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Plum board names North Allegheny principal as district's new superintendent, amid criticism

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, 8:03 p.m.
Plum residents and parents await the school board's decision on a new superintendent Tuesday evening, Feb. 13, 2018.
Michael DiVittorio/Tribune-Review
Plum residents and parents await the school board's decision on a new superintendent Tuesday evening, Feb. 13, 2018.

North Allegheny Intermediate Principal Brendan Hyland has been hired as Plum schools superintendent, despite objections by more than a dozen residents at a Wednesday night meeting.

The school board approved hiring Hyland in a 6-2-1 vote at the special meeting, with Richard Zucco and Jim Rogers voting no and Angela Anderson abstaining because she said she had unanswered questions after the interview process.

A full house of residents made it clear they were not happy after the vote.

"To go forward and hire this man when everybody was so upset, I'm honestly in a state of shock," parent Robyn Tongel said. "Very disappointed and worried about the future of our community. I don't know if there's anything that can be done."

One concern was about a lawsuit that alleged Hyland did not adequately address bullying and sexual harassment of a sophomore girl at North Allegheny while he was principal there. Hyland was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed against North Allegheny.

Most of allegations in the lawsuit were dismissed; one was settled out of court through the district's insurance company, Plum Solicitor Bruce Dice said.

Parents said they were worried how Hyland might handle a problems like bullying when he gets to Plum, where they have had issues of harassment of students in the past.

"There has to be a reason that you chose this man, because logic tells you the baggage should matter," parent Karin Acquaviva said. "If you hire this guy, it's never going to be right."

Hyland did not attend the meeting and did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Some audience members questioned why the board would hire someone with no experience as a superintendent in a district that has had its share of controversies during the last few years. Others warned against making the hire too hastily.

"I do not think this candidate has the experience that is necessary to run this school district," said Kevin Dowdell, who served on the school board for 12 years and was involved in two superintendent searches.

Amy Wetmore, who failed to win a seat on the board in November, echoed that thought.

"This individual comes to us with no experience as a superintendent ... and is coming into a school district that is still reeling from chaos over a plethora of things in the last few years," she said.

Hyland was given a 5-year contract with a starting salary of $155,000 and 2.5 percent raises each year. He replaces Tim Glasspool, who resigned Oct. 1 following two tumultuous years in which he and other administrators came under fire for not doing enough to stop criminal sexual acts involving teachers and students. Three teachers are serving prison time for their involvement in the district sex scandal.

The district started the job search with help from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association in December. The majority of residents who spoke before the vote urged the board to postpone any action and reopen the search.

The pleas of residents were met with a promise that Hyland was the right candidate, carefully chosen from 21 candidates who applied for the job.

"We've vetted these candidates," board President Steve Schlauch said. "We've done all our research on these candidates. Dr. Hyland, I promise you, is an outstanding, more than qualified candidate. I have full confidence in his abilities, character and integrity. He's going to do a great job in his position."

Hyland has worked at North Allegheny for 11 years and was a principal at the Mt. Lebanon School District, 2002-07. He has a doctorate in administration and leadership, along with a superintendent letter of eligibility from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, according to a release issued by the district. Schlauch said Hyland's start date is pending release from his job in North Allegheny.

School board member Scott Kolar, Plum's personnel committee chairman, works with Hyland as the school's Air Force Junior ROTC instructor.

"He's a consummate professional," Kolar said. "He's a leader in one of the top-performing school districts in the nation. His professionalism is beyond reproach."

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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