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Baldwin-Whitehall deals with sudden changes

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The quick termination, position elimination and retirement of three Baldwin-Whitehall School District managers in the last two months must not affect the educational process, the superintendent said.

“The last thing that is going to happen is for any of these adult issues — or whatever these are — I cannot allow them to affect the kids,” Superintendent Randal Lutz said.

Creating support, consistency and visibility for other employees after the changes is important, Lutz said. Also, being there himself to open the cafeteria doors the day after a cafeteria manager was terminated and ensuring things were running smoothly and talking to other employees was imperative, he said.

School board members at their Oct. 9 meeting, in an 8-0 vote, approved the hiring of Kathleen Smith as interim cafeteria manager for Baldwin High School at a salary of $160 per day. Board member Ray Rosing was absent.

This comes one month after board members approved the termination of high school cafeteria manager Kristy Morgan, who they accused of disposing of food that belonged to the football boosters. Morgan has declined comment.

The day after Morgan was fired, the district's food-service director, Tammy Caponi, retired.

Board members last week hired Joyce Weber, in an 8-0 vote, to serve as the new food-service director at a pro-rated annual salary of $60,000.

Weber comes to Baldwin-Whitehall from the Pittsburgh Public Schools, where she worked in the food-service department, Lutz said.

As many as 20 people applied for the position, Lutz said. Weber stood out because she wanted to market the cafeterias to students and their families, he said.

Weber will help with the hiring process for a permanent cafeteria manager at Baldwin High School, he said. Smith, who came from working in food services at the Keystone Oaks School District, can apply for the position.

Resident Jerry Pantone questioned the board's quick moves in the last two months to make motions from the floor that aren't on the agenda that have led to people losing their jobs. On Oct. 2, a similar motion led to the elimination of district's the custodial-manager position, held for at least two years by Denice Morrow, an at-will employee.

“It's very easy to critique what goes on because what you see is what happens in public. Nobody sees the other side and things that go on in executive session,” board member Larry Pantuso said.

Board member Martin Michael Schmotzer, who made the motions both to terminate the cafeteria manager and eliminate the position of the custodial manager, said the motions were to move things along quicker.

“You know what, one of the words that I hate the most in the English language is the word ‘process.' I think it's one of the most typical, idiot, BS words,” he said. “I'm here for two reasons, and I've never shied away from them. I'm here for the children, and I'm here for the taxpayers, and while I respect every employee that works in this district — they do jobs that I couldn't do in many respects — I'm here to further this school district.

Schmotzer said he sees his job as one to critique.

“Change is tough, and sometimes it just doesn't happen fast enough in education. In fact, I know it doesn't happen fast enough in education. And if I have to motivate it, I offer no apologies to anyone,” he said. “I'm not here to be a cheerleader for the employees or a cheerleader for the superintendent or anybody else. I love them, but I'm hard on people because I want us to excel to our maximum potential and I've never felt that this district has achieved its maximum potential.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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