KC superintendent search down to four

Substitute chief is among them

MILL HALL – The search for a new superintendent of Keystone Central School District has been narrowed to four candidates, school board President Charles Rosamilia told The Express.

Rosamilia said the board completed the preliminary assessment and interview process Thursday night and has narrowed a field of eight total candidates to four people.

Among those four is the current substitute superintendent, Dr. Alan Lonoconus.

The identities of the other three will not be disclosed yet at the request of those candidates, Rosamilia said.

The candidate interviews this week were conducted online using Skype.

Next are visits to the district by the four candidates, set for March 14, 15, 21 and 22.

One candidate will visit each of those days.

The board envisions each candidate will start their day with a lunch with the board and Albert Jones, a former board member chosen to facilitate the search.

The candidates will then meet with staff who report to the superintendent.

They will include administrators and principals, he said.

Then the candidates will meet with representatives of the unions within the district, including the Association of Clinton County Educators.

Candidates will then visit some of the schools “to get an idea of the breadth of this district,” Rosamilia said. Keystone has nine schools, including two high schools, Central Mountain and Bucktail Area.

Following the school visits, Rosamilia said he expects each candidate will again talk with board members.

He then expects the board will hold “evening sessions” with each candidate that are open to the public because, “We want to involve the public” in the process.

Details have yet to be worked out, but Rosamilia offered that the evening sessions will be held at either 6 or 7 p.m.

“We want to ask for input from everybody,” he said.

At each open evening session, he said the board will possibly make a questionaire available asking the public and other stakeholders to rate each candidate.

“Then the board would review all of the comments and ratings,” he explained.

Ideally, the board hires a new superintendent at its April 5 meeting, he said.

A majority of school board members are in favor of selecting a new superintendent at the April meeting, but Rosamilia said there’s a possibility the decision will be delayed to the May 3 meeting.

The search for someone new to lead the district comes while former Superintendent Kelly Hastings is on paid leave, set to officially retire about March 12. She announced her plans last August, but then failed to come back to work after the district’s Christmas Holiday break.

That hastened the school board’s timetable to find a new leader.

Less than a month ago, the board hired Dr. Lonoconus as “substitute” superintendent because he’s unable to have an “interim” title while Hastings uses her sick and/or vacation time up to her retirement, according to the board.

Dr. Lonoconus is working in Keystone three days per week at $450 per day until March 12, when his schedule moves to five days per week at $500 per day until a new chief administrator is hired. Lonoconus hails from the Southern Columbia School District at Catawissa, south of Bloomsburg. He retired as superintendent of Great Valley School District in Chester County in 2015.

Keystone Central is facing significant financial challenges.

One taxpayer, during a hearing to discuss closing Dickey Elementary School, called the district “bankrupt.”

After approving a preliminary $75 million budget on Feb. 1 that increases the property tax and takes into account a list of personnel and program cuts, the school board still is faced with a $7 million deficit due primarily to employeee and retiree pension obligations.

The board sought a two-year pay freeze from unionized teachers, secretaries and support staff, plus reductions in coaching stipends, but the teachers’ union rejected the moves.

As a result, now on the table for cutting are closing Dickey Elementary and furloughing more teachers and staff, including instructional and non-instructional administrators, plus additional program reductions.

Meanwhile, the board this past week gathered information on restructing its about $4.5 million debt to reduce annual payments.

The board is scheduled to meet this coming Thursday, March 1, at 6 p.m. in the Central Mountain High School auditorium.

A formal hearing to discuss closing Dickey is set for 6 p.m. Monday, March 5, also in the CMHS auditorium. The board approved holding that hearing on a split 5-4 vote recently.