Former coach to head Steel Valley schools
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Former Steel Valley football coach Ed Wehrer was appointed the new superintendent of Steel Valley School District in a 5-4 vote that followed a contentious discussion and an attempt by school board President Beth Cannon to abstain from voting.
The initial vote for the superintendency was a 4-4 tie between Mr. Wehrer and another finalist, Joseph Kimmel, former superintendent of the Chestnut Ridge School District in Bedford County.
Mrs. Cannon said she tried to abstain because people might attack her on the basis of her choice. In the end, she cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of Mr. Wehrer, saying she did so for the sake of her family and the community. She offered no further explanation.
It was a move that appeared to please many in the audience of about 100, who cheered in response. Before the vote, held at a special meeting a week ago, a number of residents spoke in favor of hiring Mr. Wehrer.
In addition to Mrs. Cannon, school directors Sue Ballas, Joe Ducar, Thomas Olson and Vincent Natale voted for Mr. Wehrer. Board members Michael Terrick, Colette Youngblood, Donna Kiefer and Donald Bajus voted for Mr. Kimmel.
The contention between the board members seemed to revolve around the qualifications of the candidates and accusations by some school directors that there were attempts to bully them into voting for Mr. Wehrer, of Munhall.
Before the vote, Mr. Terrick said he was voting for Mr. Kimmel because he was the candidate "who spent five years as a teacher, two years as an assistant principal, seven years as a principal and an assistant to the superintendent and four years as a superintendent," giving him a total of 18 years experience.
Mr. Wehrer, currently the acting executive director of the Carnegie Library of Homestead, is not an educator and was hired under provisions of a state law that allows people with business degrees from accredited institutions or graduate degrees in finance to serve as school district superintendents.
Mr. Kimmel, and a third finalist, Robert Dinnen, superintendent of the Fort Cherry School District in Washington County, are longtime educators with degrees in education and experience running school districts.
Mr. Wehrer holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Yale University and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh.
According to his resume, Mr. Wehrer was co-founder and president of the I-TEAM, an organization that provided academic enrichment programs and summer camps for students in the Steel Valley School District from August 2007 until December 2011. In the past, Mr. Wehrer was a marketing applications analyst with General Nutrition Centers and a software programmer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Mr. Wehrer served as Steel Valley's head football coach from January 1993 to November 2003.
School directors said Mr. Wehrer was offered a salary of $101,050 without raises for a three-year period beginning July 25.
"I believe I'll be an efficient team builder and motivator for this school district," Mr. Wehrer said after the meeting.
Ms. Kiefer and Ms. Youngblood said people from the community had called them and tried to bully them into voting for Mr. Wehrer.
"I have lost a lot of respect for you if that's what you had to do [to get hired]," Ms. Kiefer said to Mr. Wehrer, who sat in the audience during the vote.
After the meeting, Mr. Terrick said he would support Mr. Wehrer even though he was not Mr. Terrick's first choice for the job. "My support right now is behind Ed. We have to make it work," Mr. Terrick said. "I want to make sure he succeeds because if he succeeds, Steel Valley succeeds."
Those who spoke in favor of hiring Mr. Wehrer included Homestead Mayor Betty Esper.
"I come from a very African-American community that does not feel accepted in this high school," she said.
She said the other superintendent's candidate, coming from a largely white school district, would experience "culture shock" coming to Steel Valley, but said fathers in a number of Homestead families who played football for Mr. Wehrer have told her they can talk to him. Mr. Wehrer is white.
Two other mayors, Raymond Bodnar of Munhall and Chris Kelly of West Mifflin, spoke on behalf of hiring Mr. Wehrer.
Dan Lloyd, who served as president of the Carnegie Library of Homestead board of directors until 2011, said Mr. Wehrer helped him figure out how to bring the library out of a distressed financial state to its current sound financial condition in four years.
At the end of the meeting, people from the community stood around Mr. Wehrer, waiting to hug and congratulate him.
He will replace current superintendent William Kinavey, who will retire July 24.
First Published June 14, 2012 5:33 am