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Nepotism policy to be revised in Baldwin-Whitehall

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A family connection won't help prospective employees get that dream job in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District.

Board members, in a 5-4 vote last week, approved three policies outlining guidelines for nepotism that will ban relatives at any level from being hired in the district in the future.

Board members Karen Brown, Tracy Macek, David Solenday and board President Larry Pantuso dissented.

“This is reform. This is good government. This is what should have been in the Baldwin-Whitehall district 20 years ago,” said board member Martin Michael Schmotzer, who pleaded with his colleagues to approve the policy revisions and a new policy for classified employees. “A lot of the problems that we face in employment, in management, can be directly related back to – you have people that are managing relatives.”

Yet some board members said the policy is too restrictive.

The district has a focus on hiring Baldwin-Whitehall residents, and this policy would prohibit any relatives of the 1,700 employees from getting a job in the district, board President Larry Pantuso said.

“I'm not so sure that if I work in the janitorial department somewhere and my cousin is an English teacher and they want to teach at the high school — I'm not sure that that is a conflict,” he said. “The way this is written, it would be. I just think we need to tweak a little bit of the grammar and the verbiage in here,” Pantuso said.

Schmotzer said he has pushed for a nepotism policy that is this black and white for eight years.

A policy school officials approved in 2008 for administrative and professional employees focused on potential employees' relationships to board members and administrators.

“What are people afraid of? Are you afraid of reform? Are you afraid that relatives can no longer be hired in the school district?” Schmotzer asked. “This is equal opportunity. You can't hire any relatives of the board. You can't hire any relatives of administration. You can't hire relatives from professional staff, the teachers.”

A vote to table the policies failed in a 5-4 vote, with Brown, Macek, Solenday and Pantuso voting to table.

Superintendent Randal Lutz said the policy has many positives but could make it difficult when it comes to hiring bus drivers or custodial staff.

“We have difficulty filling out some of the areas now,” Lutz said. “It may create vacancies that are hard to fill.”

The superintendent could not quantify how many relatives were working in the district or if any employees were being supervised by a relative.

“With as many relatives as could be here, I would have to say, ‘Potentially yes,'” Lutz said.

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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