West Jefferson Hills school board members stripped of leadership posts
A longtime West Jefferson School Board member was ousted from her role as vice president by her colleagues on Tuesday night.
Carolyn Bourgeois replaced Shauna D'Alessandro as first vice president by a 7-2 vote, though she remains on the board. D'Alessandro and Marianne Neel dissented.
Vice president is the second most powerful spot on the panel, and board members typically vote to designate positions of president and vice president each December. Alan Caponi was named second vice president by a vote of 7-2, with the same no votes recorded.
Separately, last week D'Alessandro and Neel were stripped of leadership positions on district committees. D'Alessandro, who has been on the school board for 11 years, said in an email to supporters and family on Aug. 21 that she and Neel's roles had changed.
D'Alessandro has spent the last six years as board vice president. Neel has served on the board for 19 years.
“I had conflicting emotions when I heard,” D'Alessandro said, referring to the impending move to oust her as vice president.
Also, a 5-4 vote was taken to retain Neel as the Pennsylvania School Board Association representative, and to attend the PBSA convention in October.
After board member Darlene Schreiber's statement about “the culture and tone of the school board and its values not being upheld,” public comment from many of the 30-plus people in the cafeteria quickened.
Board President Tony Angotti said that D'Alessandro and Neel did not always follow board procedure. One example he cited was a previous meeting the two had with district magistrate Guy Reschenthaler about a truancy program he was developing. The board learned about the program last night.
”When policies are broken by a board member or members, the board itself has the responsibility to hold its own members accountable for their actions,” Angotti said.
In her email, D'Alessandro said: “… the real reasons for this vindictive, petty and mean-spirited action is to publicly punish me for being an independent thinker, for dissenting on their agenda and for pushing back at their lack of transparency with the public on issues that deserve public input.”
Yet after the meeting, her comment was: “I'm quite relieved that it's now a matter of public record that many of my fellow colleagues on this side of the table and I disagree on issues. Regardless of what is done under new business this evening, I am still an elected board member. No one can take that away but the public.”
D'Alessandro was chairperson of the finance committee and served on the personnel and education/technology committees. Neel was chairperson of the education/technology and the personnel committees.
The new committee assignment on the district's website show D'Alessandro still on the finance committee, now headed by Alan Caponi, and Neel on the education/technology committee, now headed by Darlene Schreiber.
Angotti now is leading the personnel committee, and D'Alessandro is no longer on that committee.
Dona Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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