Board to vote tonight on interim superintendent
Dr. Francis Leskowicz, who has been the Upper Perkiomen School District (UPSD) substitute superintendent since last December, will be returning to his former post as assistant superintendent and the board will soon begin the process of searching for a permanent replacement.
In a press release sent to the Town and Country, Board President Bill Scott said, "The board would like to thank Dr. Leskowicz for stepping up to lead the district in Dr. Yonson's absence. However the board has decided to fully initiate a detailed search for a new superintendent." No reason was given for the action.
However, according to an email received by the Town and Country from UPSD board members Raeann Hofkin and Margie Gehlhaus, a statement issued to school district personnel last Thursday stated that "Dr. Leskowicz had done a commendable job of stepping up when the need has risen, however after careful and lengthy debate it was decided that Dr. Leskowicz's talents are not consistent to achieve the districts long term goals."
According to Scott, the decision to not consider Leskowicz as a candidate for superintendent was made at a March 2014 executive session meeting.
School officials have now decided to conduct a search to fill the open superintendent position. The school board's press release also stated, "Our plan is to bring back Dr. Timothy Kirby as interim superintendent and search consultant starting July 1st to assist the board in the selection process. We believe Dr. Kirby will best serve the board and the district in the dual capacity."
The board is expected to vote on Kirby's hiring at this Thursday's (May 8) school board meeting. The public meeting will be held at the Upper Perkiomen School District Education Center, 2229 East Buck Road, Pennsburg (Upper Hanover Township). The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
Kirby served as superintendent from August 2004 until his retirement in February 2012. He has more than 39 years of experience in public education.
Leskowicz, was named substitute superintendent to take over the administrative duties when Dr. Beth Yonson resigned. Yonson, who was two years into a five-year contract, resigned as of Dec. 2, 2013 due to an "unspecified medical condition," according to a press release issued by the district in November. Yonson will be on medical leave until June 30.
According to her separation and release agreement approved at the December 2013 school board meeting, Yonson was permitted to work off-campus from Dec. 2-13, including attending a Wharton School leadership course already reserved for Dec. 9-12, at the district's expense, not including travel reimbursements.
It was reported that after she exhausted 26 paid sick days and 14 unused vacation days, she would be on sick leave until June. The district is solely responsible to pay for her sick leave, per state school code. The estimated cost of the expense to the district is $59,000.
Under the agreement Yonson continues to receive healthcare and medical benefits until June 30, and is not entitled to those benefits after that date.
The retirement package afforded Dr. Kirby was met last year with biting criticism by Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale after the publication of a performance audit report of the district last October. The report stated that the UPSD "had approved contracts and contract amendments that had provided the former superintendent with excessive compensation and retirement benefits."
The contract amendments were noted in the audit as "not in the best interest of the taxpayers" and state officials said the money "should have been spent on the education of the district's students."
However, less than 14 days after releasing the report, the Auditor General's Office, issued four revised reports due to errors in the initial audit. Those revisions corrected errors in the original report pertaining to the observation on Kirby's retirement package.
At the time, Upper Perkiomen School Board President Bill Scott said one of the biggest "misnomers" in the report is the increase to Kirby's salary, noting he did not receive a 15 percent increase in one year under the first contract amendment. Instead, he received 4.75 percent raise in December 2006 and a 9.92 percent increase the following year. That figure included expense reimbursements.
District Business Administrator Sandy Kassel, received a call from the PA Auditor General's Office in late October 2013 apologizing for the errors in the report.
Of the audit, board member Hofkin remarked last October "In my opinion, yes the severance package was excessive, but no more so than any other school district's retirement packages … There is a fine line between attracting top talent and excessive packages."
No date has been announced for the completion of the search process.