This letter is in response to the letter "Clearing up the BVA nepotism policy" by Joe Grata, president of the Belle Vernon Area School Board which appeared on Sunday, Feb. 9 edition of the Herald-Standard. 

Well, finally, someone let out the worst-kept secret in the Belle Vernon Area School District: People have cheated to get themselves, family members, friends and others positions within the BVA school district. I just cannot figure out whether Grata's act of contrition was for our benefit or for the benefit of the political board members.

The letter goes on to give information about a new policy on nepotism that may be voted upon by school board members very shortly. By the way the word "nepotism" is not just about relatives, it also includes friends, lovers, or other connections to that person. Unfortunately, Grata contradicts himself when he states that there is a no nepotism policy in place for board member and administration, then states that a "few" relatives of this group have gotten jobs other than a "full-time professional position" in the 10 years since he has been a school board member -- so no real damage was done. I guess if only a "few" students call in a bomb threat that would be alright because it is only a "few", or if only a "few" teachers are caught snorting cocaine in the teacher's lounge the same logic used in Grata's explanation would apply. If the policy applies to most but not all -- then there is no policy.

Grata also uses the "private businesses are the same as public institutions" gambit to also try to explain the contradiction. No Joe, the two are different in many ways. People are forced to pay for most public institutions -- including public schools -- with tax dollars from property and/or wages. If someone doesn't like a private business, they can choose to not enter that business and spend their money. If people of a school district choose to send their children to a private school or even if they never had any children, they are still forced to pay for their district's public school system. And this is just a few of the many differences.

The new policy, yet to be approved, allows one group of people -- management -- covered under the existing no nepotism policy to exit under that umbrella and would then be allowed to have relatives apply for jobs that are not under their relative's supervision. Grata acknowledges that outside people have "influenced" who became hired within the system. So it stands to reason that some of the management personnel were hired through "influence" and would not be employed in the system without that method.

Are all of these people capable of making decisions for others when they themselves may have not been hired in the first place? Grata adds that there will be layers of people for screening and decision-making. Does anyone think that these employees will turn down other employees' relatives if they want their own relatives to become employed? The proposed system creates more chaos in an already-admitted corrupt system. And the proposal also indicates that the "current practice of screening candidates" will be kept. Why would you keep a process that has clearly failed in the past and continues to be consistently tested for corrupt purposes?

There are words like "top candidate" and "best qualified, most meritorious" used in describing the selection process. Those and other words like them have many subjective thoughts and different interpretations depending on the situation. These types of words are often used in political speeches for their vague but motivating style of communication. And as admitted to by Grata, there have been people portrayed as "top candidate" that certainly were not.

Many people's lives were completely changed because of the "influence" of people in the hiring process of the BVA School District. I wonder how many superficial smiles and handshakes does it take to clear one's conscience of such selfishness and greed? And we know this kind of cheating goes on in other public venues as well.

George F. Aul

Belle Vernon

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