Less than three weeks before the start of school, the Laurel Highlands School District failed to hire teachers to two positions and place several long-term substitutes when the school board deadlocked on the matters Tuesday.
With eight members present and following unsuccessful attempts to table three motions related to hirings and personnel placements, the board could not garner the five votes needed to hire a kindergarten teacher and middle school special education teacher, or approve long-term substitutes for the upcoming school year.
The board did not approve the selection of a kindergarten teacher for Clark Elementary School after school director Alicia Santore put forth candidate Breanna Balaz for the position. Santore was joined by Nancy Glad, Randy Raymond and Melvyn Sepic in support of the hire. Directors Beverly Beal, Debra Bortz, Jamie Miller D’Andrea and Tom Landman passed on voting.
The board then locked at 4-4 on the selection of a middle school emotional support teacher. Candidate Claire Basescu was nominated for the position. The selection was supported by Glad, Raymond, Santore and Sepic, with Beal, Bortz, D’Andrea and Landman voting in opposition.
Both Balaz and Basescu were the district administration’s recommended candidates.
The board again hit an impasse in approving individuals for placement as long-term substitutes, voting in the same blocs.
School director Brandi Kalich was absent.
Santore said Laurel Highlands does not currently have teachers in place in nine positions throughout the district as the school year draws nearer, despite candidate interviews and board discussions.
“We have nobody in those positions though school starts in a few weeks. We cannot expect for students to be successful and our teachers to be successful if we don’t have teachers in there, set up, ready to go on Day 1,” Santore said.
“People came for interviews. We spent upwards of two hours in a work session (Monday), and we come here today with a list of names that we don’t vote on,” she added.
New teachers report for orientation Aug.19 before they are joined by all district teachers the next day. The first day of school for students is Aug. 26.
Tuesday’s votes occurred after a 35-minute executive session to start the meeting.
D’Andrea said the lack of hires is not a reflection on any candidate but that the district should find the best fit for each position while considering cost-efficient options, such as not filling positions that have low student enrollment.
The school directors who voted against the middle school emotional support teacher selection cited the district not interviewing specifically for that position.
Sepic, board president, said he followed administration recommendations to the board for filling the two positions, noting that the interviews had several district personnel present.
Superintendent Dr. Jesse Wallace said the board is at an impasse regarding which candidates should be hired to fill the two open teaching positions. Once the two permanent positions are filled, he said, there will be more certainty to the long-term substitute placements as the “pieces fall in place.”
“We’re three weeks away from the first day of school, and as any teacher will tell you, planning is paramount,” he said.
Wallace said he will seek to schedule a special meeting within the next week to again attempt to hire for the positions.