AASD salary vote sparks tension on school board

An Altoona Area School Board vote on a standardized policy this week was loaded with some tension remaining from a school board executive session regarding salaries for administrators, including principals.

The Altoona Area School District’s policy regarding meetings was passed as part of a package of other policies this week. The policies were formulated by the Pennsyl­vania School Boards Asso­cia­tion and uniformly recommended to schools across the state.

However, the meetings policy was met by three no votes from Sharon Bream, Ron Johnston and Ed Kreuz for the reason that they were allegedly not part of discussions leading to salary in­creases for administrative personnel in September.

The Altoona Area School District administrative personnel will see a 3 percent increase, with a maximum of $3,000 for the 2018-19 school year, in accordance with com­pensation plans ap­proved by the board in September.

The increase for the 2019-20 fiscal year is also a 3 percent increase, with a maximum of $3,000.

“Two-year increases were never before done,” Bream claimed at a regular board meeting this week. “It was decided by three members (in an executive session),” she declared, adding that the meetings policy should require all members to be present when salaries are discussed.

The raises were approved by five members voting at a public meeting in Septem­ber: Dutch Brennan, William Ceglar, Wayne Hippo, Rick Hoover and Kelly Irwin Adams. Nay votes were cast by Bream, Johnston, Dave Francis and Kreuz.

Brennan stressed that the whole board had talked about the raises multiple times during executive sessions over the course of months. He pointed out that the raises were on the public meeting agenda for June but were tabled for further discussion. At the time, the administrative raises were listed at 3.25 percent because that was the raise given to teachers.

The raises were lowered to 3 percent during an executive session, which Bream left because it was approaching midnight, she said, adding that she did not know the topic of administrative salaries would be broached after she left.

Referring to that executive session, Brennan said the topic of discussion was administrative salaries.

“Primarily, we talked about Superintendent Chuck Prijatelj’s raise at the executive session. At the very tail end, there was discussion saying what will be on the agenda for Act 93 administrators — Act 93 folks are those who used to be teachers and are now administrators,” he said.

He stressed that the whole board, including Bream, has been discussing the raises for months.

“We discussed salaries multiple times in executive session. … We even had a meeting where salaries were going to be voted on,” Brennan said.

He said the board could not delay any longer.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.