Scranton Board Picks Retired Auditor For Vacant Seat
SCRANTON — A retired school auditor hopes to guide the Scranton School District to financial solvency.
After hearing from a dozen applicants for the vacancy caused by the death of Carol Oleski last month, the board voted 7-1 after 11 p.m. Monday to appoint Greg Popil to the seat.
Popil, of North Cameron Avenue, served on the school board from 1986 to 1991, and is a retired bureau of schools field auditor for the state auditor general. He also sought prior appointments. Board President Barbara Dixon swore him in after the vote.
“My main goal is to right the district’s financial situation,” Popil, 71, said.
After hearing from the candidates and asking them questions about transparency, nepotism and state scrutiny, directors picked their top four candidates. Directors then voted in order of the applicant who received the most mentions, with Popil being first up for the vote. The term will expire in December 2019.
Director Paul Duffy voted against the appointment, but said he looked forward to serving with any of the applicants.
The board met for more than four hours at Northeast Intermediate School on Monday night, conducting its regular meeting before interviewing candidates and appointing a new director.
In other business:
n The investigation into
harassment complaints made by the superintendent will cost the district $14,000. Directors, who voted to retroactively hire Kingston attorney Jarrett Ferentino on Monday night, disclosed his legal fee for the first time after the meeting. The board has refused to release the results of the investigation, citing legal and personnel issues.
In a June letter to the board, Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., alleged school directors sexually harass her, create a hostile work environment and discriminate based on her gender and ethnicity. The board violated the Sunshine Act when it decided in an executive session in June to hire the attorney, according to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association. John Minora, who was solicitor until Monday, had told the board it could retroactively hire Ferentino to satisfy any legal requirements.
n The law firm Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams, which has an office in Pittston, will replace Minora as solicitor. The district will pay the firm between $160 and $195 per hour, with no retainer. Prior to the meeting, directors pulled the resolutions for hiring special education and labor counsel.
n The board voted to table a resolution to pay Gerrity’s Supermarkets $900 per month — $25 for each of 36 spots — for staff parking across the street from Willard Elementary School. Gerrity’s bought the property at 1137-1139 Eynon St. for $3,000 from the Lackawanna County Land Bank this summer and is razing the building and paving the lot. Given the district’s financial problems, directors asked administrators to approach Gerrity’s about securing a lower — even free — rate.
n Cafeteria workers came to the board to ask for support in their negotiations with Aramark, the district’s food service provider. The workers, who are employed by Aramark, only receive one paid day off each year and do not get sick days, according to the workers. One employee has worked in the district for 10 years and only makes $9.50 per hour, said Luann Henehan, president of the union that represents maintenance, clerical and cafeteria workers.
“They are feeding our children. They are vital,” she said.
n Several teachers continued to speak out against the cuts made by the board for this school year, from a lack of librarians and guidance counselors to reduced staff numbers that have led to difficulty supervising students at intermediate schools.
n Directors reduced the number of board committees from 17 to eight: budget and finance, education, community relations, policy/legislative, personnel, vendor relations, operations and special education. Dixon, Vice President Robert Casey and Director Bob Lesh voted against the change.
n Longtime administrator William Gaynord, the current chief of human resources, will retire Dec. 31. The board hired the following people: Michael Richards, intervention specialist; Michael Costello, textbook clerk; and Jeana Gatelli, library clerk.
n The board approved more than $900,000 in capital improvements, including replacing the roof at Northeast Intermediate School, window replacements at West Scranton Intermediate and door replacements at Neil Armstrong Elementary. The district will seek a new appraisal of the former Lincoln-Jackson school, which has become an eyesore, neighbors have said. Bids from two auctions have failed to meet the appraised value.
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