Pittston Area hires 19 at raucous meeting


First Posted: 8/2/2013

After nearly a year of infighting and a raucous meeting Thursday night, the Pittston Area School Board returned Janet Donovan to oversee the district’s curriculum.

Last August, the board reassigned Donovan from director of curriculum to building principal at the Intermediate Center and did away with her former position.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Garzella has been pushing to have her reinstated, but the board’s majority resisted, citing the district’s budget crunch.

Thursday night at a special meeting, the board hired 19 people.

After it re-hired Donovan as the Intermediate Center principal, the board meeting turned into a shouting match.

Board members Bob Linskey, Joe Kelly and Richard Gorzkowski said they were not informed of all the internal candidates that applied for the administration positions. “We don’t even know who the hell applied,” Linskey said. “I’m done playing this game.”

Board member Anthony Guariglia said he called the district office and found out who applied. He suggested Linskey should have done the same.

“I shouldn’t have to call to find out who applied for a principal position,” Linskey said.

Linskey and Kelly walked out of the meeting, and Board President Charles Sciandra ordered a private, executive session in a back classroom off the library to sort out the hires. Linskey and Kelly returned, but Kelly and Gorzkowski stayed out of the private meeting.

When all returned, the board tabled the curriculum position.

But after that, Gorzkowski made a motion to return Donovan as director of curriculum. The standing-room-only crowd, comprised predominately of teachers, erupted in applause.

The superintendent made a plea for Donovan.

“I support putting Dr. Janet Donovan back as director of curriculum,” Garzella said. “I was here a month and realized the importance of that position.”

The board then voted to return Donovan to director of curriculum. Voting in favor was Kelly, Linskey, Starna, Gorzkowski, Donahue and Sciandra. Voting no was Bratlee, Guariglia and Knick.

Linskey took issue with the way the hires were made. The district has a clear hiring policy for professional employees and it was not followed, he said.

Sciandra said he spent the past three days helping interview dozens of candidates and the policy was followed.

The board also hired former school board member James “Red” O’Brien as a warehouse supervisor.

O’Brien previously served as mayor of Avoca for three years, was elected to three terms on the Pittston Area School Board, where he served as president in 2007, and was elected to a four-year term as Luzerne County’s recorder of deeds.

He recently ran for district judge seat formerly held by Fred Pierantoni, who was elected to the county Court of Common Pleas. He lost the Democratic nomination by a handful of votes to Alexandra Kokura of Dupont. She is running against Jerry Mecadon, who won the Republican nomination.

O’Brien will earn $50,000 a year plus benefits.

Board member Bruce Knick presented O’Brien’s name for consideration. Marilyn Starna presented Eugene Marriggi’s name. O’Brien’s name was voted on first and he was granted the position.

Voting yes were Guariglia, Bratlee, Donahue, Knick, Linskey and Sciandra. Voting no were Starna and Gorzkowski. Kelly abstained.

O’Brien will be in charge of the district’s warehouse, supplies and purchasing, Sciandra said. “We need someone who can track all the district’s assets,” he said.

In other business, the board:

• Hired Kevin Booth as principal in charge of human resources, security and federal programs. This is a new position. Booth was previously assistant principal at the Middle School. Sciandra said the position was created to help in a succession plan if Garzella were to leave the district.

• Appointed Arthur Savokinas as principal at the Primary Center. He replaces Theresa McAndrew, who retired. Savokinas’ name was presented by Bratlee. Savokinas was previously assistant principal at the high school.

• Appointed Coreen Milazzo principal of the Intermediate Center. She was previously guidance supervisor and she replaces Donovan. Her name was presented by Guariglia.

• Hired Chris Lazevnick as vice principal at the high school. He was previously a science teacher. Lazevnick’s name was presented by Bratlee.

• Hired Joseph Giambra as vice principal at the middle school. He was previously a district teacher. Giambra’s name was presented by Knick.

• Hired Kaitlyn Hopkins as a speech therapist. Hopkins’ name was presented Bratlee.

• Hired William Mills as a psychologist. Mills’ name was presented by Knick.

• Jennifer Stone as a social worker. Stone’s name was presented by Donahue.

• Hired Brad Hankey as network administrator. Hankey’s name was presented by Bratlee.

• Hired the following as special education teachers: Maria Piazza, Michael Strukus, Amy Olivieri, Heather McAndrew, Krista McGlynn, Jarryd Lokuta, Gabrielle LaScala and Andrea Wharton. Piazza and Olivieri are the daugthers of former school board members August Piazza and Joe Olivieri. All eight candidates were recommended by the superintendent.

Kelly abstained on most of the hires because he didn’t have information on all of the candidates.

“I didn’t know about these interviews,” Kelly said. “I knew about some of these candidates, but I didn’t know about all of them.”

• Awarded a $63,798 bid to All Service Rite of Exeter to repair the Middle School/Intermediate Center air conditioning system.

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