Baldwin-Whitehall schools adopt nepotism policy

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Baldwin-Whitehall school board member Martin Schmotzer had waited eight years for a comprehensive nepotism policy for hiring district employees.  The policy before the board was the third one he tried to have passed in that time.

''Either you want something with teeth or you don't,'' he said before the board voted 5-4 to adopt a new nepotism policy at its March 12 meeting. It was among the matters addressed at the meeting, along with a newly created position of director of operations and, pending an April vote, new security measures at three elementary schools and middle school.

For years, the nepotism policy for all administrative and professional employees required that candidates disclose at hiring if they were related to any district employees. It would then be determined if the family tie created a conflict, such as one relative in a supervisory role over another.

There was no nepotism policy for classified employees, which includes hourly hires, secretaries, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers, mechanics and others.

From now on, no one can be hired who is related to a current employee or board member as a parent, spouse, child, sibling, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, grandparent/grandchild, stepparent/stepchild, mother-in-law/father-in-law,daughter-in-law/son-in-law, brother-in-law/sister-in-law, or first cousin, or the spouse of any of those family members.

All current employees are exempt from the regulation.

Those members voting in favor were Diana Kazour, Pat Nixon, Elliot Rambo, Ray Rosing, and Mr. Schmotzer.

Board President Larry Pantuso, who voted against it with members Karen Brown, Tracy Macek, and David Solenday, said before the vote that it was too restrictive and that he would support it with tweaks.

But Mr. Schmotzer said once you start tweaking, it becomes useless.

Superintendent Randal Lutz said there may be problems in filling vacancies in classified positions, such as bus drivers, with the policy. After the meeting, he said he supports the policy 100 percent. ''We just have to be a little more creative on how we advertise and recruit,'' he said of classified positions.

In other business, Mr. Schmotzer raised objections to the appointment of facilities manager Paul Svirbel as the director of operations because the position did not exist.

''Following the process is so important when you're on the school board,'' he said.

Mr. Pantuso said the position was discussed in executive session, after which he told members to call him if there were questions. But no one called.

Mr. Lutz said the district has macro needs and micro needs, and that this position allows Mr. Svirbel to focus on bigger

projects.

But he should have created and posted the position, he said, regardless of it being a lateral move.

Mr. Svirbel was the only interviewee.

For day-to-day supervision, a facilities manager will be hired in April.

As the custodial supervisor position was eliminated last year, there is funding in the budget for the new position, and applications are being accepted.

After the board voted to create the position, Mr. Svirbel was hired for it at his current salary of $87,418.

In April, the board is expected to vote on access control improvements totaling $746,000 at McAnnulty, Paynter and Whitehall elementary schools and Harrison Middle School. Those improvements include video intercom to admit someone; replacement of exterior doors; remote keyless system for access control for all employees; laminated safety glass in all entrances; and cameras inside and outside of buildings for surveillance.

Improvements also will be made at the visitor entrance and waiting area. Options being considered include bullet-resistant frame and glass at main entrance doors. If approved, the timetable is to start work in May, with completion just before school starts in August.

The cost would be paid from the district's $7 million fund balance for capital improvements.

Security features were installed at Baldwin High School during its recent $65 million renovation.


Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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