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Controversy swirls around Reading's new schools superintendent

Controversy swirls around Reading schools superintendent

READING, Pa. - After a year-long search, the Reading School District has finally found a new leader.

Members of the Reading School Board are singing the praises of Carlinda Purcell, but the new superintendent does come with some controversy.

Prior to Purcell's new position in Reading, she served as superintendent of the Montgomery public schools in Alabama and Warren County schools in North Carolina.

Purcell signed a five-year contract with the Reading School District, with an initial annual salary of $175,000.

The district has been searching for a new superintendent since Thomas Chapman resigned in January 2011.

"Not having a permanent superintendent kind of put the district in a holding pattern," said board member Frank Denbowski.

What Denbowski and fellow board member Rebecca Acosta said impressed them was how, within three years, Purcell's students' state standardized test scores rose from 19% to 83%.

"If I want change, I need to support her 100%," said Acosta.

But Purcell's past may be questionable for some. According to media reports in Alabama, several board members sent Purcell a letter asking her to resign as superintendent.

"Some people have called me crazy," Purcell told WSFA-TV. "I'm not one to be caught up in political snippings. It is counter productive. I only asked the board for the support to effect change and improve student performance."

Purcell told school board members in Reading that she resigned because of "philosophical conflicts."

"We've talked to all the patrons down in the school district. Even her harshest critic admires her," said Denbowski.

According to media reports, Purcell's resignation in Alabama was costly, with the school board paying almost $250,000 to get rid of her.

But, board members in Reading said they are thrilled to have her.

"The superintendent selection is as important as electing a mayor. She's going to be one of the most important community leaders we have," said Denbowski.

Acting Superintendent J. Drue Miles will step down at the end of June when his contract ends. Purcell will begin her duties July 1.

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