The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 28, 2014

Board locks in Bell for 5 more years

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — Hermitage School Board members Rob Gelesky and Robert Mancino said they have nothing against school Superintendent Dr. Daniel Bell.

“We like Dan,” Gelesky said Monday. “We congratulate him. We just want to be fiscally responsible.”

In their interpretation of fiscal responsibility, Gelesky and Mancino voted not to renew Bell’s contract for five years at an annual salary hike of 2.75 percent, starting July 1.

Bell will make $132,734 this year.

The other seven members on the board approved the contract, Bell’s second with the district as superintendent.

Gelesky said he thought the board should continue to negotiate with Bell as “there’s always wiggle room.”

“Even though I’m against this contract, I’m not against Dr. Bell,” Mancino said.

Bell is well-paid and enjoys an excellent benefits package, and his annuity is not included in the 2.75- percent salary hike, Mancino said.

“It’s not like we’re getting him cheap,” Mancino said.

The district has cut jobs in recent years, raised taxes last year, faces a continuing climb in pension costs, and “We gave a multi-million-dollar company a tax break,” Mancino said, referring to the tax incremental financing plan awarded to Levey & Co. to divert some of the new taxes it pays to some of the cost of building the retail development anchored by Kohl’s at the Shenango Valley Freeway and South Hermitage Road.

“It’s nothing against Dr. Bell,” Mancino said. “We have to be financially smart, too.”

Board member Tim McGonigle called the contract “fair.”

Bell is a “terrific gentleman” and he never turns aside anyone who wants to talk about the school, McGonigle said.

“He’s got his superintendent hat on when he’s at Lowe’s and a parent wants to know why their child can’t get into an AP class or isn’t playing on the football team,” McGonigle said.

“It’s like signing Peyton Manning,” McGonigle said.

“We don’t have the Denver Broncos’ money,” Mancino responded, referring to the team quarterback Manning plays for.

Board member Timothy Kizak said Bell’s core values are seen in the administrators down to the teachers and students, and the district is successful.

“I believe what this board desires is stability in this district,” he said.

Also voting for the contract were Dr. Morren J. Greenburg, Judith Rice, Chris Ruffo, Robert S. McGowan and Joseph White.

Bell said he was “extremely grateful” for the board’s contract renewal, and is excited about the future.

“This is home,” he said. “I just feel very fortunate I can continue to serve as superintendent for the next five years.”

Nicole Porter, president of the teachers union, congratulated Bell and said she enjoys working with him.

“When he came here he had a real vision of where he wanted to go,” she said.