By Jamie Wiggan
After a period of rocky leadership dating back to 2013, Moon Area administrators have now placed their hopes in Barry Balaski to lead the district forward.
The board voted to install Balaski — who has been serving as acting superintendent since Jan. 13 — as the district’s permanent superintendent for the next four years during a remote business meeting held on Aug. 10.
“I’d like to congratulate Mr. Balaski [on his new appointment],” said Treasurer Matthew Dugan. “I think you’ve done a really solid job of steering this ship.”
Balaski’s appointment was approved 8-1, with Director Jerry Testa opposing on the basis that a three-year contract would give the district greater flexibility and less financial liability.
Balaski joined the district as high school principal in 2011, and held the position until January.
Balaski’s new salary was not announced, however as acting superintendent he was earning $155,000 annually.
Replacing Balaski, the board also approved David Gallup’s appointment as high school principal, having filled the role on an interim basis since January. Gallup will receive $118,000 in annual compensation.
The Moon Area district has struggled to retain a long-term superintendent since Donna Milanovitch retired in 2013 after a six-year tenure. Her predecessor Curt Baker was suspended just two years into his contract after a state audit report pointed to financial mismanagement during his administration.
Milanovitch was temporarily brought back from retirement to fill the vacancy created by Baker’s early departure.
Most recently, the district’s top administrative role was filled by Maureen Ungerean, who was appointed in 2017 and did not renew her contract when it expired in January.
Before Balaski’s interim appointment, school officials publicly disputed the external hiring processes that led to the installations of Baker and Ungerean.
A petition circulated by residents last November urged officials to conduct a nationwide search. Supporters on the school board maintained that Balaski, as an internal candidate with a long history at the school, represented the best option for stability and consistency.