Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Deja Who?

updated 6/20/13 6:30 pm

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The quote is often attributed to Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin or Mark Twain, none of whom were slouches in the intelligence department. I have to wonder, then, what the Methacton School Board is thinking in regard to some actions they’ve taken recently toward selecting a new permanent superintendent to replace the recently departed Timothy Quinn.
Quinn, you may recall, was hired back in 2008 amid suspicion that he was largely selected by the then-Board of School Directors because he would go along with controversial plans to construct Skyview, the school district’s now half-empty 5-6 school, which some residents believed was an unnecessary expense unsupported by declining enrollment.
The current school board has, by their own admission in a recent email, contracted with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) as consultants to assist with its search for a new superintendent. While it was an agenda item at the May 21 meeting, it was voted on together with several other expenditures with next to no discussion.
I’m sure there is a cost for this; PSBA’s website indicates this is a service they provide for a fee, and I found at least one other Pennsylvania school district which hired PSBA for the same service back in 2012 at a cost of $15,000.  (the copy of the contract I received indicated it will cost Methacton $12,200).
In conjunction with the work PSBA will do, Methacton plans to convene focus groups comprised of Lower Providence and Worcester Township residents to weigh in on this effort, help develop a “leadership profile” and assist with the decision as to whom the next superintendent will be.  In addition, the focus groups will be permitted to meet with each of the finalist candidates sometime in August and, presumably, offer their impressions and feedback.
However, some of the ‘residents’ proposed for this focus group are not your ordinary run-of-the-mill residents/taxpayers, but rather, three are past school board members, and four of the total group are the same people who hired Quinn in the first place. There are approximately 26,000 residents in Lower Providence and another 10,000 or so in Worcester Township. Surely among all these people Methacton could find residents that had no connection whatsoever to the disastrous hiring of Quinn!
Although there is no mention of this consulting arrangement or the focus group's meeting schedule on the Methacton School District website, the first meeting of these focus group participants is slated for Thursday night, June 20 at 7:30 pm at Farina Administration Center.
Among those receiving invitations to participate in the focus groups were:

·         Kyle Allebach – recent Methacton graduate and former candidate for school board; withdrew when not endorsed

·         Lisa Coupe – Eagleville Elementary Home & School

·         Yong Cho – Democrat candidate for school board

·         Brian Earnshaw – Republican candidate for school board

·         Jen Halfpenny – Audubon Elementary Home & School

·         Dana Leahan – Worcester resident, Arcola Home & School, treasurer, Methacton Wolverines football

·         Shawna Rondeau –  Skyview, Arcola Home & School

·         Aliza Zebrowski – Arrowhead Elementary, Arcola Home & School

·         Dan Sattler – former school board member 2004 through 2011

·         Joyce Petrauskus – current school board president, on school board when Quinn was hired

·         Marijane Barbone – former school board member 2002 to 2011 (president 2009 and 2010)

·         Jim Van Horn - – former school board member approximately 1995 to 2008 (some years served as president); litigation involving his 2008 physical altercation/confrontation/whatever we are calling it this week between himself and Worcester resident Jim Mollick over taping of a meeting is still underway and inching near trial.

Interestingly, there isn’t one senior citizen on these focus groups who could be considered as representative of the fixed-income senior residents in either township.  There also appears to be an invitation to a Woodland Home & School member but I couldn’t determine who that is.

Van Horn, Barbone, and Sattler, together with current board member and president Joyce Petrauskus, were part of the board that hired Quinn back in 2008. Whatever their other accomplishments may be, do we really want these folks helping to select the new superintendent? They ignored  easily available public information from residents at the time about Quinn’s checkered background and overrode any concerns they may have had to install Quinn….and we all know how that turned out. It’s been an expensive lesson, one that I'm giving a grade of 'F'.

You don’t have to be Einstein, Franklin or Twain to conclude that perhaps the input of former school board members who had a hand in hiring Quinn probably shouldn’t be involved this time around. I would hope these resourceful school board directors can find others to appoint so we can avoid flunking "Superintendent Search 101" yet again. 

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