TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Pa. state auditor criticizes Pittsburgh Public Schools decisions

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Teachers and principals working without credentials, and expenses from the resignation of two administrators cost Pittsburgh Public Schools more than $740,000, a state audit found.

Ten principals and 117 teachers worked with expired provisional certificates, resulting in the forfeiture of $390,337 in state money over five years, Auditor General Jack Wagner said in the Jan. 2 audit made public on Tuesday.

Wagner, who leaves office Jan. 15, recommended the district establish a process to ensure that teachers and principals obtain permanent certificates before temporary or provisional ones expire.

“Some of these cases involve varying interpretations of certification guidelines,” said Ira Weiss, the district's solicitor. He said his office would work with human resource representatives to resolve any disputes about credentials needed for a job.

Although he did not name them, Wagner criticized the $140,000 buyout of Christopher Berdnik, former chief financial officer, and a consultancy that paid former Deputy Superintendent Lynn Spampinato $213,333.

The report said Berdnik's settlement “was not in the best interest of taxpayers.” Berdnik worked for the district from 1994 to 2010, when he resigned. He is chief financial officer for the Centennial School District in Bucks County. He could not be reached for comment.

“In these very difficult economic times, both nationally and throughout Pennsylvania, it is incumbent upon school boards to be good stewards of the taxpayer money entrusted to them,” the audit said. “The district's board disregarded this responsibility when it spent limited taxpayer resources on this matter.”

Weiss defended the severance payment, saying, “Public employers, including school districts, have to weigh a lot of factors when determining how best to resolve employment matters. This sort of after-the-fact critiquing of decisions is much easier than making decisions themselves.”

Spampinato, who became a school turnaround specialist for Camden, N.J.-based Catapult Learning, was deputy superintendent in Pittsburgh from November 2005 to November 2006, when the school board extended her a contract as a consultant.

That consultancy lacked “clearly defined work requirements” and produced only a 32-page paper on vocational education, Wagner found.

“Based on this evidence,” the audit said, “it appears the district did not receive much in exchange for its $213,333.”

Joel Sansone, a Downtown attorney for Spampinato, said his client gave considerable advice to district leaders in addition to her report and accused Wagner of “armchair quarterbacking.”

“The auditor general's report does not take into account the significant turmoil, which troubled the district at that time,” Sansone said. “Dr. Spampinato was part of the solution, not the problem.”

Weiss dismissed Wagner's criticism that the district did not divulge the reason for the administrators' resignations, saying personnel issues are confidential.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
  2. Pittsburgh is planning to add network of bike lanes through Oakland
  3. Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant
  4. Public Utility Commission will consider Yellow Cab fare hikes
  5. Fugitive arrested at Plum motel on drug, gun charges
  6. Woman crashes car at Pittsburgh federal building after high-speed chase
  7. School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
  8. 2 firefighters injured in Millvale house fire
  9. Thief’s attorney blames Rivers Casino; judge isn’t swayed
  10. $1B rapid bridge replacement across Pa. aims for savings, safety
  11. Judge adds 2 years to sentence of Baldwin Borough man acquitted of murder