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Old Forge School Board Expected To Rehire Its Current Superintendent Tonight

April 18, 2018

The Old Forge School Board is expected tonight to vote on appointing Superintendent John Rushefski to a new five-year contract with the district, despite a vote three months ago to search for other candidates. Tonight’s meeting begins at 7 and will be held at the high school auditorium. It already has drawn public criticism from one member of the school board, Alisha Marmo, who voted along with five others in January to seek other applicants for Rushefski’s job. “Something heartbreaking is about to happen at the Old Forge School District and I can’t find it in my heart to sit idly by,” Marmo posted to her Facebook page Tuesday morning. “The board voted to spend $3,000 of taxpayer money to hire a firm to handle the search for a new superintendent. At the time, I believed the board was open to new candidates with fresh ideas and no political ties. This week, it became clear that enough board members intended to keep the current superintendent all along.” Marmo, a new school director, characterized the search as an “act in futility” which she said passed over worthier candidates, whom she did not identify in her post. Marmo wrote that Rushefski has “done things” to gain board support. She did not say specifically what he did, other than to characterize it as “truly unethical and shameful.” “He has ‘bought’ votes through means of appeasing board members’ lust for personal benefit and control,” Marmo wrote. Contacted before tonight’s school board meeting, Rushefski emphatically denied he bought votes or did anything to gain board members’ support. The board hired Rushefski in March 2014. His salary for the 2017-2018 school year is about $102,300. During its January meeting, the board voted 6-3 to not extend Rushefski’s contract. Board President Joan Wilk said at the time that some school directors felt that they should explore other options, though Rushefski could reapply for the position. Rushefski’s contract expires June 30, and the board had to give him 150-days notice they would be seeking other applicants or his contract would renew automatically. Board members Frank Scavo, Julie Grimes and Megan McCabe voted against the motion to seek other candidates. Scavo at the time blasted the decision to look elsewhere as a “vindictive vote” because fellow board member Christopher Cesare Thomas had been under investigation by Rushefski and a previous board. In March 2017, school directors voted to fire Thomas, a former district teacher and principal, though Thomas said he resigned in July. The circumstances for his termination remain unknown. A settlement agreement, which paid $130,000 to Thomas, bars disclosure of the details of his separation, expunged termination documents in his personnel file and compelled Thomas to withdraw complaints made against the district with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thomas has denied any vendetta against Rushefski. Check back for updates. Editor’s note: Times-Tribune staff writer Joseph Kohut will be tweeting live from tonight’s Old Forge School Board meeting. Follow his tweets @jkohutTT. Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9144; @jkohutTT on Twitter.