Updated: Feb 4
By Jamie Wiggan
Two months after Sto-Rox directors terminated former superintendent Frank Dalmas, the district has formally begun the process of hiring a new top administrator.
During a Jan. 27 voting meeting, the board appointed Interim Superintendent Joseph Dimperio to oversee the search process in return for a one-time $3,000 stipend. Dimperio joined the district in November to fill in for Dalmas.
Board President Cameron Culliver said he wants the district to be able to choose from “multiple candidates,” and emphasized the district will not rush to fill the post.
“When it comes down to it, it’s about the community,” Culliver said. “We want someone who is going to work for the betterment of the community.”
Dalmas – brought on as superintendent in 2016 – was forced out after a problematic audit report emerged, showing years of missed IRS payments along with other shortcomings. Officials declined at the time to discuss the matter in further detail, however, a lawyer contracted by Dalmas initially said he would fight attempts to oust him.
The board approved a separation agreement officially ending his contract during a Jan. 27 voting meeting.
Culliver said “accountability” would weigh in highly among the board’s considerations of new candidates.
While the search for a new super gets underway, Megan Van Fossan, formerly of the Slippery Rock Area School District, will join Sto-Rox as assistant to the superintendent.
Van Fossan initially applied for a curriculum director vacancy, but district officials discovered she was qualified to also fill the gap left by outgoing Director of Pupil Services Dayna Sikora.
Culliver described Van Fossan as a highly qualified educator with a variety of teaching and administrative experience, but said it remains to be seen whether the curriculum director and pupil services roles will stay combined in this new position in the long term.
“I am sincerely appreciative and I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Van Fossan said after being hired. “I’m excited to learn from the faculty and staff of the district.”
Van Fossan was hired at an annual salary of $99,500.
Also during the meeting, the board voted to combine two special education teaching positions after struggling to fill a vacancy created by a November resignation.
Three elementary school employees spoke out against the move, expressing concern for potential gaps in student support and frustration the situation wasn’t better communicated.
“We were concerned about meeting the needs of the students and the dissolution of that position,” said Julie Blanc, dean of students at the elementary school.
Responding to the concerns, Dimperio said the district was left with few options after failing to attract any applicants to the job posting, but he added that the district would not rule out reinstating the position at a later time.
For now, he said one teacher could feasibly take on the total number of students in both classes.
“Right now, I think the district believe their hands were tied because they were not able to get anyone to apply for the position,” he said.
“We did want to ensure continuity of services as best we could, and that’s where we are.”
Ken Hohman and Tyler Kochirka voted against the motion. Samantha Levitzki-Wright had left
the meeting by the time of the vote.
After initially tabling the matter in November, directors on Jan. 25 approved a contract with the Allegheny Intermediary Unit to provide public relations services for the district.
The contract will initially run through the end of the current school year, and will cost the district $18,000.
John Zahorchak, a state official working with Sto-Rox on a financial recovery plan, has urged the board to engage the service on multiple prior occasions.
During those discussions, he argued a solid public relations strategy could help “win students” back from charter schools and help boost enrollment.
Through the agreement, AIU will produce a variety of new media content for the district, manage its social media and website operations and be available for crisis communication.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Van Fossan's title as assistant superintendent rather than assistant to the superintendent.