Philipsburg-Osceola board member Verbeck clashes with superintendent Paladina over new hire

lfalce@centredaily.comMarch 12, 2014 

— A new hire brought Phillipsburg-Osceola’s new superintendent into conflict with a board member Tuesday night.

Jim Verbeck questioned Superintendent Gregg Paladina about a motion on the special voting meeting’s agenda to fill a new position, a director of transportation/business assistant. He called it the kind of thing that Stephen Benson would have done during his tenure as top administrator. Verbeck was one of several board members who were openly critical of Benson.

Paladina was quick to state why the position was necessary.

“We need to have one person to be the contact for bus issues,” he said, adding that more efficiency in the position would be a savings to the district, which spends about $1.7 million annually on transportation.

“I think we had someone to do that,” said Verbeck.

Currently, overseeing the district’s transportation is one of several jobs that falls to Michael Conte, the business manager, with support from administrative assistants.

When Paladina attempted to defend the decision, Board Member Elizabeth Whitehead stopped him.

“Over the last months, you have been very open in executive session about everything. This is not something that is just happening tonight,” she said.

Still, the board went into another executive session for 15 minutes to discuss the issue again before the hiring went to a vote.

Amanda Taylor was hired at a salary of $33,000. Taylor comes to the district from the Central Intermediate Unit. Verbeck was the sole vote against her hiring.

“We think the money we are spending could be spent more wisely,” said board member Susan McGee. “That’s why we are doing what we are doing.”

Taylor said she already has plans to lower the budget in her department.

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