Baldwin-Whitehall school board gets more heat about Martin Schmotzer's job
December 11, 2013 11:59 PM
Brian Rampolla of Whitehall, who has had two children graduate from the system, speaks against some policy of the Baldwin-Whitehall school board.
Martin Schmotzer, a member of the The Baldwin-Whitehall Board of School Directors and at the center of controversy, listens to residents in the Baldwin High School auditorium.
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
About 300 Baldwin-Whitehall School District residents crammed into the high school auditorium Wednesday night, and for the second time in as many weeks let school board members know they aren't happy over the appointment of a school board member to a newly created administrative position.
Residents have expressed outrage over board member Martin Schmotzer's appointment to the $120,000-a-year position -- supervisor of projects for the school board and special assistant to the superintendent -- and then his return to the board last week once he resigned after public outcry over his appointment.
Wednesday night, John Evosevic, a district teacher for 30 years, got into a shouting match with several board members.
"Did any of you request help for this man [Superintendent Ronald Lutz]? If not, who is at fault? Did Marty decide it was needed and you all followed?" he said.
At that point, Mr. Schmotzer spoke up: "Why don't we get rid of the 800-pound elephant in the room?"
He introduced a motion to eliminate the position he had been appointed to, and the board unanimously approved it.
"It never should have been established in the first place," said board member Karen Brown.
Residents Wednesday evening told the board they won't forget what one parent called the "backdoor" way in which Mr. Schmotzer was appointed to the new position. The board last month appointed Mr. Schmotzer, 57, of Whitehall without public deliberation or input.
"Nothing about this position passes the smell test," said resident Ronald Covato. "Your silence breeds our speculation. The remedy is quite simple -- full disclosure."
Resident Brian Rampolla questioned why armed police were at the meeting Wednesday.
"You guys have nothing to fear but the truth, and you guys are doing your best to run from it," he said. "Marty had resigned, he was off the board. He was not allowed to be reinstalled. You bent over backwards to give one man what he wanted. This board has dug a huge credibility hole."
It was a scene similar to last week's board meeting, where Mr. Schmotzer retook his seat on the board amid shouts and jeers from several hundred residents furious over the action. Police removed some residents from that meeting.
Parent Lou Rainaldi is hoping to not have to wait four more years to vote out Mr. Schmotzer and the members who appointed him. Last week he presented the board with a petition signed by more than 1,300 residents asking for Mr. Schmotzer to step down from his board seat. He said he's researching ways in which the community could recall, impeach or somehow force some board members from office.
Residents' comments were aimed at the six-member majority on the board, including Mr. Schmotzer.
The three minority board members last week tried and failed to replace district Solicitor Bruce Dice, with Ms. Brown calling the decision to allow Mr. Schmotzer's appointment by the solicitor "totally unethical."
Wednesday night, lawyer and resident Gary Kelly reminded Mr. Dice who his employers are. "You work for me. You work for all of the people here," he said to applause.
Janice Crompton: email@example.com or 412-263-1159.
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