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Greensburg Salem administrator Rullo undergoes public hearing on planned demotion

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 9:51 p.m.

Greensburg Salem's superintendent testified Saturday she was unhappy with administrator Lisa Rullo's work in 2012 but did not formally reprimand or discipline her until she sought her demotion in October.

Eileen Amato was the lone witness testifying during a three-hour session held in front of about 50 people in the district's middle school.

“Did you tell (Rullo), her refusal to do that ... could be reason to relieve her of her duties?” Rullo's attorney, Charles Steele, asked Amato about Rullo taking school Director Angela DeMarino-Tooch to special education classes.

“I did not,” Amato replied.

Another time, Amato said, “I had a conversation with her about getting that (emotional support) classroom ready, but I did not use disciplinary words.”

Amato replied “no” several other times when Steele questioned whether Amato disciplined Rullo.

Rullo, who contends she is wrongly being demoted, made the rare decision to have her hearing opened to the public.

During the first day of testimony last week, Amato claimed Rullo lacked leadership skills and was not completing duties in a timely manner.

The hearing is scheduled to resume at 6 p.m. Dec. 10 in the middle school auditorium. Attorneys expect to call at least seven more witnesses.

The school board will decide whether to demote Rullo. Director Richard Payha, who didn't attend Saturday's session, will read a transcript of the proceeding and rule with the school board, district Solicitor John Scales said.

Director Lee Kunkle, who is expected to testify for the school district, is not taking part in the decision.

The district has listed four reasons for wanting to demote Rullo:

• Failure to seek special education Access money.

• Failure to keep district leaders informed about the status of special education programs.

• Failure to meet expectations with a new in-house program for emotional support students.

• Failure to do an evaluation of Director Kunkle's son in a timely manner.

Steele's cross-examination of Amato took up all of Saturday's session.

The district listed one reason when first demoting Rullo, Steele said: not seeking the Access funding.

The other charges arose later, he said during questioning.

Steele asked Amato why a May 2013 note from Kunkle about special education for his son was “copied” to attorney William Andrews.

Andrews, who is representing the district during the hearing, replied that he helped the district with special education questions.

“We think these charges were trumped up with legal counsel to make the case stronger,” Steele said.

Amato said she supported Rullo in hiring a special education teacher in August 2012 until she learned Rullo had not done needed research on student numbers.

“I expected her to have a full handle on all matters, the teachers and staff,” Amato added.

The hearing began with sharp exchanges between Steele and Andrews.

Steele claimed Scales was not allowing him to reply to objections made by Andrews.

Andrews said otherwise.

“There is no reason for it, No. 1,” Andrews said. “No. 2, the board will rule as it intends without sarcastic comments (from Steele).”

The law calls for Scales, as district solicitor, to serve as hearing officer, attorneys said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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