's fine, but to ask or "legitimate reasons" is not required in this situation. Whether or not Dr. Bucci was not renewed based on bias or rumors, or even legitimate reasons, is not my call as I do not attend board meetings, nor do I listen to the gossip at Giant Eagle. It sounds like the board did their part per the contractual obligations. Let's just leave it at that, and move on.
Kiki Schleiff Cherry October 09, 2012 at 07:53 PM
NotBornAYinzer~you're right. Legally the board is not required to state a reason. It's just the ethical thing to do. There was a day and time in this country when a situation like this would have been conducted with dignity and respect. That was when most of society still believed in treating others in the manner they would like to be treated. I guess we have lost that in our culture. I'm signing off from this forum now, as i don't really see much benefit on commenting further. We have beaten the horse to death. I still hold to my position that Dr. Bucci deserved better than the treatment she received, and I will continue to support her. But in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Speak only if it improves upon the silence."
NotBornAYinzer October 10, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Shouldn't you modify that quote to be "Speak only if it improves upon the silence AND AGREES WITH MY OPINION"? Look, the board didn't want to renew her contract. They have their reasons, and if it's not required to make public, then they don't have to do it. They provided their decision well in advance of the requirements, which is more than ethical. I'm sure that Dr. Bucci was told, or can figure out, the reasons why she wasn't retained. If not, then she shouldn't have been a leader since there is a quality in all leaders called "emotional intelligence". Go look it up, and you'll see why she should know why she isn't being retained. And to your statement about treating others as they would want to be treated - what do you say to the parents of the poor soccer player when they asked to see the external investigator's report? Does this fall under your "deserved better than the treatment" they received? Were they treated with "dignity and respect"? I think Dr. Bucci received similar treatment by the board as the parents received from her. Ironic, isn't it?
Fred Freitag October 10, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Hi NotBornAYinzer! In my opinion I think that Dr. Bucci was given FAR better treatment and transparency than the Reynolds family. Too, there is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Bucci does, or should, know exactly why her contract wasn't renewed. Moreover, she can probably ask those board members who would tell her the reasons. But the Reynolds weren't given the decency of any type of transparency whatsoever. In fact, although I already stated my opinion already, I would state again that the independent investigation was nothing more than an artifice/ploy and a deception to give the appearance of an "investigation" when the intent was nothing more than a way for them to CYA.
PineRich Mom October 11, 2012 at 02:20 AM
x
PineRich Mom October 11, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I find it interesting that so man feel the board rushed the decision to not renew Dr. Bucci's contract. It was public knowledge that Dr. Bucci's contract was up for renewal in June, and many parents contacted the board to express their opinion. There are actual people in the district that took the time to get to know and vote for the board members in the last election. Several board members have spoken at PTO meetings and will often return phone calls, meet with residents or correspond via e-mail. The board in entirety is comprised of professionals and parents, and most were voted in. And P.S., Ms. Shogan was voted in unanimously by the entire board, not just the ones that voted not to renew the contract. In my opinion, the reason Dr. Bucci did not get her contract renewed include: + a massive brain drain of administrators (including nearly 100 percent turnover of principals) + a lack of transparency in communication (snack policies and the elimination of conferences, which was not based on any sort of data on how it would benefit the primary schools, are prime examples) + Lack of leadership on the budget (anyone who attended budget meetings over the past three years could attest that Dr. Bucci could not articulate what we would do when we would eliminate staff or programs) + Poor implementation and roll out of Eden Hall Our needs have changed. It's not personal; our kids deserve the best we can give them. I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.
Fred Freitag April 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM
Given the latest rankings of schools in Pennsylvania where PRSD doesn't even rank - I think that Bucci not be retained was in the best interests of PRSD. Maybe now that she's gone we can move forward instead of backwards. Here's a link to the article: http://pine-richland.patch.com/articles/pine-richland-unranked-on-us-news-and-world-reports-best-schools-list?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001

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