The Danville Area School District will receive a windfall of about $120,000, thanks to the Shikellamy School District.
Well, it's a windfall, of sorts. Because Shikellamy hired Jason Bendle one week ago as that district's new superintendent, Danville won't have to pay him $135,812, which was his annual salary.
The Danville district agreed to pay him that amount as part of a mutual agreement when he resigned in March, just 14 months into his five-year contract. The agreement, though, states that if he finds other employment before March 2020 and his pay is less than the severance pay, the district will pay the difference. That comes out to about $15,812.
Meanwhile, the board is paying an acting superintendent $450 a day, and will soon hire a new superintendent at likely a bit more than that.
Bendle said he and the board were "not a good fit." Danville school board members signed affidavits stating they do not know why Bendle resigned. The affidavits were part of the legal paperwork an attorney for the school district filed with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records on the school district’s behalf. The district was responding to the appeal this newspaper filed after the district denied the newspaper’s Right-to-Know request for records concerning Bendle’s resignation.
We could say paying $15,000 is a lot better than paying $135,812, but we question whether it was wise in the first place to pay anything.
We could be wrong.
But how could we, or district taxpayers, know whether paying that amount to someone who doesn't even work for the district is wise? Is it a good idea when the district also must pay someone who is doing the actual work of the superintendent?
We — and the district taxpayers, the people who pay the school district employees' salaries — may never know why the school board agreed to the deal, why Bendle quit and whether this could happen again.
No one is talking, and the newly employed superintendent is moving on in his career. Bendle, who is in his early 40s, said he plans on being Shikellamy's superintendent for a long time. It appears Shikellamy school officials would prefer that, especially since the district has had leaders coming and going.
Board President Wendy Wiest said the district conducted an extensive search and when the field was narrowed down, Bendle was the obvious choice.
"We included staff at all levels as well as community groups to draw opinions from as many stakeholders as possible in making this important decision," Wiest said. "Jason Bendle stood out as a candidate who has covered multiple positions in times of vacancy in other districts and is willing and able to work well with staff in order to build a vision for the district from the top down. He also has a proven track record in managing school finances. He has creatively reduced budgets without compromising education in previous districts."
We wish Bendle well in his new position, but we still wonder, what happened in Danville?