With the recent release of the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s report critical of the Upper Perkiomen School District for giving its former superintendent $229,000 in unused sick and vacation days as well as health care coverage after he retired, came public outcry; and there will undoubtedly be more criticism in the coming weeks. But, it is important to point out that this story is still unfolding. If you chose to run blindly with the first version of the report and the “hot of the press” press-release copy dumped on the mainstream media, you did so at your own risk.
Much of the resentment heard here at the newspaper comes from senior citizens strapped with fixed incomes and making decisions on what to do without in order to pay their property taxes, and parents who wonder why there isn’t more funding for education.
Regarding the payout, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s findings were a strong opinion; not a violation of law. His words: “I feel very comfortable calling this an excessive package…In these tough economic times, when we’re having education cuts all over the state. . .we need to be directing as many available dollars as possible to the classroom,” is an opinion that many people share.
Is it a perceived “golden parachute” that has people seething? It shouldn’t be. The costs were the result of an offer made by the Upper Perkiomen School Board for the needed services of a proven professional in a time of need. After a six-month notice of his intention to retire, the soon-to-be retired superintendent was called upon to stay on for a couple of months while the board named a replacement. After agreeing to stay on, he was asked to walk early because his replacement was named and ready to take over sooner than expected.
Since the news of the Auditor General’s report broke last week, the question heard most often at our editor’s desk is why the board just didn’t have the assistant superintendent take over the duties for a couple of months until the new superintendent was hired. That turns out now to be the $200,000-plus question. Perhaps there is a valid answer and the Nov. 14 public meeting of the Upper Perkiomen School Board would be the place to hear it.
There is now a move afoot by many area voters to bypass casting a ballot in this year’s Upper Perkiomen School Board election as a sign of no confidence. There are four candidates running unopposed for four available seats and the disgruntled voters have vowed to faithfully march to the polls and cast a ballot in every contest except the Upper Perkiomen School Board. Failure to pull the lever or push the button for a candidate in all but that contest will be their protest vote.
Other media sources grabbed the report and press release last week and ran with it as presented by the Auditor General. The Town and Country chose to dig a little deeper and not take the report at face value – and it’s good we did. Reading our journalist’s story this week shows that in less than seven days a number of errors in the report have been corrected and more are being addressed.
Here’s hoping that by Nov. 14 the report will have been fully vetted by both sides and facts and opinions can be addressed at the next meeting of the school board.