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Irate residents want answers from Schmotzer, board

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Baldwin-Whitehall school board member Elliot Rambo (left) looks away as Marty Schmotzer defends himself during a question-and-answer session with area residents at the Dec. 18 school board meeting.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Area resident Jerry Pantone reads from his naughty and nice list during the Baldwin-Whitehall school board meeting Dec. 18.

They want answers.

Nearly 100 residents attended the Dec. 18 Baldwin-Whitehall School Board meeting, and many of them pleaded with board members to explain their actions in recent months.

Residents who have attended the final three meetings of 2013 in force said they want to know why the majority of the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board hired one of its own to a high-paying administrative job moments after he resigned from the school board on Nov. 19.

“We are totally disjointed. This is a ‘we' ‘they,' this is a ‘us' against ‘them.' What's missing here is accountability,” Baldwin Borough resident Jerry Pantone said. “What's missing here is an apology. What's missing here is an explanation. Can anybody explain what happened that night to the satisfaction of the people in this audience?”

Residents attending the Dec. 18 meeting got into a heated exchange with board member Martin Michael Schmotzer as they asked him and his colleagues why he was appointed on Nov. 19, in a 7-1 vote, to a job as supervisor of special projects for the board of school directors and special assistant to the superintendent — with a $120,000 annual salary. Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall, two weeks into the administrative job, resigned and that same day, Dec. 4, was sworn in to serve a new, four-year term on the school board.

Whitehall resident Brian Rampolla called the board's actions a “craftily executed maneuver.”

“I'm sure it was done right up against the legal line but way, way over the ethical line. Somehow, some way, we'll get to the bottom of exactly what happened, and we'll demand accountability,” he said.

Residents said they want to know why the board hired Schmotzer for the job.

“Without those answers, we're not going to be able to move forward here as a community,” Pantone said.

Schmotzer responded by calling out residents and speakers in the audience by name and stating that many had lost an election and that residents were not talking about district issues. He got into a heated exchange with several residents.

“Get elected to the school board,” Schmotzer shouted.

“We're done,” board President Larry Pantuso said, as he stopped the exchange.

Board Vice President Diana Kazour defended her vote and said the assistant-to-the-superintendent job was not to oversee Superintendent Randal Lutz.

“The position was for maintenance problems not being done right. He makes sure it's done right,” Kazour said. “We have cleaning problems at the high school. People complain that the restroom wasn't clean enough.”

The job would oversee the “people who clean,” said Kazour, who also addressed money issues in the district.

“I don't care if it's Marty or David or Smith. We need the job to be done, the right person for the right job,” Kazour said.

Schmotzer said problems in the district, such as a broken French drain, need to be fixed.

“If you're happy with it, then God bless you,” Schmotzer said. “I'm not happy with it.”

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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