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Acting Emerson principal named to permanent post

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 7:36 a.m.

An acting elementary school principal in West Mifflin Area School District will hold his post in an official capacity next school year due, in part, to parents who spoke up on his behalf.

Christopher Hanna will be Emerson Elementary's official principal next fall, earning an annual salary of $72,100.

Hanna, one of four applicants who interviewed for the post, was approved on Thursday by West Mifflin Area school board in a 5-3 vote. Absent was director Nicholas Alexandroff.

Board president Phil Shar and directors Ted Cale, Michael Price, Dan McDonald and Judy Andzelik supported the measure to hire him, though the majority vote came only after an earlier measure to hire Hanna failed.

In the first vote, Andzelik voted “present” as did two other directors — Richard Crux and Harry Fast.

Crux and Fast changed their vote to “no” after the motion failed and the matter was brought up again as new business, joining director Ron Rubinsak, who in both rounds was opposed to hiring Hanna.

Earlier in the evening, about 10 people spoke on behalf of Hanna, who has been acting principal at Emerson this year and has worked for the district for four years. Supporters who described Hanna as a kind but stern administrator included parents, one teacher and a student.

Similar public support for Hanna was voiced at a board work session last week.

Those supporters were notably distressed when his future at the school appeared uncertain because of the failure of the first vote.

Price, who introduced the first measure to hire Hanna, said he did so “because I've gotten nothing but fantastic feedback on many levels” regarding the administrator. Price and others also noted Hanna was the school administration's recommended choice.

Following the first vote, Crux introduced a measure to hire district teacher Sharna King-Baker for the position at an annual rate of $98,500, but that measure failed for lack of a second.

When Cale introduced the measure to hire Hanna a second time at the end of the meeting, he increased the initial salary offering by $100 annually in order to comply with a procedural mandate that prevents members of a losing majority from introducing an identical measure twice at the same meeting.

Borough resident Diane Stanesic scolded members who voted “present” first, telling them, “I will make sure nobody re-elects you when your term is up” should they have failed to commit one way or the other to the next vote.

They did and Hanna was appointed.

Hanna, who attended the meeting, said afterward, “I owe everything to the parents and students of Emerson Elementary.”

Andzelik said later that she was undecided about which applicant would be better for the job.

“I've been struggling with this for a month,” she said, adding that parental support for Hanna finally influenced her decision.

Crux said afterward that he thought both candidates would be good but he thought King-Baker should have gotten the job because she has more years of experience in education.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or