Hearing resumes for fired West Jefferson Hills superintendent

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

When a long-term West Jefferson Hills School District substitute teacher did not get hired for a permanent post, she visited the school board vice president's home, escorted by a high school assistant football coach, to voice concern.

“I listened to her,” board Vice President Shauna D'Alessandro said when she took the stand on Tuesday in a remand hearing for the termination of fired district superintendent Terry Kinavey.

The purpose of the hearing was to enter more evidence into the record, following an appeal of Kinavey's termination by her attorney, Ernest DeHaas, of Radcliffe & DeHaas. The defense subpoenaed D'Alessandro to testify.

Kinvey has contended she was fired because community members placed political pressure on school board members after she removed the substitute teacher's name from a hiring sheet.

D'Alessandro and board member David Graham were the only two to take the stand Tuesday during nine hours of testimony in front of colleagues on the West Jefferson Hills board. Only one board member, President Anthony Angotti, was present.

Neither Graham or D'Alessandro voted on Kinavey's termination and a judge ruled they must recuse themselves from the remand hearings.

Kinavey was suspended in September 2009, after more than 100 residents attended board meetings questioning her actions to remove Breisinger's name from a hiring sheet.

The board voted to fire Kinavey in September 2010, following testimony and a termination hearing that lasted 15 sessions in which district officials presented evidence that she violated district procedures as well as plagiarized materials and speeches.

Breisinger later was hired for a teaching position at Thomas Jefferson, the same day Kinavey was placed on administrative leave.

Kinavey appealed her termination. Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alan D. Hertzberg ruled last year that the record was incomplete and ordered the case go back before the school board.

Kinavey has been in several legal battles with the district, its board members and solicitor Ira Weiss, including a federal suit that was dismissed, following her termination.

A county Common Pleas case against D'Alessandro and Weiss, claiming a conspiracy led to the superintendent's firing, was dismissed and is being appealed to the state Superior Court.

Breisinger first contacted D'Alessandro by phone on Aug. 21, 2009, asking the board vice president to “look into a situation that she was concerned about, because she believed that she was going to get hired” for a full-time position at Thomas Jefferson High School, D'Alessandro testified. This did not occur.

Breisinger stated she did not understand why she had not been hired for the post since she had been under the impression that her name was on a mailbox at the high school, she had been assigned a teaching mentor and her name had been on a hiring sheet for a time, D'Alessandro said.

Then, athletic director and varsity high school football coach Bill Cherpak contacted D'Alessandro in September 2009, within a week of board members placing Kinavey on administrative leave, asking if Breisinger, escorted by assistant football coach Jack Garrity, could speak with the board vice president, D'Alessandro testified.

The three met for a “very short time” and D'Alessandro said she thought Breisinger's intention for the meeting was to apologize for creating a stir in the community regarding her hiring.

During that meeting, Breisinger told D'Alessandro about a conversation she had with former Gill Hall Elementary Principal Kathleen Warburton, who said Kinavey had told her never to advance Breisinger further in the district, D'Alessandro testified.

D'Alessandro, a self-employed certified public accountant and member of the school board since 2003, testified that she has known Breisinger possibly since the latter was a PTA president at Gill Hall Elementary school several years ago.

Emails between community members, the board of directors and district administrators prompted the majority of questioning from lawyers representing the fired superintendent.

Graham, who also testified in the first round of termination hearings, said that until Tuesday he was unaware that Breisinger had received an email from the director of human resources secretary — nearly a week before the school board was set to vote on hiring a person for an English/reading specialist post at Thomas Jefferson High School. In the email, secretary Paula Kiray told Breisinger, “Once this is all over and you're officially hired, we're going to go out and celebrate.”

Board members who do not attend the hearings must review transcripts, hearing officer Michael Palombo said.

“We have jobs,” Angotti said, explaining why other board members were not present during the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. hearing.

It has not been determined if the board will need to take further action following the remand hearings, Palombo said.

The hearing is set to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday at the high school auditorium, 310 Old Clairton Road, Jefferson Hills.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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