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Plum schools Superintendent Tim Glasspool seeks to resign, get $184,000 severance

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, 11:54 p.m.
Timothy Glasspool, superintendent of the Plum School District in June 2015.
Lillian DeDeDomenic
Timothy Glasspool, superintendent of the Plum School District in June 2015.

Citing continuing "antagonistic and hostile behavior" by school board members, Plum School District Superintendent Tim Glasspool is seeking to resign and receive a severance package, according to a letter from his attorney.

The letter from Glasspool's attorney, Colleen Ramage Johnston, to school district Solicitor Lee Price is dated Sept. 14. Johnston and Price could not be reached for comment after hours Thursday.

Two school board members acknowledged the letter but none contacted late Thursday would comment on it.

Glasspool has been under fire since a teacher-student sex scandal came to light in 2015, shortly after his contract was extended for five years. It runs through June 30, 2020.

Three teachers, Joseph Ruggieri, Jason Cooper and Michael Cinefra, have been jailed for having sex with students.

An Allegheny County grand jury report found that Plum School District administrators turned "a blind eye to obvious signs of teacher misconduct" that allowed a "suspected serial child predator" to continue teaching years before his arrest.

Despite citing "systematic failures to protect students," the grand jury could not find enough evidence to recommend criminal charges against administrators.

The district placed Glass­pool on leave in summer 2016, but he returned to his post on Sept. 27.

School board President Kevin Dowdell and Vice President Michelle Stepnick could not be reached for comment late Thursday night.

Board member Richard Zucco hung up on a reporter who attempted to contact him.

Board member Sue Caldwell said she was not allowed to comment. Members Michele Gallagher, Vicky Roessler and Steve Schlauch said they had no comment.

Asked if she had seen the letter, Gallagher said, "I think everybody's seen it at this point."

"It's a personnel matter," Roessler said. "I don't know who leaked it. I have no comment."

Glasspool was out of the country and could not be reached. He did not immediately respond to an email.

What Glasspool proposes

According to the letter, if the board offers Glasspool the severance package he is seeking, he would resign effective Oct. 1.

But if the board does not agree to those terms by its meeting on Tuesday, his attorney wrote that it would trigger another scenario in which he would submit a retirement letter on that date, which would cost more, and he could sue the district.

In the letter, Johnston cited "a continued pattern of antagonistic and hostile behavior by several of the school board members towards Dr. Glasspool."

"There does not seem to be an end to this conduct in sight, especially when terminating my client has now become the platform of at least one candidate running for a seat on the board."

Johnston wrote that Glass­pool's preference is to get a severance package, which she described as "extremely reasonable."

It would cost the district about $184,000, including a year's salary of $157,600; $12,375 for unused sick days; and $14,088 for unused vacation days. He would also get family health, vision and dental benefits through next June.

If that doesn't happen by Tuesday, Johnston wrote that Glasspool would submit a retirement letter on Oct. 1, effective April 1.

"Doing so will make the district contractually obligated to pay him a package worth approximately $438,180," the letter states.

In addition to the payments for unused sick and vacation days, Glasspool would receive a $10,000 retirement incentive. Glasspool, 42, and his spouse also would receive health benefits for 22 years, when he becomes Medicare eligible. That would cost about $402,000.

Glasspool's attorney says he could also take a sabbatical leave of absence, during which the district would have to pay half his salary for six months. He would then decide if he would return to work, retire or pursue other options.

Lawsuit threatened

Johnston said Glasspool could file a federal or state lawsuit against the district and "various individual school board members for defamation, slander, breach of contract and violations of his rights.

"As I am sure you will agree, this option would not advance the best interests of the district, but would cost the district an exorbitant amount of money in attorney's fees and a potential award at trial," she wrote. "Please understand that although this option is my client's last resort, he will not hesitate to file such claims if need be."

The district recently reached a tentative settlement with the former female student who was 17 when Ruggieri began having sex with her. She had filed a civil rights lawsuit against the district in September 2016 claiming school officials knew about allegations of sex abuse but did nothing for more than three years, allowing Ruggieri to keep preying on female students.

Ruggieri is serving a prison sentence of two to five years. He pleaded guilty in April 2016 to institutional sexual assault, corrupting a minor and intimidating a witness.

A second female student filed a civil lawsuit in January. She claims she was a victim of Cooper, who is serving two to four years in prison. She alleges the district violated her rights by not investigating rumors of inappropriate contact between teachers and students. Cinefra, a former Plum High School substitute teacher and baseball coach, was sentenced in February to three to six years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old student. He had pleaded guilty to charges last November.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, brittmeyer@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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