Education

Complaint filed against P-O Area School District, superintendent

adrey@centredaily.com

A formal complaint was filed Feb. 13 through the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District and Superintendent Gregg Paladina.

The plaintiff, former district director of transportation Amanda Taylor, is accusing Paladina of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Taylor is alleging Paladina “infected” her workplace with “a relentless stream of sexually offensive and inappropriate remarks and conduct; comments about her appearance and the manner in which she was dressed; sexual propositions; comments, often vulgar and graphic, about the sexual relationship of other staff persons; physical assaults of a fellow employee; and threats to fire and retaliate violently against employees … if they made complaints against his or his conduct.”

The incidents allegedly happened shortly after Taylor was hired by the Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District in April 2014 up to about the time she resigned in September 2015.

But district solicitor Carl Beard, who is also representing Paladina, said there are “always two sides of every story.”

He said an “answer would be filed” and he would “aggressively defend” the district and superintendent. Beard also said he’s looking into claims “that were never raised at the lower level.”

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the defense to submit a response within 21 days after being served with a complaint.

Beard said the complaint was sent to him late Friday afternoon.

Paladina said he could only give limited comment on the issue.

“My statement is that it’s false, and all I can say is that unfortunately I cannot comment on pending litigation and cannot wait for the day that I can,” Paladina said.

As of Wednesday, Paladina was still the district’s superintendent and will remain in the position until, and if, the board votes otherwise.

“I’m continuing to do my job and make decisions for what’s best for the students,” he said.

In March, Paladina accepted a position as superintendent of the Punxsutawney Area School District.

Paladina told the CDT in March his decision to move to Punxsutawney came as way to be closer to a Pittsburgh children’s hospital where his youngest son was being treated. Less than a month later, Paladina decided to stay with P-O.

His three-year contract was set to expire at the end of the 2015-16 school year, but the P-O school board held a special meeting in April to renew Paladina’s contract through 2021.

Paladina also said he’s been in contact with the district’s board of directors.

School board member Linda Bush said the directors have recently been informed and will review the issue as a board, but had no further comment.

Beard said the board “was aware of issues” dating back to more than a year ago, but are going through a rigorous vetting process before making any decisions.

“They were aware of the counter statement of facts and based on the counter statement of facts relative to the investigating report,” he said. “It’s not like they’re just going into the dark making decisions.”

Messages were left with other board members who did not respond to comment.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Official statement from plaintiff Amanda Taylor’s attorney Andrew Shubin:

“Amanda Taylor, a veteran of the armed forces, wanted nothing more than to do her job and serve the school district with dignity. No one, not even a powerful school superintendent, has the right to discriminate against our mothers, daughters or wives on the basis of their gender.”

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