The Bellefonte Area school board opted not to renew Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger’s contract.
It happened at Tuesday night’s regular board meeting at the Bellefonte Area Middle School cafeteria in a 6-2 vote.
The only board members who voted not to terminate Potteiger were Hope Boylston and Bob Lumley-Sapanski.
Lumley-Sapanski put part of the blame on the school board election process, and said he thought Potteiger met all criteria of a good superintendent, despite occasional differences.
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“It’s not a great model for consistency,” he said. “The way we run public education is puzzling. Every two years we have a popularity contest and frequently place individuals with absolutely no background in education, finance, facilities, (human resources), curriculum in charge of multimillion-dollar operations designed to educate their children in their community. ... Two years later, half that board can be replaced by a fresh crew.”
Though board member Keith Hamilton voted not to renew her contract, he said Potteiger’s “professionalism and integrity is second to none,” but thought it was time for change.
Bellefonte Area Education Association President Kim Sharp said in an emailed statement that the teachers union “looks forward to developing a great working relationship with her successor and the school board.”
Potteiger has been with the district since 2011.
She was formerly an assistant superintendent of the Hamburg Area School District in Berks County.
In August, the board unanimously approved a $143,475.32 salary for Potteiger for 2015-16 — a 2 percent increase from last school year.
Since Friday, several people contacted the CDT about their disapproval with Potteiger but would not go on the record.
However, several people took the podium at the board meeting Tuesday to give their opinions — all four in support of the superintendent.
Richard Kisslak told the board it would be “a travesty of justice” to not renew Potteiger’s contract.
Three women — Vana Dainty, Mary Jane Fisher and Sally Houser — who said they represented the Bellefonte community also urged the board to renew Potteiger’s contract.
Dainty said she’s followed the district since 2005, and has seen it “flourish and shine” with the current administration.
Fisher described Potteiger as “a super energetic individual” who has “done a hell of a job.”
And Houser encouraged the board to make the vote based on accomplishments and not personal opinion.
“Sometimes we need to leave our egos at the door and check them at the door like our coats,” she said.
Former high school fine arts teacher Luke Skerpon emailed a 1,300-word letter to the CDT that he also shared with the board in support of Potteiger.
“Throughout my time in the Bellefonte Area School District, I would have to say that the support and encouragement from district administration, specifically Dr. Potteiger, was unwavering,” he said. “As a brand new teacher entering the district in 2012, it was so reassuring to see the care and support for the teachers within the district that Dr. Potteiger exhibited. She personally observed each and every one of us in our first year, offered her time and assistance in helping us grow as teachers, and gave us all the tools that we would need to be successful for our students.”
Board President Rodney Musser said Friday that, by law, the board must give superintendents a 150-day notice about the contract decision. He had no further comment.
Potteiger did not comment Tuesday.
In other district news, the board elected a new member to fill a vacant seat.
In an 8-0 decision, the board voted for Jon Guizar, of Bellefonte.
He replaced former member Chip Aikens who resigned earlier in the month.
Guizar, a father to three children in the district, was first elected to the position in March, along with Kim Hearn, after a pair of board members resigned.
Guizar, however, did not run for re-election in November.
The board additionally approved, in an 8-0 vote, to pass a $49.315 million preliminary budget for 2016-17 that could raise taxes by 4.9 percent, district Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said.
But Bean said that’s a “worst case scenario” plan.
The vote took place before Guizar was elected to the board.