Paper Alleges Pottsgrove Withholding Public Information

POTTSTOWN PA – A right-to-know request to obtain a copy of the separation agreement between the Pottsgrove School District and former Ringing Rocks Elementary School Principal Michelle Bozzini has been filed by The (Pottstown PA) Mercury newspaper, according to a story it published online late Wednesday night (Jan. 23, 2013).

Paper Alleges Pottsgrove Withholding Public InformationThe newspaper’s article indicated it also appeared likely to file a second right-to-know request for information relating to the employment contract of Bozzini’s successor, Barbara Guy. Her hiring was approved Tuesday (Jan. 22) by the Board of School Directors, unanimously and without public comment.

In both instances, The Mercury suggests the district wrongly withheld information it believes should have been made publicly available. It reported it may not receive an answer on the Bozzini matter until Feb. 18 (Monday), apparently because attorneys for Pottsgrove are determining whether the newspaper is properly seeking “a public record subject to access.”

  • The Mercury story was written by reporter Evan Brandt, who has regularly covered Pottsgrove activities during his 14-year tenure in Pottstown and who has had past successes with right-to-know filings. Read his story, here.

During questioning Tuesday, Brandt reported, district Superintendent Shellie Feola “declined to disclose what Guy’s salary will be or to provide a copy of her employment contract.” Following the board’s Jan. 8 meeting, Feola and a district solicitor similarly declined The Post’s request for details on Bozzini’s separation.

Feola claimed the employment matters were private, discussed in closed-door board executive sessions as permitted by Pennsylvania law, and would not be revealed.

The superintendent’s stance is considered curious because the Guy employment contract and Bozzini separation agreement are assumed to involve the district expenditure of potentially $100,000 or more in taxpayer funds during the next 12 months.

For example, the average salary of an elementary school principal such as Guy in Pennsylvania during the 2010-2011 academic year amounted to $98,502, according to a “facts and figures” bulletin distributed by mail this week from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), of which Pottsgrove is a member.

Moreover, a Jan. 16 letter from Feola to Ringing Rocks parents said Bozzini was “on a leave of absence” but would not return as principal. Feola’s specifically chosen wording prompted speculation among some parents that a financial settlement was involved in Bozzini’s departure. Bozzini has not made any public statement about her “leave.”

At the very least, the money spent in either case would normally be considered public knowledge. The school board itself showed no reluctance Dec. 7 (2012) – days before ratifying a 5-year contract under which Feola was promoted to superintendent – to announce her pro-rated salary alone would total $169,500 during her first year.

That amount, also according to the PSBA document, is 28 percent higher than the $132,305 statewide average earned by district superintendents. Pottsgrove is nonetheless considered an economically “poorer” district by state standards, Business Manager David Nester acknowledged Tuesday during a later discussion of the preliminary 2013-2014 budget.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Jan. 22 meeting):

Photo from Google Images