By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
MIDDLEBURG — The divided Midd-West school board came together Monday night and unanimously voted to hire Richard “Rick” Musselman as the district superintendent, but later one board director emotionally called for the reinstatement of suspended administrator Daphne Snook.
Musselman, the current superintendent at Juniata County School District superintendent, sat in the crowd of about 40 people with his wife, Stephanie, and a daughter, as the nine board directors approved his five-year contract, beginning July 1, at a starting annual salary of $122,000.
He replaces former Superintendent Wesley Knapp who resigned last October after five years rather than challenge 36 allegations of neglect of duty and incompetence brought against him by the board.
At the time of his departure, Knapp was earning $118,400 a year and received a lump sum payment of $60,682 plus annuity payments totaling $10,000 through June in exchange for his resignation.
Knapp’s resignation was the first in a series of controversies the district has endured in the past eight months.
Reading from a prepared statement, Nancy Kroh told the crowd that she was upset, “ashamed and embarrassed” about the turmoil surrounding the district.
Her speech faltering at times, Kroh emphatically called for Snook’s immediate reinstatement as assistant superintendent and director of curriculum, instruction and technology following her April suspension without pay from the $106,000-a-year job for allegedly breaching the district email system.
Kroh said she was “misled” about Snook’s alleged wrongdoing and was not consulted about the plans to turn the matter over to the Snyder County district attorney as a potential crime. Snook was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
“I guarantee that had I known then what I know now, my vote (to suspend Snook) would not have been in the affirmative because I was very misled,” Kroh said.
Snook has since filed a federal lawsuit against district solicitor Orris Knepp III and eight board directors — not including director Christopher Nesbit who wasn’t a member in April — for breach of contract, defamation and other violations stemming from her suspension.
Kroh said she later learned that Snook not only did nothing illegal, but as acting superintendent she was authorized to monitor district emails.
“Therefore let us reinstate (Snook) immediately and stop trying to micromanage the position,” she said, adding that Snook should be judged on rising test scores since her hiring in 2009.
Turning to Musselman in the audience, Kroh said he has her full support and that she hopes he can help lead the district in a positive direction.