Poconos Coal

Stroudsburg school superintendent escapes the chopping block

Settlement negotiations underway with John Toleno.

Fight rages on in Stroudsburg over superintendent

STROUDSBURG, Pa. - The superintendent of the Stroudsburg Area School District escaped possible dismissal Wednesday night when the school board president announced negotiations were underway with the superintendent's lawyer.

Supreintendent John Toleno's future will be back on the board's June 18 agenda, said Richard Pierce, the board president.

Toleno's job has been on the line since questions arose about legality of his contract, which expires August 2015.

Toleno, who was hired in 2007, had his contract automatically extended five years after his first two years on the job because he received a good review.

Under state law, school districts can hire superintendents for only three or five year terms.

Though Toleno's fate was removed from the agenda, audience members took turns praising Toleno and criticizing the school board, not only for its attempt to oust him but for its recent decision to close Ramsey Elementary School.

Mary Ellen Whiteley, a mother of three students, said she was impressed with Toleno's focus on "communication and openness," as well as his ability to keep a huge expansion and renovation of Stroudsburg High School from going over budget.

She also warned the board about the potential damage it cost taxpayers if it dumps Toleno and he sues and is awarded damages.

"What part of the community are you representing when you consider getting rid of Dr. Toleno?" she asked.

Michelle Traub, another parent and former Parent Teacher Association president, predicted the school board will spend "all of the Ramsey savings and much more on lawsuits … if  you continue down this path of destructive decisions."

Tarah Probst, another critic of closing Ramsey, said the school closing would save the district $238,000, which she said amounts to "less than $8 a year per taxpayer."

"Thank you for my $8 savings," Probst said.

The school board has lately garnered growing media attention as well as public criticism, and those factors have caught the eye of the insurance carrier who provides what is called errors and omissions coverage for the board, Toleno said.

The insurance premium has increased to $30,000 "because we can't find common ground in a way to operate the school district," Toleno said.

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