As community members and parents in the Union School District, we commend the Union School Board’s decision to advertise for a new superintendent. Over the last several months, we have attended many school board meetings and talked to board members, school employees and community members. We are not, as has been suggested, a special interest group or a group with a community political agenda. We are just a group who wants the best for our school district and our students. In fact, after listening to many community members over the past several months, we believe we represent the majority of residents in the district.
At school board meetings we witnessed failures to follow Union board policies and proper procedures. How does that happen with an experienced superintendent, a long-time school solicitor and a 27-year board member present at most meetings?
Like many community members, we are outraged that several separate allegations of plagiarism by the superintendent were not fully investigated and addressed by the school board. One board member, an attorney with extensive knowledge of professional ethics, even resigned in protest of the board’s decision to do nothing. As noted in The Leader-Vindicator article of Aug. 15-16, 2018, district solicitor Ralph Montana referred to alleged “repercussions” from the University of Pittsburgh for this alleged plagiarism. Furthermore, in a subsequent conversation with two of us, board member Terry Rush admitted there were consequences for the superintendent from the University of Pittsburgh for this infraction; yet he is quoted in The L-V as saying this superintendent is one of the best he has served with. It is time for Mr. Rush to either step up for the students or step off the board.
If a respected institution such as the University of Pittsburgh believed the allegations of plagiarism were valid enough to take action, why didn’t the Union School Board? How could four members of the board vote to retain a superintendent who has violated the district’s own policies? How can they explain this vote to students who are being taught the consequences of plagiarism or who have, themselves, been disciplined for plagiarism?
The exodus of so many school employees in recent years has been a concern to us. Some of these people retired a bit earlier than they had planned, some sought employment elsewhere, and others just resigned. The stories shared by a few of these employees and others still with the district give a strong impression of an oppressive work environment that ultimately affects the students and faculty.
If you doubt the truth of these statements, we urge you to ask questions and attend school board meetings.
As the Union School Board begins its search for a new superintendent, it is our hope that they find a candidate who can move our district forward, follow district policies, work with our community in providing the best education for our students and, hopefully, recover and maintain the trust in our school leadership that has been broken.
LACY SMITH and
Union School District Residents