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At least one South Middleton School Board member believes the district already has a suitable candidate to replace Al Moyer as superintendent.

Instead of investing time and money on an expedited search, Tom Merlie would rather the board promote from within and appoint Assistant Superintendent Joseph Mancuso the chief executive of the school district.

Merlie was the only board member to vote against a motion Monday to appoint Bruce Deveney acting superintendent until a permanent replacement could come onboard after a target hiring deadline of early October.

Six other board members voted in favor of a contract that would pay Deveney a per diem rate of $575 to manage the district and ease the transition for the new person. An Enola native with 38 years in public education, Deveney takes over from Moyer who retired last Friday.

Deveney served as superintendent of the East Pennsboro Area School District for five years before retiring in 2013-14. His entire career had been with that district, starting as a science and computer teacher before taking on central office roles in technology and administrative services and later as assistant superintendent.

Deveney, 63, graduated from East Pennsboro High School in 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Elizabethtown College, a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and a letter of eligibility from Penn State to serve as a superintendent.

“I have the utmost respect and admiration for Bruce,” Merlie said after Monday’s meeting. “He is a fabulous man and a great superintendent. I’ve known him longer than anybody else on this board.”

Deveney was superintendent of East Pennsboro when Merlie was president of that district’s business council. What Merlie voted against was the process the South Middleton board is using to find a replacement.

“Behind every good decision is good timing and good placement,” Merlie said. “Right now, a search in South Middleton School District is not the right time or place. We have multiple balls in the air. We should be focusing on the kids coming back and not on the search.” The first day of school in South Middleton is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 28.

“I believe that we have a candidate,” Merlie said, referring to Mancuso. “I believe the district should get a return on its investment. We hire people. We educate people. We train people. There comes a time when you need to get a return on that investment. … Now is the time for that.”

Mancuso earned his doctorate degree while working as an administrator for the district. Merlie would rather see South Middleton reap the awards of that training or at least have the chance.

Merlie was not alone. Local resident Bob Cronin asked the board Monday to consider appointing Mancuso district superintendent.

“I propose that we look for a home-grown candidate who is qualified and committed to the community,” Cronin said. “I don’t know why the assistant superintendent cannot step up.”

Based on Cronin’s calculations, the district will be paying Deveney at least $20,000 to manage the district from Aug. 21 to early October. This is in addition to the $11,750 maximum fee the board will pay Templeton Advantage of Newport to conduct the expedited search.

The board launched the search in early August by hiring Templeton to find applicants. Board President Michael Berk outlined a schedule that calls 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 the week of Sept. 25.

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

Berk said appointing Mancuso the acting superintendent would have left a void in leadership at a critical time when Mancuso is already involved in technology and curriculum initiatives important to starting up the school year.

“After assessing how we want to move forward, we thought it was best to bring somebody in who could manage the district,” Berk said Monday referring to Deveney. “It made sense to bring in an experienced administrator. He knew the area. He knew the I.U. (the Intermediate Unit).”

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History and education reporter for The Sentinel.