A divided Pine-Richland school board voted this evening to replace Superintendent Mary Bucci when her contract expires in June. She is in the final year of a four-year contract, earning $135,000 annually. She came to the district in May 2007 as an assistant superintendent, having come from the New Brighton district where she had worked in administration for 10 years.
The vote was 5-3 to give her notice that her contract would not be extended. Of the five who voted in favor of not keeping her on with the district, only one director has been on the board for more than year: Dennis Sundo, a seven-year board member. 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, each in December 2011. The newest member of the board -- Marc Casciani, who was attending his first meeting tonight -- abstained.
The remaining members of the board, President Stephen Hawbaker, Jeffrey Banyas, and and Therese Dawson, delivered impassioned statements of support for Mrs. Bucci, 64, of Cranberry. The same was true of parents, staff and former board members who attended the public meeting, which was moved from its regularly scheduled day on Sept. 24.
Parent Kiki Cherry of Richland criticized the board for holding the meeting at an unusual time and without public notice of the board's intent to vote on Ms. Bucci's future. "I found out last minute about that this was going on. There are going to be a lot of incensed people tomorrow (when word spreads)," she said.
Ms. Shogun said she was voting to not give Ms. Bucci a new or extended contract because of mixed reviews she had heard from the community. Mr. Sundo refused to comment. Mr. Lyons said his vote was one for "more growth and change."
Mr. Banyas presented a slide show outlining Ms. Bucci's accomplishments; Ms. Dawson gave up her chair on the board to speak at the public's podium, pleading with those who were against Ms. Bucci to reconsider; and Mr. Hawbaker declared "I can't believe we are where we are. I simply can't believe it. I can't imagine wanting more than what we have in Dr. Bucci."
Ms. Bucci, who worked hard to keep her emotions under control but appeared at times to be losing the battle, praised Pine-Richland as "a great place to live, to learn and to work."
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.