South Middleton School District

An aerial view of Boiling Springs High School and its facilities.

Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

Closed-door interviews will be conducted sometime this week with an unspecified number of applicants vying for the position of superintendent of South Middleton School District.

On the phone Monday, school board president Michael Berk would not comment on when interviews are scheduled nor would he specify either the number of applicants seeking the job or the number of individuals selected from this pool for hour-long interviews before the board-as-a-whole.

Also, Berk would not comment on where the applicants are from nor would he say whether Assistant Superintendent Joseph Mancuso is in the running for the chief executive position.

Al Moyer stepped down as superintendent on Aug. 18. Three days later, a board majority appointed Bruce Deveney acting superintendent until a permanent replacement could be hired after a target hiring deadline of October.

Tom Merlie was the only board member to vote against the Aug. 21 appointment, but not because he had anything against Deveney. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for Bruce,” Merlie said after the meeting.

What Merlie voted against was the process the South Middleton board is using to find a replacement. The board in early August agreed to pay Templeton Advantage of Newport a maximum fee of $11,750 to conduct an expedited search for applicants.

Support for Mancuso

Merlie believes the district already has a suitable candidate in Mancuso to replace Moyer as chief executive. Mancuso earned his doctorate degree while working as an administrator for the district. Merlie would rather see South Middleton reap the rewards of that training or at least have the chance.

In preparation for this week’s interviews, board members were encouraged to submit questions they would like to ask applicants, Berk said. He added those questions will be screened by himself and by board vice-president Steven Bear.

This input from board members will be combined with a standard list of recommended questions provided by Templeton, Berk said. He added the goal is for each board member to have the opportunity to ask at least one question of each applicant.

In August, Berk outlined a schedule that called for all applications to be submitted by early September prior to the first round of interviews planned for the week of Sept. 11 and the second round planned for the week of Sept. 25.

The stated goal is to name a new superintendent sometime in October. Board meetings are scheduled for Oct. 2 and Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Iron Forge Elementary School.

Early in the week of Sept. 11, The Sentinel contacted Berk for an update. At the time, he said board members have yet to meet with Templeton about the initial pool of applicants.

On Monday, The Sentinel contacted Berk again. He said the board was ready to conduct interviews this week behind closed doors. “We are a little bit behind,” Berk said referring to the schedule. “It may go into mid-October.”

Berk was not sure if the sessions this week will be the first round or the only round of interviews for applicants for the job of superintendent. “Once we complete the interviews, board members will discuss how they want to proceed going forward,” Berk said.

Last hire

The last time the board hired a superintendent was over four years ago. The board went through an initial round of interviews to screen applicants followed by an opportunity for the public to interview finalists for the job including Moyer. It is too early to say whether the current board would allow public input into the decision.

State law allows school boards to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors in executive session. Any decision on whether to hire a person needs to be made during a public meeting.

Carlisle Area School Board last week approved an updated job description for the position of district superintendent. The update came after John Friend stepped down as the chief executive of Carlisle schools on June 30.

Friend was the assistant superintendent for Carlisle before he was promoted seven years ago to replace the outgoing superintendent Mary Kay Durham. After Friend retired, Carlisle board members appointed Assistant Superintendent Christina Spielbauer as the acting superintendent for the 2017-2018 year.

Board president Paula Bussard said last week the Carlisle board will probably wait until after the Nov. 7 general election before deciding when to officially launch its search for a permanent replacement for Friend. She described the race for school board as competitive with six candidates vying for four open four-year seats. The possibility exists election night returns may change the composition of the board.

With that in mind, Berk was asked about the quick turnaround underway in South Middleton School Board. He said the October target deadline for a replacement superintendent has nothing to do with the Nov. 7 election, but more to do with the need for a small school district to act fast to fill a key leadership position.

Being a larger school district, Carlisle is better able to shift personnel around, Berk said. He added there are number of initiatives and challenges that are demanding the South Middleton board move quickly to appoint a replacement.

Four four-year seats are open on the South Middleton School Board. Three of them are occupied by incumbents who have decided not to run for reelection. They include Tom Merlie, Robert Winters and Scott Witwer.

Only incumbent Stacey Knavel filed the paperwork to run for office. She is on the ballot for the Nov. 7 election along with John Greenbaum, Jon Still and Denise MacIvor who earned write-in spots during the May Primary.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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History and education reporter for The Sentinel.

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