Baldwin-Whitehall school official explains controversial Schmotzer vote

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One of the Baldwin-Whitehall school directors who voted to give a colleague a controversial job in district administration on Wednesday explained why he did so, but the action didn't quell tempers in the South Hills district, as the subject of the controversy stormed out of the board meeting.

Board member Ray Rosing said he voted in favor of giving fellow board member Martin Schmotzer a $120,000-per-year job in district administration because he thought it would eliminate the day-to-day headaches that administrators have to deal with.

"I thought it was a good position," Mr. Rosing said of the Nov. 19 appointment, which Mr. Schmotzer has since resigned. "Maybe we could have done it a different way. I apologize for that."

Mr. Rosing said Mr. Schmotzer "knows everything" about the district having served as school board member on and off for 27 years and he said the appointment was designed to take pressure off of administrators who were having to visit the bus garage to deal with transportation and other non-education issues.

Mr. Rosing said members of the public, who have since flocked to board meetings by the hundreds after learning about Mr. Schmotzer's promotion, dislike Mr. Schmotzer and have unfairly targeted him.

"You don't like Mr. Schmotzer," he said to dozens of audience members who again turned out Wednesday to keep the pressure on directors to explain their actions involving Mr. Schmotzer. "We could have voted for a homeless guy off the street and you wouldn't be here."

The controversy began when Mr. Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall, resigned his board seat at the sparsely-attended special meeting in November, and minutes later was appointed as supervisor of projects for the school board and special assistant to the superintendent, with no public discussion or input.

The vote wasn't included on the agenda, and the issue sparked outrage among residents who have since hounded the board in what one resident called "bi-monthly floggings." Things are worse for

Mr. Schmotzer, who has been responding with angry rants as residents groan and hurl insults nearly every time he speaks about any subject.

Mr. Rosing told residents "it's time to let it go," but several weren't having it and blasted the remaining board members for their silence.

"You guys aren't getting it; you didn't 'do the right thing,'" said parent Lora Kalwarski of Whitehall, referring to the "Do the Right Thing" character-building program that the board heard a presentation about earlier in the meeting. "You're sitting at the top. How do you expect kids to do the right thing? We're packing these meetings to get you to do the right thing."

Mr. Schmotzer stormed out of the room during Ms. Kalwarski's comments, saying she had "no credibility." He returned minutes later and made a motion to adjourn the meeting, but it failed by a 6-3 vote, with Mr. Schmotzer, Diane Kazour and Mr. Rosing voting in favor.

Resident Jerry Pantone suggested a town hall-style meeting, in which the board could hear community concerns and respond to allegations.

"We are currently a district divided," he said. "We need to try to find a way to come back together."

Such a meeting didn't seem to have support among Mr. Schmotzer and his allies, however.

"I feel bad for people who can't move past this," said board President Larry Pantuso. "You're in a rut."

Mr. Schmotzer used his allotted comment time to continue berating taxpayers for not attending board meetings when other people were hired with no public input and suggested residents' time could be better spent protesting state government for raising gasoline taxes.

"Go yell at your legislators," he said to a roomful of jeers.


Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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