EXETER — The Wyoming Area School Board hired a new superintendent Tuesday night while the first negotiation session in nearly a month took place several miles away aimed at ending the teachers strike, now in its fourth week.
The board voted 6-1 to hire Janet Serino, the current assistant superintendent, to lead the district for the next five years at a starting salary of $113,065.
Meanwhile, John Holland, chief negotiator for the Wyoming Area teachers union, met with lawyer Jack Dean, who represents the school board, at the union headquarters in Plains Township. Holland said a deal was not reached, but the two-hour session was fruitful.
“We made some progress,” Holland said. “We did not come to an agreement, but we have a run a few more things back to our respective groups.”
Dean said no offer was made, or could be made at that session.
“We had a good and frank discussion about where they can go and where we can go in negotiations,” Dean said. “We didn’t exchange official offers, nor did I have authority to do so. I’m going to brief the board on it.”
Dean said no additional talks were scheduled because he has to talk to the board first, but that he and Holland are open to more meetings. “We’ll be getting together again, I’m sure.”
The teachers union has been on strike since Sept. 3, and before Tuesday night the two sides haven’t sat down since talks broke down on Aug. 29. The teachers contract expired in August 2010 and sides haven’t been able to come to an agreement since then.
Several residents a the School Board meeting expressed frustration that strike is lasting too long and urged the board and the union to come to an agreement.
Although not officially on the new job until April, Serino will be sworn in today at noon by Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas Burke.
Serino, of Harding, will be the first female superintendent in the history of the district.
“Wyoming Area is my alma mater, so to come back all these years later and be able to be the superintendent, I have to say I’m very excited,” she said and promised to work with current Superintendent Raymond Bernardi for a smooth transition.
Serino’s career in education dates back to the early 1970s.
Serino received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education/early childhood education from College Misericordia in Dallas Township and a master of science degree in school leadership from Marywood University in Scranton. She also has her superintendent certificate from Marywood.
Her career started in the Wyoming Area School District as a summer school instructor and substitute teacher. In 1979, she started teaching grades seven and eight at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Dupont. She served as the school’s principal from 1992 to 2001.
When she moved to the Wyoming Area School District in 2001, Serino served as an elementary principal, the district elementary principal, the district principal of curriculum and assistant superintendent.
Bernardi served as the district’s top administrator since his appointment on Feb. 1, 2001. Bernardi earns $124,099 a year.
In other business, and after some debate, the school board tabled a vote to lease a snow plow through the state’s COSTAR program. The 60-month lease was $760.99 a month for 60 months.
Frank Pugliese, supervisor of buildings and grounds, urged the board to buy the truck now so it will be ready for the plowing season. Bob Trusavage of West Pittston, a taxpayer, urged the board to choose a better deal and even offered his research, which says the district can get a better price.