Penn-Trafford school chief to take Blair County job

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Penn-Trafford school directors said they will release superintendent Thomas Butler from his five-year contract after working just two years so he can accept a job as executive director of the Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8, based in Blair County.

But Mr. Butler, 44, who has a doctorate, will have to wait until next week for his resignation to be official. The school board failed to address the issue at its committee meeting Monday night.

Board President Jay Tray said Mr. Butler will be released from his contract without any problem, but "it will happen next week," he said. The board's regular monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday.

Mr. Butler notified the board of his intentions to leave last week. A Tioga County native, he said his decision was "very personal" while he called the new position a "plum job."

Intermediate Unit 8 provides services to 35 public school districts, five area vocational-technical schools, two charter schools and 81 nonpublic schools in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties. It serves some 65,000 students in an area covering 3,500 square miles.

Mr. Butler will replace Joseph Macharola, whose four-year contract was not renewed.

"Penn-Trafford is a wonderful district," Mr. Butler said Monday. "It was a family decision."

The superintendent is leaving a district that is in the midst of a multi-million renovation project at the high school and is dealing with declining enrollment.

In the meantime, Mr. Tray said the school board is considering its options regarding a replacement.

At the meeting, however, two residents recommended to the board that it promote assistant superintendent Matt Harris, who has a doctorate, to the position.

"I believe the district is in a better place than it was" before Mr. Butler, said Bill Gourdie of Harrison City. "One of the best things he's done, however, is made Matt the man he is."

The other recommendation came from Penn Township Police Chief John Otto, who before speaking, indicated he was not at the meeting as police chief but as the parent of two district students.

"I would like to see the board put support behind Dr. Matt Harris," Chief Otto said. "We need continuity to keep things going. We need to keep the ball rolling."

Chief Otto also said he feels the district can't afford to go through the process and hire someone who will move on to another position in a few years.

While Mr. Butler declined to offer his own recommendation, he pointed out that Mr. Harris has been with the district since 2007. Mr. Harris started as an assistant principal and climbed the ranks to assistant superintendent.

education - neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Linda Metz, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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