Baldwin-Whitehall board hits 'magical line of dissatisfaction'
By Stephanie Hacke
Published: Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Residents pressing for change on Baldwin-Whitehall District's school board might have to wait until an election, though the recent controversial hiring of a board member to a highly paid post could have a ripple effect, says one expert.
“When board members act like this, it's bad for the kids, it's bad for the school,” said Thomas Alsbury, professor of educational leadership at Seattle Pacific University.
Board members took oaths on Wednesday over chants from nearly 300 residents outraged by the swearing-in of Martin Michael Schmotzer, who won another four-year term in the Nov. 5 general election.
Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall resigned on Nov. 19 from the school board, which moments later appointed him to a new $120,000 position as supervisor of projects and special assistant to the superintendent. Board member Tracy Macek was the dissenting vote among the eight members.
Under pressure from residents who petitioned seeking his removal, Schmotzer resigned two weeks into the job. On Thursday, he listed nearly 25 projects that he said he completed, including hanging pictures and updating the South Hills district's website.
“I suggest they learn how to run for office and propose some ideas,” Schmotzer said of his critics.
Some residents want to remove the seven board members who hired Schmotzer, said Jerry Pantone, 49, of Baldwin Borough.
“We're not done. It's time for us to say, ‘Enough is enough.' The community is angry. They've been embarrassed for the last time,” Pantone said.
Several people said they plan to attend the board's next meeting on Wednesday.
After this week's session on Wednesday, school board President Larry Pantuso said, “The residents were heard.
“I'm not going to step down,” Pantuso said on Friday. “I was elected to serve, and my term is up in two years.”
Pennsylvania School Code provides that residents can petition to seek the removal of an entire board if “it fails to organize or refuses to perform its statutory duties,” said Steve Robinson, senior director of communications for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
A decision that residents don't like “doesn't really fall under that category,” he said.
Election season is the time for people to exert influence to make changes, Robinson said. The next municipal election is in 2015.
“There are ways to change things, and it's through the election process,” he said.
Research shows that when a school board crosses a “magical line of dissatisfaction,” residents start paying attention to its actions, Alsbury said.
“You've sort of awakened the sleeping giant, and in the next election cycle, you see the community moving forward to correct that wrong that they think occurred,” said Alsbury, co-director for the University Council for Educational Administration's Center for Research on the Superintendency and District Governance.
In many cases, though, a board shake-up results in administrative changes, then a shift in principals and ultimately, teachers, Alsbury said. Parents may become dissatisfied and send students to private or other schools.
Board members could work to remedy the situation, the professor said.
Stephanie Hacke is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Obama hopes to replicate CCAC job training efforts across U.S.
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped
- Several Duquesne homes damaged in fire
- Defense experts tell of disease they say claimed 4-month-old from Castle Shannon whose father is charged with homicide
- Methane emission levels by shale natural gas drillers disputed by EPA, researchers
- For undercover officer who tried to nab Lawrence County flasher, work can be ‘drag’
- Leader guided changes at Robert Morris
- Comedian Gallagher gets his money from North Versailles promoter
- Allegheny County employees sticking with Highmark to save money, send message