Rankin resident appointed to Woodland Hills school board

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Rankin resident Ava Johnson was appointed to the Woodland Hills School District in a 5-1 vote at a legislative board meeting Wednesday night. Tara Reis dissented.

She was one of three finalists to fill an open position after board member Jeffrey Cobbs resigned in May. His letter of resignation was submitted only hours after he was found guilty of assaulting his pregnant, estranged wife in a 2012 incident. The other two candidates were Swissvale residents Jeffrey Hanchett and John Osterle.

Community members were encouraged to speak on behalf of candidates before board members approved a final vote.

Braddock council president Tina Doose spoke out in support of Ms. Johnson, and described her as an "ideal pick."

"No one in the school board resides in any of the predominately African-american communities, not one, except her," she said at Wednesday's meeting. "You have the chance to support a candidate who resides in and represents our community. A leadership and diversity decision will be made this evening."

Ms. Johnson is the second black appointee on the nine-member board this term. Selena Johnson, who was appointed in December, is the other.

The board also hired Walter Gaida as assistant principal of the junior high school at an annual salary of $75,000 and Kevin Murray as high school principal at an annual salary of $98,000. Former principal Dan Stephens moved into an administrative position with the district in April, and officially retired at the end of the school year.

Pending approval of the 2014-15 budget, the district unanimously voted to enter an almost $200,000 contract with Glade Run Lutheran Services for two full-time therapeutic emotional support classes at Rankin Center, the district's alternative school.

"These are kids we normally would have to send to alternative placement outside of the district," superintendent Alan Johnson said. "It's much more beneficial for the child and district to keep them here."


Clarece Polke: cpolke@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1889 or on Twitter @clarepolke.

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