Lake-Lehman School Board members voted in the highest tax increase allowed by the state at their June 17 meeting.
The $27 million dollar budget will require a 4.33% increase for residents who live in Luzerne County while those residing in Wyoming County get a break and will actually experience a tax decrease of -5.88 % in the coming year. Tom Melone, the district’s financial manager, said the total value of Wyoming County property has increased and has an inverse relationship to the tax rate.
Board president Mark Kornoski and board members Bo Kreller and Karen Masters voted against the tax increase.
The owner of a Lake-Lehman property valued at $150,000 in Luzerne County can expect to pay $60 more in taxes for the coming year. The owner of a property valued at $10,000 in Wyoming County will see a $32 reduction.
McGovern said part of the budget plan included the decision to not replace three teaching positions which have been vacated by retirements.
In a surprising cost-cutting move, the board appointed an administrator with no classroom experience as principal of Ross Elementary.
Newly-appointed principal Lori Bednarek has a Master’s Degree in Business Education Management and serves as Special Projects Coordinator for the district. She will continue in some of her present duties in addition to her new assignment.
Former Ross Elementary Principal Donald James will serve as principal at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School, following the retirement of long-time LJ principal Marilyn Glogowski.
Resident Ellen Boyer, of Ross Township, questioned the appointment before the school board’s vote. She said, “Our principal will be dividing her attention.”
Superintendent James McGovern replied that most of the district’s principals do double duty, adding, “This is going to work.”
When Boyer asked about hiring a principal who had never taught, McGovern said, “I believe in this decision. I’m going to leave Ross in great hands.”
Two board members, James Welby and Richard Bombick, voted against the appointment.
A stipend of $7,324 will be added to Bednarek’s present salary of $55,676. The stipend will be paid in two installments and will be based on satisfactory evaluations.
Concerned high school chorus members attended the meeting because they fear their chorus teacher would not be replaced. McGovern said that one music position will be eliminated but chorus programs in both elementary and secondary will continue. He said the present plan was to move an elementary chorus teacher to the high school. There will be one less music position in the district in the fall.
The board appointed Jeffrey Shook as athletic director at a stipend of $10,000. It also accepted the retirements of Mary Goode, Richard Morgan, Lee Sikora and Jeffrey Smith.
The board’s approval will allow the following positions to be advertised: Newspaper advisor, mathematics department chair, Student Council advisor, 7-12 mathematics/physics teacher, secondary reading teacher, elementary special education teacher, secondary special education teacher and a full-time secretary.
After the meeting, McGovern defended the selection of Bednarek for principal. He explained that two years ago Governor tom Corbett made changes which allow those with master’s degrees in business to serve as superintendents and principals in Pennsylvania school districts.
He also said the present budget reduces the number of teaching positions by three and feels it is fair to make a reduction in the number of administrators, as well. Bednarek’s appointment will combine two administrative positions into one.
Board president Mark Kornoski added his support to McGovern’s choice. “If the man says it’s gonna work, it’s gonna work.”
Bednarek declined to comment after the meeting.
The next combined meeting is set for July 15 at the Junior/Senior High School.