Tension building at Northern Cambria

NORTHERN CAMBRIA – Northern Cambria School District Superintendent John Jubas confirmed Friday that a school board member has approached him to discuss a buyout from his five-year contract, which expires June 30, 2015.

Jubas would not name the board member, describing the offer as a “casual inquiry” with no firm offer made, but said many know of his retirement plans – next year marks his 37th in education – and some may be trying to speed up the process.

“I consider it an honor if the district wants me to enjoy my retirement. I would be interested if they want to help me toward retirement,” he said, noting that the full board has not officially approached him.

It’s no secret here that the school board remains divided on many issues, and administration is foremost among them.

Jubas said while the board member with whom he spoke was friendly about the offer, the board members as a whole are “very tense with each other,” and some may want him out for other reasons.

“It certainly could be a mixed bag,” he said. “Right now, the board is not operating on full support of each other. There could be board members who are not agreeable with my management style.”

Board President Ronald Dolansky said he is aware some board members may be working on a buyout, and he’s discouraged that he is not part of those talks.

“As president of the board, you’d think they [board members] would let me know,” he said. “But no, they went on their own” to Jubas.

A resident broached the topic during a Tuesday budget workshop when she asked whether a buyout was in the works.

Four board members – Brian Bougher, Delvin Lockard, Kevin Krug and Dolansky – said they were aware of the rumors, while the other four:

Brian Tibbott, Dennis Pawlikowski, Roland Paronish and David Atkins, sat silent. Frank Frontino was absent.

When reached for comment, Atkins and Tibbott denied Dolansky’s comments.

“I have not gone to Jubas,” Atkins said, adding he isn’t aware of any other board member who has.

“I’m not orchestrating any buyout of John Jubas. That is a false rumor,” Tibbott said. “I do not think you would have votes for a buyout. I really don’t. It would be costly to the school district.”

Pawlikowski did not return calls. Frontino and Paronish were not available for comment.

For his part, Lockard said if either side – Jubas or the board – is taking a serious look at a contract buyout, it should be discussed at a board meeting.

Although Dolansky said he doesn’t like the other board members’ methods, he’s not a cheerleader for Jubas, either. If a retention vote was held now, Dolansky said, he wouldn’t vote to keep the superintendent.

“I was upfront with him and his brother [district solicitor Gary Jubas],” Dolansky said. “I said, looking at what’s happened since July 2010 [when Jubas’ contract began] there’s really nothing from an educational or financial side that he has contributed to. He’s a PR man, OK? I just don’t see him as leading the school district.”

Jubas disagreed and believes a retention vote would go in his favor.

“My term here has been very productive, very successful. There were three local candidates for the position” of superintendent, he said. “I was blessed and honored to be the candidate chosen. We’ve done a lot of great things here in Northern Cambria.”

Acknowledging his cancer diagnosis openly for the first time, Jubas, who was on medical leave from late April to December 2013 to undergo treatment in Philadelphia, said his goal upon retirement is to work in the cancer community.

He continues to receive regular checkups, he said, and doctors have declared him NED, meaning there’s “no evidence of disease” left in his body.

“My goal is [to help] those who are newly diagnosed and to help share the motivation and support needed to attack this chronic disease,” Jubas said.

Having been elected superintendent by a 5-to-4 vote, Jubas said he’s had to work hard to accomplish his goals but feels he’s done a lot of good for the district and the community.

“As a superintendent, you become certainly criticized or praised in your work. As a person coming back and leading their hometown, it’s even more of a demand to step into that role,” said Jubas, a 1974 Northern Cambria graduate.

“Certainly opinions are appreciated and respected. I think at this point with my expertise, educational training and background, I’ve done an outstanding job leading the district.”

While he’s happy with his achievements, Jubas said, work remains to be done even if, or when, board members agree to a buyout. His No. 1 goal is to unite the board so it can finally address serious academic issues.

“Hidden or negative agendas aren’t needed in today’s world of education,” he said. “It’s time for everybody to play in the same sandbox.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.