Neil Armstrong Middle School will have a new special education teacher in the fall, despite his claims he is not particularly qualified for the position.
Jeremy Linz, social studies teacher at Independence Middle School, will switch to special education teacher at the other middle school when school starts Aug. 23. The transfer is not voluntary and Linz urged the board to reconsider at the Aug. 1 meeting. He said other teachers, who might have less seniority, are more qualified for the role.
He said Bethel Park needs someone with more experience teaching children with special needs.
“I cannot be fully prepared for this change,” Linz told the board.
Nevertheless, Linz has a certification in special education and the school board decided during their Aug. 1 meeting he will use it in the new school year. The board voted 6-2 to transfer Linz along with two other teachers. Board members Pamela Dobos and Barry Christenson dissented and Connie Ruhl was absent.
“I do not think those (personnel moves) are in the best interest of the students of Bethel Park,” Dobos said.
Other board members declined to comment about the specific reasons surrounding the decision.
However, several teacher resignations prompted the board to close several positions and move other teachers around to fill the vacancies. The school board has been trimming staff through attrition for the past few years in response to declining enrollment and as a way to save money.
Linz’s social studies teaching position at Independence will not be cut. Instead, the board will move Jon Gentile, high school social studies teacher, to Independence and Gentile’s old job at the high school will be eliminated.
Gentile issued a stinging rebuke of the school board during public comment. He praised the two directors who voted against the personnel changes and called the rest of the board shortsighted.
“You made a major step backwards educationally here tonight,” he said.
Parent Sharon Janocik also criticized the board. She said special education students in Bethel Park need a well-qualified teacher with experience with teaching students with various learning difficulties, particularly autism.
“No one can be trained to effectively manage this in three weeks,” she said. “It’s a recipe for disaster and it’s sad to see this happen.”
Superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla praised Bethel Park teachers, saying they are all highly qualified and willing to do whatever is best for the students.
In addition to Linz and Gentile, Maria Christenson, a high school business education and social studies teacher, was also involuntarily transferred. Barry Christenson abstained from voting on that measure. Maria Christenson’s new position will have her split her time between the high school and Neil Armstrong Middle School.
In other personnel matters, the board closed ten positions and replaced some of those jobs with new positions with different responsibilities. The eliminated jobs are: full-time custodian at the high school, social studies teacher at the high school, business education teacher at Neil Armstrong, business education/social studies teacher at the high school, fourth grade teacher at Washington Elementary, full-time special education paraprofessional at William Penn Elementary, full-time health services nurses at Lincoln Elementary and Independence Middle schools and part-time instructional aide at Lincoln Elementary.
The board created a eight new positions: part-time custodian, business education teacher at Neil Armstrong/business education and social studies teacher at the high school, full-time health services nurse at Lincoln Elementary and Independence Middle schools, full-time health services nurse at Neil Armstrong and Independence, three part-time special education paraprofessionals at Franklin Elementary and Independence Middle schools and part time instructional aide at Lincoln Elementary.
Also during the meeting:
• Accepted resignations from Sandra Yakubic, special education teacher at Neil Armstrong; Ethan Myler, typing and computer applications teacher at Neil Armstrong; Julie Herring, long-term substitute at Independence; Rebecca Sawchik, school psychologist; Joseph Rosi, fourth grade teacher at Washington Elementary; William Hamilton, custodian; Beverly Fusco, special education paraprofessional at William Penn; Tammy Kitterman, bus driver; and Madeline Milas, instructional aide at Lincoln Elementary.
• Purchased carpeting for the Ben Franklin Elementary School renovation from Franklin Interiors at a cost of $49,070.
• Changed the specifications of the high school entrance sign from a full-color LED display to a monochrome display. The change will save the district nearly $3,000.