Job openings stacking up in West Jefferson Hills district
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The departure of multiple high-ranking, longtime employees and the reinstatement of an administrative position create an opportunity for West Jefferson Hills leaders to take a new approach, the school district's recently hired superintendent said.
Michael Panza, who started in the district's top role the final week in June, said he has been busy during the last several weeks interviewing candidates for the numerous job openings in the district.
“While it's a loss to the district and you want to thank them for their service, it provides opportunities for the district to look at things in a different way and to say, ‘Maybe there's a different way that we should be doing things,'” Panza said.
He is taking his time trying to find someone for each opening, and for some of the positions, plans remain unknown and hire dates have yet to be determined.
“We don't need to do anything real quick. We need to take our time,” Panza said. “Let's decide: What does the district need? Then fill that need. It's a very nice opportunity.”
Openings in the district include a reinstated director of curriculum/instruction/assessment job, the director of human resources position, held for seven years by Hamsini Rajgopal, who also served as acting superintendent and acting assistant to the superintendent in the last two years; and a public-relations post. Numerous teaching and secretarial jobs also are open.
Rajgopal resigned from her position about two weeks ago, Panza said. The board will vote to accept her resignation on Tuesday.
Rajgopal, 47, said she left to pursue new opportunities.
“I'm grateful and appreciative of my dear staff, students and the community for their support of my varied leadership roles in the district,” she said on Wednesday. “It's been an incredible journey.”
Panza said he hasn't decided if the human-resources position will be filled, or when.
“It's a real loss to us,” Panza said of Rajgopal's departure. “The district is a better place because of her.”
School board President Anthony Angotti said board members have not met since the position became open.
“We will meet and discuss where to go from here,” he said.
In June, Panza said, district leaders decided to take their public-relations job in a different direction — focusing on technology.
Board members approved the elimination of the district's communication-consultant position, held by Mimi Haley for 14 years.
Panza said he contacted officials at Duquesne and Point Park universities to seek candidates for a yet-to-be-determined position that would oversee social-media usage and website updates and feed stories to the local media.
The person would work about 20 hours a week, and it might be a contracted position, Panza said.
The superintendent said he received applications from 20 people and interviewed 15 of them. He said he hopes to hire someone by the end of September.
“It's very impressive, the quality and the level of the people that are out there right now,” Panza said.
District leaders also hope to hire someone for the reinstated director of curriculum/instruction/assessment position by the end of September, Panza said.
“We really need to take a comprehensive, longitudinal look at our curriculum to make sure that we're aligned with the state Common Core in (kindergarten) through (grade) 12 in all of our subject areas,” Panza said.
The person also will help to oversee professional development and serve as the assessment coordinator in the district, Panza said.
That position has “been on the radar for a while now,” yet board members waited to begin looking until a full-time superintendent was in place, Angotti said.
The last person to hold this job, then called assistant to the superintendent in charge of curriculum, was Suzan Petersen, who retired in June 2010.
“It's our top priority to get that candidate here,” said Angotti, noting that acting superintendents have handled the duties the past few years.
Also open are four full-time and three long-term substitute positions, he said.
District leaders also are planning to hire a baseball coach after the position, held by Kevin Gryboski for one year, was opened in June.
Gryboski was invited to reapply for the job, Panza said.
All of these changes come as the district operates with its first full time superintendent in almost four years — after the suspension and later firing of the former superintendent, Terry Kinavey.
Panza, who signed a five-year contract with West Jefferson Hills, said he hopes he brings stability to the district.
“We need to be moving in a direction to make sure that every child will be prepared for their future,” Panza said. “The past is the past.”
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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