Tempers flared Thursday night among members of the Quakertown Community School Board, as the search for a permanent superintendent continued. School board member Bob Smith launched the controversy by making a motion to immediately engage the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in a thorough search for a permanent superintendent. Board member Joyce King seconded the motion with each member being allowed to comment prior to a vote. However, other board members supported the permanent hiring of Dr. Bill Harner, who is serving as the district's interim superintendent.
Harner was appointed to the position in January after then-Superintendent Dr. Lisa Andrejko announced her immediate leave due to health issues. Her retirement will be official this June. Harner was one of three potential replacements interviewed for the substitute position and, as described by several members of the board, the only suitable candidate for the position at the time.
School board member Stephen Ripper said that Harner has engaged the majority of the staff at several schools within the district and has fulfilled the duties of the office.
Ripper's comments were backed by school board member Dwight Anderson who said, "He (Harner) is head and shoulders above the rest. I've been working in the district for over three decades and Dr. Harner is the seventh superintendent I've seen. If I was asked, I'd vote for him as being the permanent superintendent."
However, Smith, King and board members Fern Strunk and Anna Cattie voted to launch an immediate search to allow for other options in choosing a permanent candidate.
"We gave our word to do a search and should stick with our word," Strunk said.
Cattie added, "We owe it to our taxpayers to do a search."
School Board President Paul Stepanoff added, "This is not a race. Finding a superintendent is like looking for a husband. There are many ways to find the best one: love at first sight, a long courtship or a dating service. But either way, eventually you will know who fits and is the right person."
The motion to launch a search ultimately did not carry, as board members' votes were split, 4-4. No further comments were made regarding the topic during the meeting.
Also at the meeting, Business Administrator Robert Riegel said taxes for the 2014-2015 school year could be raised by 2.1 percent, or 3.02 mills, as the district faces increasing salary and retirement costs. The potential increase would cost taxpayers an additional $80 annually and bring the school tax millage to 146.94 mills. The increase would raise a projected $1.16 million dollars.
The board will vote April 24 on the preliminary $98.9 million final budget 2014-2015, and a final vote to approve the budget is expected June 12.
In other business, Smith summed up a recent Facilities Committee meeting, addressing concerns about how reconstruction of the high school athletic field will affect the Quakertown Elementary School playground.
In order to revamp the field, artificial turf would be installed and a new drainage system and retention basin required. One proposed location for the basin was the elementary school's grass playground; however, after multiple complaints from parents and area residents, the board decided to explore other options.
Smith announced the committee's decision to accept an alternate proposal, which he says "satisfies everyone's issues and would keep Quakertown Elementary's playground exactly as it is today."
The new proposal would involve laying three pipes underground, which would drain along Park Avenue and be connected to the borough's sewer system. There would be no visible drainage above ground or any basin located on school property, Smith said.
According to Smith, the proposal needs to be finalized and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but he does not expect any problems or delays with construction. School board members will vote on the proposal at the next scheduled board meeting on April 10.