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Charleroi Area School Board votes to oust superintendent

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 3:12 p.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Charleroi Area School District Superintendent Brad Ferko

The Charleroi Area School District will seek a new superintendent.

The school board on Tuesday voted, 7-2, to open the job of longtime Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko.

Ferko's 10-year tenure is scheduled to end July 1. He is in the last year of a five-year contract that pays him approximately $126,000 annually.

Hired in 2004, Ferko said he wasn't surprised by the board's decision.

“It was an honor and a privilege to serve the people and students of the Charleroi Area School District. That's all I'm going to say,” Ferko said. “I love my students. I plan on continuing to focus on the students and perform my job to the best of my abilities until June.”

The following voted to open Ferko's position: Ken Wiltz, Patsy Brinker, Rosalie Carroll, Heather Keranko, Jim Short, Greg Anders and Charles Yakich.

Adele Hopkins and Elaine Pappasergi opposed the action.

“I guess you could look at it this way. I was superintendent in one place 10 years, and that is far above the state average for that position,” Ferko said.

Wiltz said, contractually, the board had to inform Ferko of its decision by January. The board president added that the vote was not based on anything Ferko had done “to raise any red flags.”

Wiltz confirmed that Ferko was offered a chance to resign, but he refused.

“He has done a lot for the school district, and I have said that to his face. But it has just gotten to that point where we need to move in a different direction,” Wiltz said.

Wiltz declined to elaborate further, saying, “That delves into personnel matters, and I don't know if I can go into that.”

Wiltz said Ferko asked the board to make its decision known “sooner than later.” He said directors had been discussing the position.

“There were no concerns about his abilities or inabilities,” Wiltz said. “He now has an opportunity to go aggressively after another job, and we have the opportunity to start our search.”

Wiltz said the board will begin discussions as early as its November informational meeting on how to commence the search. Wiltz said he does not expect the search process to be finalized until January.

In an interview Wednesday, Hopkins called the vote “a huge mistake.”

She said Ferko helped the district “rise from the ashes.”

“I would love to see him stay until he retires,” Hopkins said. “I think he has been the best thing ever for our school. Our students are No. 1, and I'll bet you he knows all 1,700 of their names.”

Hopkins said Ferko was key in addressing several issues – from facilities to morale – when he arrived 10 years ago.

“It was a mess. … our curriculum was about nonexistent 10 years ago for our elementary students,” Hopkins said. “Financially, we're one of the few school districts that never laid off a teacher or cut a student program in the past 10 years.

“When the teachers took pay cuts, he would not let us give him a raise for two years. He is Charleroi. Someone is going to snatch him up.”

Pappasergi said Wednesday that although she and Ferko have had past differences, she cast her vote for the good of the school district.

“I had to sit down and weigh the pros and cons for what he did the past 10 years,” said Pappasergi, listing Ferko's establishment of all-day kindergarten, after-school tutoring and homework programs.

“He's saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars by starting our own cyber school. I decided any differences I had with him should be put aside for the good of the kids. That's what my vote was based on.”

Ferko was hired May 6, 2004, to replace Carol Witmyer, who resigned in December 2003. Reid Smith subsequently was named interim superintendent.

Ferko formerly served as assistant superintendent in the Shaler Area and Burrell school districts. He also served as principal and both Riverview and Conneaut Valley high schools.

Wiltz said the vetting process for Ferko's replacement would likely be performed by Intermediate Unit 1 – a public school support service.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cbuckley@tribweb.com or 724-684-2642. Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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