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Monessen board hires kindergarten teacher

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

After two months of conducting interviews and delaying a vote, the Monessen School Board on Tuesday hired its fourth — and final — kindergarten teacher.

Garnering applause from nearly two dozen residents in attendance, the board voted, 6-1, to hire substitute Dena Mornak as a full-time elementary instructor for the 2013-2014 school year.

There had been five candidates for the new position, according to board president Sharon Mauck.

A 2007 Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mornak had been a substitute teacher at one of the district's four kindergarten classes since the start of the school year.

Board members Cheryl Galilei, Donna Fantuzzi, Kim Egidi, Lee Johnson, Brett Lepresti and Cindy Pawelec voted to hire Mornak while Mauck cast the lone vote in opposition. Board member Amy Bukowski was absent.

Mauck said she cast the lone negative vote because there were other candidates with more experience who interviewed well.

“Some of the candidates that we had interviewed, there were one or two of them that just knocked it out of the ballpark,” Mauck said. “I do feel badly for the candidates who did not get it, but you have to congratulate this young lady and wish her well. She's already been in there and we've gotten some wonderful feedback and a majority of the board thought we should just continue with her.”

Maria Scuteri abstained from the vote, saying she had not sat in on interviews due to work and family priorities. After the meeting, Scuteri said while Mornak has done “a fantastic job,” she disagreed with the hiring because it had been “muddled from the beginning.”

“I could have gone with the board's recommendation, but I like to make my own decisions and don't like the way this whole process went down,” Scuteri said. “I'm still happy for (Mornak) and think she'll do an outstanding job. ... There were a number of parents who approached me and expressed hopes we would keep her on because their children loved her and they would be upset if there had been a change.”

At last month's regular meeting, the board was poised to make a hire, but the motion was tabled because of confusion over the measure's wording.

During Tuesday's public comment session, Roberta Bergstedt congratulated Mornak, who was in attendance, but criticized the board for passing up a long-time substitute for the job.

“Congratulations to Miss Mornak … although I am saddened that we once again passed over someone who has been very loyal to this school district and who could've been hired the day that class opened,” Bergstedt said.

The district needed another instructor because of a larger-than-expected kindergarten class of nearly 80 students, which included a number of last-minute enrollments.

Mornak will be paid a first-step, bachelor's salary of $34,518. Business manager Linda Powell said the money would come from federal Title II grant money.

Superintendent Linda Marcolini handed out certificates to Galilei for 16 years of service on the board and Scuteri for eight years of service.

Monessen High School Principal Brian Sutherland announced the school will be hosting a Halloween dance Oct. 24 in the cafeteria, the first of its kind “in quite some time,” he said.

Marcolini said there are still approximately 10 seats available for a “Fan Bus” for the football team's game Friday in Frostburg, Md. Cost is $18 for the round-trip and does not include cost for game tickets. Anyone interested can call Darlene at 724-797-6882.

In other action, the board:

• Unanimously approved the sale of a lot at 445 McKee Ave. from Vincent Campbell to David Crews for $450.

• Approved payment of bills in the amount of $373,721.

• Accepted Jim Stepoli's resignation as middle school basketball coach and hired Dave Wojtanowski to replace him at a salary of $2,700.

• Approved a contract with Fayette-Greene-Washington Intermediate Unit to provide Title I services to students for the 2013-2014 school year.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.