Despite at times fervent objections from residents, the Wilkinsburg school board voted tonight to hire a Farrell Area School District official -- who has had a rocky relationship with his current employer -- to succeed acting superintendent Archie Perrin Jr.
At an unusually well-attended and contentious meeting, residents raised concerns about Lee McFerren, who is an assistant to the Farrell superintendent.
"The individual who is hired into this position needs to be a bridge-builder, a compromiser," said Bernie Wetzel, the chairman of Neighbors Unite Wilkinsburg. "I didn't see that in this individual."
A shouting match between board member James Richard and several members of the audience broke out shortly after the roughly 20 members of the public in attendance were invited to address the board.
An audience member shouted, "you don't belong up there." Mr. Richard responded by screaming, "I've been here for 18 years--you never came here before."
The board voted overwhelmingly to hire Mr. McFerren, who will be paid $115,000 per year in a three-year contract with Wilkinsburg beginning July 1.
In July 2008, the Farrell school board fired Mr. McFerren, arguing that he "had acted immorally; had persistently failed to comply with school laws and acted with persistent negligence; had willfully neglected his duties; and had acted with intemperance and incompetence," according to a lawsuit Mr. McFerren filed against the district, which he eventually won.
Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Leavitt wrote in her opinion reversing the decision to fire Mr. McFerren that, "the district's evidence did not prove that it had a 'valid cause' to discharge McFerren."
Alex Zimmerman: email@example.com.