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East Allegheny School District's old issues resurface

| Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, 2:21 a.m.

Many issues that confronted East Allegheny School District in recent years showed up on Tuesday night, along with a crowd that forced the school board meeting to be moved to the high school auditorium.

The issues are tied to budgetary concerns raised amid a two-day-old strike by 133 teachers in the East Allegheny Education Association.

One sign seen often on picket lines refers to a $2.7 million bond approved for Constellation Energy's overhaul of lighting and heating systems.

“It is something that is not necessary to do when teachers do not have a contract,” said Melodi Janosko, who has two children in district schools.

A school board member involved in negotiations said the bond issue isn't having a negative impact on the budget, and that energy savings will cover the bond.

“There was an investment-grade audit performed at the beginning of the project,” Dr. Frederick Miller said. “The intent of that was to assure that the energy savings would cover the cost of the project, in fact, the cost of the bond. We're already seeing electricity improvements and we will begin seeing savings in the heat this winter. There was no net cost to the district.”

The sign mentions expenditures of $111,000 on lawyer fees and $115,000 budgeted for future lawyer fees.

The reference is to fees that supposedly have and will be paid to the law firm where Michael Palombo, chief negotiator in contract talks with the East Allegheny Education Association, is a partner.

Asked by one resident how much Campbell Durrant Beatty Palombo & Miller PC has been paid, district Superintendent Roger A. D'Emidio said “roughly $80,000 at this point.”

Another issue is the number of administrators and the contract that covers them.

Miller said the board passed the Act 93 contract for administrators on May 30, 2012, one month before the pact covering the teachers union members expired.

“You said you run this (district) as a business,” resident Thomas Barbarino told D'Emidio. “If you run this as a business, you cut the fat from the top and not the bottom.”

Some speakers, including Barbarino's wife, Tina, raised the question of reimbursement for administrators' continuing education and the lack of reimbursement for teachers.

Questions began after a brief workshop and picked up when the board acted on a brief agenda.

Directors approved memorandums of understanding between the district and the education association, one related to the starting time for professional staff at Green Valley Primary School and Pre-K Counts classrooms, and another modifying the workday for professional staff at the Early Learning Center.

The board approved Rachel Dindak as head coach and Shannon Coulter as assistant coach of the girls varsity volleyball team, and Nicholas Cortazzo as a volunteer assistant football coach.

Directors approved Shannon Roney and Kyle Zaspel as long-term substitutes and Kurt Retenauer as a substitute secondary English teacher.

The board granted leaves to Candice Tedesco, Betty Lou Stone and Joseph Volpe, and added Erin Petrosky (secretary/aide) and Jeremy Anderson (social studies) to the substitute list.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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