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The Superintendent Called, For Clarity and Accuracy

POTTSTOWN PA – Pottsgrove School District Superintendent Shellie Feola, in a phone call Thursday morning (Jan. 24, 2013) to The Post, said she had not denied The (Pottstown PA) Mercury access to salary information regarding incoming Ringing Rocks Elementary Principal Barbara Guy, as the newspaper reported Wednesday (Jan. 23), but simply did not have it or Guy’s employment contract with her at the time they were requested.

Shellie A. Feola

Shellie A. Feola

And The Post, Feola added, may be giving its readers “skewed” information by comparing salaries paid to Pottsgrove administrators with statewide averages reported this week by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). Comparing Pottsgrove salaries to those paid by other Montgomery County districts for similar positions would be more accurate, she contended.

Mercury reporter Evan Brandt, in a story published Wednesday, wrote the newspaper had filed a right-to-know request with the district for a copy of the separation agreement between it and former Ringing Rocks Principal Michelle Bozzini. It was told not to expect a response until Feb. 18, as Pottsgrove attorneys considered the request’s validity. The story also indicated a second filing would be made for information related to Guy’s employment.

The district has argued the Bozzini document, and circumstances surrounding her departure last month, constitute a personnel matter that could be kept confidential under state law. Feola made no mention of it during her 10-minute call.

Regarding the Guy contract, however, Feola said the principal would be paid at a rate of $500 per working day through June 30. “We did that because it is an interim position, a temporary kind of assignment,” the superintendent noted. She indicated that, had he been willing to wait until Wednesday, Brandt would have been provided with the same information. She acknowledged, however, suggesting to Brandt that he file a right-to-know request to receive a complete copy of the contract with Guy.

The Post attempted to call Brandt at The Mercury offices Thursday after talking with Feola. He was said to be unavailable until later in the day.

A Post story published Thursday about The Mercury’s filings referred to PSBA-reported average salaries paid to superintendents and elementary school principals statewide. The Post story noted that considerable sums may be involved in Bozzini’s separation and Guy’s employment, and that those amounts were generally considered public information because they would be paid with taxpayer funds. The Post story also reported Feola’s salary of $169,500 was 28 percent higher than the most recently released PSBA average.

Feola sought to make it clear that administrative salaries paid in Pottsgrove compared favorably to those of other districts in Montgomery County, while the difference between Pottsgrove salaries and PSBA-stated averages was exaggerated by lower salaries paid elsewhere in the state.

During 2011-2012, she offered as an example, the average salary paid to an elementary principal in Montgomery County was $118,127, more than the statewide average of $98,502 reported by PSBA for 2010-2011. Similarly, she said, the Montgomery County average for superintendents’ salaries during 2011-2012 was $184,342, also more than her own salary approved by the Board of School Directors.

Feola said she believed the figures reported by The Post would be incorrectly interpreted by some readers and cause them to suspect administrative costs in Pottsgrove were unusually high. “That’s just not the case,” she said.

The phone conversation was pleasant and professional. Feola said she intended to also call Brandt and talk with him.

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

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