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Mt. Pleasant Area School Board opens superintendent's contract

Rachel Basinger | for the Daily Courier jan 14 2013
Robert Gumbita (left), Mt. Pleasant Area School Board president; Terry Struble, superintendent; and Michael Picarsic, director of elementary and secondary eduation, listen to more than an hour of public comment on Monday asking the board not to open Struble’s contract.

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By Rachel Basinger
Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 6:20 a.m.
 

Mt. Pleasant Area School Board, by a vote of 5-4, decided on Monday night to open the district superintendent's contract despite more than an hour of comments in support of the administrator.

Opening the contract of Superintendent Terry Struble is the first step to moving the district in a different direction, according to board member David Brooks.

Brooks said he voted to open the contract because “for me, I think the district needed a change in direction and I think that change starts at the top.

“You can only imagine how agonizing this decision was, but we are in a position to weigh the pros and cons of what Mr. Struble did or didn't do,” he added. “I can't cite specific incidents or reasons for the decision, but it was made after careful review of the past five years.

“This vote was not a unanimous decision by the board, but it is unanimous among board members that the district needs a change, and I felt this was the best first step,” Brooks said.

Also voting to open the contract, which expires on June 30, were directors Rick Albright, Ed Malone, Denver Hudec and Jim McElfresh. Directors Tara Leeder, Annette Wisneski, Robert Gumbita and George Hare voted against the move.

The district will now begin the search for a new superintendent.

Dozens of individuals, from at least 100 supporters, stood up to comment on why Struble should remain district superintendent.

Resident Andrea Pritts called Struble decent, hardworking, selfless, dedicated and a man with strong values.

Pastor Tim Hoover asked board members to look around the room and see all of the individuals who had come out to show their support for Struble.

“Mr. Struble attends as many functions as possible and parents are able to get to know him and feel connected to him,” Hoover said. “He does this willingly and, sometimes, at the sacrifice of his own family.”

Ninth-grade student Ben Pimental said one time he passed Struble in the hall and asked how he was.

“He told me that he was at school, so he couldn't be anything but great,” Pimental said. “He is extremely devoted to his job and by removing him from the position he has most definitely earned is not in the best interest of the students or the community.”

Parent Shelly Rimmel told board members of a personal story involving her daughter that Struble took a personal interest in helping to resolve.

“He is not above anything,” she said. “He will wipe tables or load the band busses — whatever is needed.”

Resident Jason Hutter said he, as well as most parents, know Struble very well because he's accessible and attends so many student functions.

“I couldn't even name two of you board members,” he said. “Where are you guys at sporting events or awards banquets.”

Former board member Frank Gnibus urged the board to do what is right.

“Whether you open his contract or give him another contract, you know what this man has done and what he hasn't done, and if you vote a certain way because you're worried about not getting votes at election time, that's what the shame is,” he said.

Wisneski said she didn't always agree with actions Struble has taken, but leaders aren't born — they're made.

“I hoped the board would have been confident that we could tailor the superintendent into what we wanted with a man who already had a lot of the qualities we were looking for rather than starting over,” she said.

Wisneski added, however, that the board does work very well together to do what is best for the district.

“It's a dichotomy to say we know things you don't, but you just have to trust us,” she said.

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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