The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

September 17, 2013

Emails show ties behind Shikellamy hiring of 2

SUNBURY -  Emails obtained through a right-to-know request indicate that the successful candidates for principal and assistant principal of Shikellamy High School had an inside track to the jobs.

New Principal Ernie Jackson had a long-standing friendship with Superintendent Pat Kelley, while Assistant Principal Brandy Wiest had been friends with the district’s director of education, Abbey Walshaw-Wertz, when they both worked in Upper Dauphin School District. Walshaw-Wertz, who was on the district’s 11-member search committee, wrote a letter to her fellow committee members recommending Wiest for the job.

Kelley and Walshaw-Wertz defended their actions Monday and said they chose the best qualified candidates.

“Bottom line is we are happy with who we chose,” Kelley said. “We did nothing wrong.”

Kelley acknowledged he knew Jackson prior to Jackson’s hiring, but the superintendent said he hadn’t spoken with Jackson for years, other than seeing him at a golf outing last year in Bloomsburg.

Jackson was hired at the Aug. 1 meeting of the Shikellamy school board, but a July 30 email indicated that the board action was a formality.

In the email, Jackson told Kelly “as discussed” he would officially tell his employer, a Catholic High School in New Jersey, about the Shikellamy job after the school board meeting.

Jackson said in the email that the priest is “cool” and would not give him trouble about leaving.

In their emails Walshaw-Wertz and Wiest talked in July about Walshaw-Wertz writing a letter on behalf of Wiest to which the administrator agreed.

On Aug. 2, the day after Wiest was hired, Walshaw-Wertz sent Wiest an email asking her if she read The Daily Item’s report of the hiring.

The report noted the friendships between the administrators and new hires and noted that neither former principal Terry Roden nor assistant principal Jeff Angelo, who had applied for their former positions, had received an interview. Roden, who had been high school principal for 13 years, retired after an undisclosed disagreement with former Superintendent Robin Musto.

Wiest said in an email that she read the report and responded: “Where did they get that from? I never even told anyone that we were friends and so what if we are. So there’s something wrong with liking the people you work with. Why wouldn’t you hire someone you worked with and that you have first-hand knowledge does a good job. This is unbelievable!”

Walshaw-Wertz responded: “No worries! You’ll do great. I just don’t want to give them any fuel for a little while.”

Wiest went on to say that she didn’t put in her resignation until after the board meeting and that “only a few people knew” and that she hoped no one was “dumb enough” to think the school board would hire someone just because they worked with the person.

Walshaw-Wertz said Monday she has a professional relationship with Wiest.

“Have we gone to dinner? Yes. “ Walshaw-Wertz said. “Do we know each other? Yes.”

On Monday, Wiest said: “I am friends with her, and I don’t see why Abbey writing me a letter is wrong. “I have sat on many panels and have written letters for people.”

Jackson, who was hired at $93,453, started work immediately, but Wiest wasn’t able to begin her $87,453 job with the district until Sept. 11.

Federal and state agencies both said there is no monitoring of the hiring process in school districts, and if someone is hired because of a relationship with either a school director or an administrator, the only way to fix it is to go to the polls and elect new school board members.

Representatives at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the hiring process sounded a bit like “cronyism,” but there was not much that could be done.

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said the agency has no control over who a school district hires.

“A citizen’s only avenues of recourse are to appear before the board to complain or to replace board members at the next school board election,” Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller said.

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

1
Text Only
News
  • Amazon worker pilots drone around Space Needle

    Police say an out-of-town Amazon employee was the operator behind a drone that buzzed the Seattle Space Needle this week.

    July 25, 2014

  • eyebrows.jpg Coming Sunday: Browsing for brows

    As makeup sales soar, four tips to make your eyebrows raise others'. Coming Sunday

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carjacked vehicle strikes crowd, killing 2 kids

    Two men forced a woman into the backseat of her car at gunpoint and drove it into a group of people on a corner in Philadelphia on Friday, killing two children and critically injuring three other people, police said.

    July 25, 2014

  • Man calls police chief "brain dead"

    A Liberty Township man was cited for placing a sign calling Mahoning Township’s police chief “brain dead and hell bound.”

    July 25, 2014

  • New warden returning to Lewisburg penitentiary

    David J. Ebbert has been tapped to replace Jeff Thomas as warden at United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg.

    July 25, 2014

  • Fast food workers to escalate wage demands

    Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers are expected to discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

    July 25, 2014

  • 1plane18.jpg Air travel a leap of faith for passengers

    Airline travel requires passengers to make a leap of faith, entrusting their lives to pilots, airlines, air traffic controllers and others who regulate air travel.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Honduran president: U.S. has enormous responsibility for crisis

    The historic influx of illegal immigrants from Central America is caused primarily by the high demand for illicit drugs in the United States, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Today's Editorial: Child's sensibilities shield bad parents

    Periodically, a decree goes forth from the county seat announcing a special on child support, generally in the form of reducing charges and fines for all those able and willing to make good on some payments now past due.

    July 25, 2014

  • Budd fundraising run to pass Geisinger

    MILTON — It’s “kickstands up” tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. from LT’s Tavern on Route 405 in Milton where hundreds of motorcycles will take off on a run to raise funds for the Budds, the Ohio family whose matriarch, Sharon, recovers at Geisinger Medical Center from grave injuries suffered in a rock-throwing incident two weeks ago.

    July 25, 2014

The Daily Marquee
Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.