The Uniontown Area School District entered a separation agreement in September with a school district police officer.
According to the agreement, obtained Monday by the Herald-Standard through a Right-to-Know request, James Baranowski elected to “voluntarily resign his position for personal reasons,” effective Sept. 1.
The school board voted at its Oct. 7 meeting to approve the separation agreement with Baranowski.
According to the agreement, dated Sept. 26, the district agreed to not pursue a statement of charges against Baranowski pursuant to Section 514 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code, which gives school boards the right to remove employees for a variety of reasons, including incompetency, intemperance, neglect of duty, violation of public school laws or other improper conduct.
Baranowski agreed to not seek employment with the district at any future time, nor to pursue legal action against the district to protect his status as an employee.
Per the agreement, Baranowski is eligible to receive regular salary payments through Jan. 31 at a rate of $19.20 per hour, including any differential which may have resulted in payments made at a lower rate since July 1, and in addition to hours he would have been scheduled to work beyond his normal weekly schedule for the period during Christmas break.
At the October meeting, the district initially declined to reveal Baranowski’s name or position. He was identified on the meeting agenda as “employee #102226.”
Following the meeting, Dr. Dan Bosnic, assistant to the superintendent, said the contract is a severance agreement for a nonprofessional employee with “performance issues” and with whom the district mutually agreed to part ways.
At the time, district solicitor Michael Brungo said confidentiality provisions are in place to protect individuals when such agreements are entered.
Brungo said Pennsylvania personnel law provides for employee privacy, which prevents the personal information of individuals employed by a government entity, such as a public school district, from being readily available to the public.
According to attorney Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, the employee’s name should have been made public record in accordance with state law.
Section 708 of the Right-to-Know Law makes certain employee information public record, including name, position, salary, employment contract and length of service, said Melewsky.
In addition to the public information protected by the Right-to-Know Law, the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act requires public agencies to provide an opportunity for meaningful public comment prior to all votes. That cannot happen if the public is not provided basic information on agenda items on which votes are taken, Melewsky said.
Melewsky said the district should have identified the employee and disclosed the basic terms of the agreement prior to voting so the public could understand what was being considered and offer meaningful public comment prior to the vote.
The Herald-Standard filed a Right-to-Know inquiry with the district Oct. 18, requesting a copy of the separation agreement and information pertaining to Section 708 of the law.
The district fulfilled the Right-to-Know request Monday. The agreement did not disclose details of why the separation agreement was needed. When reached again on Monday, district officials declined comment.
Baranowski was hired by the district in September 2016. His rate of pay at the time of his resignation was $19.20 per hour, according to information provided by the district in response to the Right-to-Know request.