Superintendent Out? Pottsville School Board Calls Special Meeting for Tuesday
It appears the Pottsville Area school board is ready to move on from Superintendent Jeffrey Zwiebel.
They called a special meeting for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7. The meeting will be in the DHH Lengel Middle School auditorium, not the cramped board room in the Administration Building.
We haven’t been able to obtain an agenda for the meeting. But it’s likely that Pottsville Area school directors will announce the district is moving on from Zwiebel. (PASD says it will follow social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at this meeting. Also, face masks will be required.)
Superintendent at Pottsville Area School District Likely Out
The meeting announcement comes after days of waiting for a statement that was supposed to come on Friday. Board president Bud Quandel told the RepublicanHerald on Thursday that he’d issue a statement on the Superintendent on Friday.
Now, the whole weekend passed and still no word on Zwiebel.
That statement likely would announce that Zwiebel was taking a leave of absence. And in his place, the school plans to announce Jared Gerace as Interim Superintendent. Gerace currently serves as Principal at John S. Clarke Elementary in Pottsville.
That’s according to Scott Thomas, a former Pottsville Area school board member who’s running a watchdog website and Facebook page to keep tabs on the current office holders. Quandel hit back at Thomas during the board’s June meeting for spreading some fake news via that site, page, and Thomas’ weekly live show.
Zwiebel has a contract with Pottsville Area School District through April 2021. School superintendents serve “at the pleasure of” school board members.
Thomas now says it’s likely the school board and Zwiebel will come to terms on an agreement that lets the superintendent out of his contract early.
However, it could be that the school announces it will move on from Zwiebel after his contract expires.
If it’s true that Zwiebel is out at Pottsville Area School District, he could turn into the fall guy for the schools’ current condition. But is the current status of the school really his fault entirely?
Yes, the school district’s financial status diminished significantly during his tenure as Superintendent. However, in a state Auditor General’s report on Pottsville Area, the school – as a whole – was blamed for keeping shoddy financial records. And it was school board members at the time who failed to or didn’t receive accurate or complete financial statements.
That data could have led school directors at the time to make more sound financial decisions. For nearly a decade, Pottsville Area School District spent more than it brought in through various sources. Overspending reached the millions some years and quickly diminished a nearly $16 million reserve.
For his part, Zwiebel is the main person within the district who suggests action items that require spending money. However, it’s the board majority which approves those requests. Saying “no” is an option. So, really, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But with the threat of state receivership – where we lose local control of the schools – there’s not much time for blame.
The tide, as it were, appeared to change in the last couple years. That’s when Brian Manning was named Business Manager at the district. However, Manning just left for a job at the Shikellamy School District. Pottsville Area is currently looking for his replacement.
The Pottsville Area teachers union cast a no-confidence vote on Zwiebel back in January. The financial mismanagement at Pottsville Area eventually resulted in teachers losing their jobs.
The current board – which recently voted to cut 6 teachers – blamed a long stretch with no property tax increases or means of improving the revenue forecast for Pottsville Area for the cuts.