East Penn School District will begin the 2014-15 school year with a new superintendent and a new school bus company.
On Monday night the school board unanimously approved hiring Dr. J. Michael Schilder as its new superintendent.
Schilder retired in August 2013 after seven years as superintendent of the Bridgewater-Raritan School District in Bridgewater, N.J.
In an 8-1 vote, the board also selected a new company to provide its transportation services -- STA of Pennsylvania, Inc.
Schilder's appointment was made with no comments from the school board or public before the 9-0 vote.
But a representative of First Student, the company that now provides bus transportation to East Penn students, unsuccessfully appealed to the board to stick with his company.
"First Student was very disappointed to learn that, after 45 years of serving the East Penn School District, the administration is recommending the award of its transportation services to Student Transportation of Pennsylvania," said Randy Williams, area general manager of First Student.
"Even more disappointing is there is no economic advantage to do so. We believe STP's costs, over the life of the five-year term, are higher than First Student's."
Williams said Lynn Glancy, East Penn's operations director, rebuffed attempts by First Student representatives to meet with him to analyze and reconcile any cost differences.
"As a 45-year incumbent vendor, we would have hoped that the entire process would have been more transparent," Williams told the school board. "Our economic proposal and experience in the district are superior to STP's and make us the right choice to provide your transportation services.
"We are asking you, and the administration, to reconsider its recommendation and award to First Student."
While Williams presented the board with what he considered several advantages of East Penn sticking with First Student, no one from the administration or school board responded to his appeal during the meeting.
The 60-year-old Schilder will become East Penn's superintendent on July 1.
After the vote, Schilder shook hands with each board member and district administrator at the meeting, then said: "I would like to thank the board publicly for your faith in me."
He said he's impressed by the enthusiasm of everyone he has met in the school district. "That made me want to come here. I'm very excited. I can't wait until July 1."
Schilder said his goal will be maintaining the district's quality "and improving where we need to."
He will start out only as acting superintendent, at an annual salary of $165,000, because his state superintendent's certificate is "inactive.'
He will have until the end of the 2014-15 school year to obtain an active superintendent's certificate from the state Department of Education. If he does, he officially will become superintendent and his salary will jump to $168,500 a year.
But if Schilder fails to obtain that certificate by June 2015, the school board immediately and automatically will terminate his employment.
After the meeting, Schilder said he hopes it will take him less than a year to get that certification. "The sooner the better." He said he needs six credits or 180 hours. He plans to take as many on-line courses as he can, so he doesn't take time away from the superintendent job.
Schilder was one of two finalists
After the meeting, school board president Alan Earnshaw would not reveal how many candidates were considered to become the next superintendent, except to say Schilder was one of two finalists.
Earnshaw is convinced Schilder is the best because he has the experience, credentials, knowledge and passion "to lead our district going forward."
Schilder described his leadership style as candid and common sense. "I try to be as transparent as I can and I try to answer questions directly. If I don't know the answer, I'll simply say 'I don't know the answer, I'll look into it and get back to you as soon as I can'."
Schilder said financial issues are the most immediate challenge he will face as East Penn's next superintendent. He said another will be the potential for increasing enrollment with talk of more residential developments springing up in the district. A third challenge will be dealing with all the state mandates, "such as more and more testing."