Northern Cambria School District official’s workload concerns board
NORTHERN CAMBRIA – Conditions of a settlement agreement that moved the Northern Cambria School District’s former high school principal into a new role last spring has some school board members concerned about lingering conflicts of interest and a too-heavy workload that may be negatively impacting students.
Education Director Joy Tibbott has held her new position – created out of necessity to halt the lawsuit – barely a year, and some have said it’s time for a change.
The 2013 settlement agreement was first mentioned in a Jan. 31 report from Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. He said a school board member, later identified as Frank Frontino, committed a potential ethics violation by voting for the agreement because it involves his wife.
Frontino did not return calls for comment.
The agreement, obtained by the Mirror from the district, showed the district’s insurance company awarded $12,000 to an attorney representing Donna Frontino, who filed complaints against the district and Tibbott in December 2012 on behalf of her children.
The children stated in written complaints that they felt uncomfortable around Tibbott for reasons related to their parents’ divorce and said it was creating problems for them academically and socially.
As part of the agreement, Tibbott was removed from the high school to “transition to a position in
the district’s Central Administration offices” as director of education beginning May 2013, “where she will remain for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years” until the Frontino children graduate.
Tibbott was permitted to remain as principal through the end of the 2012-13 school year, although she was forbidden to “engage in any affirmative or direct contact with” Donna or her children, according to the settlement.
As part of the agreement, Donna and her children released Tibbott and the district from future legal action regarding claims filed as part of the suit, but Donna may continue to use the complaints, filed by her children against Tibbott, as it relates to her ongoing divorce.
County court records show that Frank Frontino filed for divorce in 2007. No action has been taken on the case since 2011.
Education director is a multifaceted position that combines half of Tibbott’s previous job, as special education director (for which she was originally hired in 1997), with the combined curriculum and federal programs director position, which was previously held by Marilyn Wargo.
As education director, Tibbott is responsible for administration of all special education programs, in addition to other duties including program planning, test evaluation and coordinating meetings with the teachers, administrators and the superintendent.
She’s also in charge of recruiting and screening potential employees while working to monitor, apply for and secure grant funding.
While some officials – Tibbott included – said her move to education director was “lateral,” a job description obtained by the Mirror shows that her new title carries pages of responsibilities, as well as the ability to serve as acting superintendent; it’s a title Tibbott said gives her some powers in Superintendent John Jubas’ absence, but “in no way means that I could perform his duties.”
When Jubas was on medical leave from late April to December 2013 to undergo treatment in Philadelphia, former Spring Cove Superintendent Rodney Green filled in.
Green had nothing but nice things to say about Tibbott and said he thought she did an excellent job while he was there.
Tibbott said she knows the job is a lot of work but noted that administrators saw it as a move from “two big jobs” to “two other big jobs” – despite the fact that she retained half of her former job as special education director.
The move also came without a pay raise.
Tibbott said when she became principal, she received a $4,000 raise because it was in addition to her special education duties. It was the only time she received a raise outside a contractual increase, she said, even though she completed a doctorate of education program in December 2012 – around the same time the settlement was filed.
Former school board President Robert Tomallo said Tibbott saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars by halting the lawsuit and taking the education director position.
“As far as I’m concerned, she did the district a favor,” he said.
But the real reason she didn’t receive a raise was political, not because the job transition was lateral, Tomallo said.
He said Tibbott agreeing to not take a salary increase was a cost-saving measure, but it also made it harder to connect the move to the settlement agreement, so others wouldn’t perceive the move as a promotion since the settlement had cost the district money.
“Nobody had the political guts to say, ‘Hey, Joy deserves a raise,'” Tomallo said.
Tibbott’s been in her new job for less than a year, and some new board members said they are unhappy with her performance.
In a speech delivered during the board’s March 4 committee meeting, curriculum committee Chairman Kevin Krug said students are “hindered” because curriculum is controlled by special education.
“Joy [Tibbott] knows how I feel about this,” Krug said.
He said he and the two other board members elected in November, Brian Bougher and President Ronald Dolansky, are trying to better the district, but other issues are sidetracking the board.
“Administrators are losing sight of why they became teachers,” he said. “It is time for this to stop.”
Board member Delvin Lockard said he approved the settlement agreement, which passed unanimously with board member Brian Tibbott – Joy Tibbott’s husband – absent for the vote, but has since realized the position is too much for one person.
“There was no way she could do all that,” he said. “There’s just too much. I knew she couldn’t do it, and she’s not doing it. … It’s just impossible.”
Lockard said school officials are mulling changing some job descriptions, including some of Tibbott’s responsibilities.
Both Joy Tibbott and Tomallo maintain that Superintendent Jubas was instrumental in creating the education director position, which the board approved at a May meeting not long after Jubas began his monthslong medical leave.
Jubas did not return multiple calls for comment, but his contract stipulates that he has “complete freedom” to organize administrative staff or transfer personnel.
Tibbott acknowledged that her workload is heavy, and possibly too heavy, but said she has confidence in the board’s decisions and that they believed the move was the right thing to do.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly contributed to this report. Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.