Pine-Richland superintendent leaves job

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Although she had hoped to stay in the job through the end of the school year, Pine-Richland superintendent Mary Bucci said she just couldn't do it.

Her last day is Jan. 8, although she packed her office Nov. 30 and is spending unused vacation.

"The public display of a lack of confidence in me created a situation that was ..." she began, her voice trailing off. "All I can say is that leadership is about relationships and trust -- things you can't measure. And when those intangibles start to disappear, well, you're just not as effective as you want to be."

The "public display" she mentioned was a reference to an Oct. 1 vote by the school board not to renew her contract, essentially giving her notice of the board's desire to replace her after this school year. She was in the final year of a four-year contract, set to expire June 30. She had expected to be retained for at least another contract.

Her career at Pine-Richland began to unravel a few months ago when the board started the superintendent's annual performance evaluation, which flowed into a discussion of the contract coming to a close.

Under the law, if school directors do not intend to extend or give a new contract to a superintendent, 150 days notice must be given. Ultimately, the board voted 5-3 to replace Ms. Bucci.

Four of the five who voted against her had been on the board less than a year. The veteran who voted against her was Dennis Sundo, with seven years on the board. Voting with him was Peter Lyons, Katie Shogun, Virginia Goebel and Laura Ohlund. Ms. Shogun joined the board in May; Mr. Lyons, Ms. Goebel and Ms. Ohlund joined in December 2011.

The newest member of the board -- Marc Casciani, who was attending his first meeting the night of the vote -- abstained.

The remaining board members -- President Stephen Hawbaker, Jeffrey Banyas and Therese Dawson -- voted in favor of keeping Ms. Bucci, prefaced with passionate support for her. Little reason was given during the public meeting for the motivation behind the decision to seek other candidates.

Mr. Lyons said his vote was "not a vote against [Mrs. Bucci] ... but a vote to engage in more growth and change." Ms. Shogun alluded to "division" in the community's support for Ms. Bucci. Mr. Sundo declined comment.

Ms. Bucci had been an employee since May 2007 when she was hired from New Brighton Area School District as an assistant superintendent. She was paid $135,000 annually at Pine-Richland.

Ms. Bucci, 64, of Cranberry, said she remains uncertain about how to proceed. "This was unexpected. I was never looking over my shoulder. I know I still want to contribute to education," she said, noting she is weighing a position in higher education and consultation.

She said packing up her office in preparation for her final day was "like a bad dream.

"But, it's reality. The board had enough power to do what they did, and they did it. I'll miss the team I worked with. We were doing really good things. But, we all need to move on."

In addition to accepting her formal resignation, the board voted Dec. 3 to reorganize.

Mr. Lyons was voted in as president on a split vote after two ballots were taken. Initially, the count was 3, 3, 3 in favor of nominees Dr. Banyas, Mr. Sundo, and Mr. Lyons. On a second vote, the count was 5 for Mr. Lyons, 1 for Mr. Sundo and 3 for Dr. Banyas, who was named vice president. Mr. Lyons replaced Mr. Hawbaker, who had served as president or vice president of the board for eight of his 11 years on the panel.

Spokeswoman Rachel Hathhorn said the board is consulting with the Pennsylvania School Board Association in its search for Ms. Bucci's replacement.

education - neigh_north

Karen Kane: kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.


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