POTTSTOWN PA – The good news Tuesday (Dec. 3, 2013) for job candidate Steven Sieller was his official confirmation as new assistant principal at Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School. However, the minutes preceding a Pottsgrove Board of School Directors‘ vote that authorized his hiring may rank as time he’d rather forget.
Sieller and the position he will occupy on or before Feb. 4 (2014) were at the center of a discussion among board members over whether Superintendent Shellie Feola and the district administration had given them enough time or information about the candidate, and the other prospects against whom he competed, to make a favorable decision.
“I’m in a moral dilemma over this,” Matt Alexander, one of Pottsgrove’s three newest directors, said as the motion to appoint Sieller arose. “I don’t know the candidate,” he admitted. “I’ve got only a resume, a piece of paper, on which to rely. And I’m uncomfortable being asked to vote on this now. It makes it tough for me.”
Alexander contended advance publicity surrounding Sieller’s potential to assume the job – it was the subject of a Tuesday story in The Post – “put the candidate in an awkward situation.” Sieller’s search for work beyond his current employer became public knowledge, and his hiring seemed a foregone conclusion before the board acted, Alexander indicated.
Sieller currently serves as an assistant principal in the Reading School District. The Post article was prompted by a district e-mail that contained “agenda revisions” which stated the administration would “request approval” by the board of an “Elementary Assistant Principal at Lower,” and specifically named Sieller as the winning applicant.
“You know, I’m glad you stepped up and said something,” fellow director Patti Grimm offered. “I agree with Matt,” she said, “and I completely understand how he feels.” Rick Rabinowitz, another new board member who was elected on a slate with Alexander, added that executive-level hirings like those of “assistant administrators and above” merit more board scrutiny.
Board Vice-President David Faulkner preferred to leave such decisions “up to the administration,” he said. “I’m certainly not qualified to determine who’s the best fit” for such jobs, Faulkner countered. “I’d want to go with an administration decision, because they’re the experts.” And director Ted Coffelt pointed out that, should he choose, Alexander could abstain from voting.
The open debate about Sieller’s future was clearly unexpected. He endured the back-and-forth until director Dee Gallion called a pause. “Let’s be clear here that we’re talking about the process and not the person,” she said to her colleagues, and then turned to face Sieller sitting in the audience. “This has got nothing to do with you personally,” she added, and the surrounding audience members enjoyed a short laugh. So did Sieller.
Board members readily agreed.
“I’d like to look at the process going forward and amend things,” Alexander concluded. “Hopefully going forward this gets better.” The board cast its affirmative vote, and Sieller was on the payroll at a pro-rated annual salary of $74,000.
“Welcome to Pottsgrove,” board President Justin Valentine told him.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Dec. 3 meeting):