CASD board, administration thumb noses at community

When answers are needed, stonewalling and hostile behavior hurts everyone

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
UTMikeColLogo-250x300Ultimately, it comes down to respect.

Tuesday night, we saw one of the more egregious examples of a public body and public school administration showing not just a lack of respect for parents, students and taxpayers, but frankly, utter contempt for those daring to ask about a series of disturbing events, including a formal investigation by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

I am referring to Tuesday night’s Coatesville Area School District Board of Education committee meeting, which was, to put it kindly, not exactly a bravura performance.

This was a meeting where, according to the reporting of our Kyle Carrozza, administrators and the members of the Board of Education either repeatedly recited a short “no comment” on personnel matters or, worse, apparently, just glaring at residents — taxpayers — for having the temerity to ask questions about their school district, in the wake of the sudden resignation of Superintendent of Schools Richard Como and Coatesville Area High School Athletic Director Jim Donato.

Understanding that the matter is under investigation, there are limits to what district officials and board members can say. But instead of acknowledging that some problems exist, accepting responsibility to get to the bottom of things, and pledging to do better, the district is stonewalling the public and hoping people lose interest before returning to business as usual.

Except, of course, that won’t be happening.

This publication and others have filed multiple Right To-Know requests in recent weeks — for simple data such as a payroll list (public record obtained effortlessly from numerous other local government entities), a copy of Como’s contract, and the transcript of district cell phone messages, alleged to contain numerous ethnic slurs. An unconfirmed partial transcript of the alleged texts was provided to The Times through unofficial sources.

While we cannot confirm the validity of the texts, either their provenance or original source —  some of the numbers listed do match up with district-issued cell phones. And if the messages are accurate, reprehensible does not begin to describe them.

We did get Como’s contract, which you can download and read here. The other two requests stalled for “legal review,” a 30-day extension of the normal five-day window for response. We will be making more in the coming days.

The truth will come out, even if it is bit-by-bit, and piece-by-piece — sadly, the slower the process, the worse for the community and school district as a whole. And when the facts do surface, we suspect the picture will not be pretty and one that will tell a story of systematic nepotism, a failure of the school board to keep administrators accountable, and at best questionable financial management of an at-risk district.

You know things are bad when the prospect of a state takeover of the district, as seen in Chester-Upland and Philadelphia (with disastrous results) seems like a better option to some residents. Or when residents of municipalities bordering other school districts are openly asking how to get out of the CASD and join more stable, better managed neighboring districts.

The board and the administration can blame the media (as has already happened any time we report something even slightly unsavory, including this most recent episode), or “rabble-rousers” in the public.

Taxpayers have every right to demand that the finger-pointing end: The board and administration need to come clean right away – a process that should involve cleaning house (including the board itself) – and right the ship of the Coatesville Area School District.

If they fail to do so, the district leadership need not fear us in the media or even an angry public. They need to fear the Pennsylvania Department of Education finally saying “enough is enough” and taking over the district.

If that happens, as we’re seeing all too clearly in Philadelphia this week, everyone loses.

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13 Comments on "CASD board, administration thumb noses at community"

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TownWatch7
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Great comments Abe! While It seems that Romanello should get some sort of bump in pay, considering the circumstances of this promotion along with the current climate (who knows who and where this all will lead to) It would be better for him to take a nominal increase rather than grab everything while he can. He is just fine as an interim Superintendent and if we have learned anything at all in the last 2 decades it is that we should be more than careful who we pick to run this district. And besides its Football season. I’m sure the… Read more »
Abe Schneider
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Rumor has it that the Board just privately OKed a $60,000 raise for Dr. Romanello. Will the raise appear on the agenda for a vote Tuesday? Inquiring minds want to know and will be there to find out. Keep in mind that just because the raise doesn’t appear on the Board handouts, doesn’t mean they haven’t given him the raise. This Board has approved raises before without the public’s knowledge. Anyway, if the rumor is true, then it’s the same old shell game for the CASD. Let’s keep in mind that he is the “acting” Superintendent. We have a DA,… Read more »
TownWatch7
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A response to a comment left on the Daily Local News today! Hey clambroth, Have you ever personally known anyone who has quit a $200,000 plus powerful job because people were saying bad and mean things about them? Also do you really believe that the Chester County DA would be investigating Como quiting because he was sensitive to what people said about him? Anyone (MYSELF INCLUDED) who has ever had any substantive interaction with him knows that he is one of the most arrogant and least caring of what people think of him persons you could ever meet. You state… Read more »
lina
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Mike,
I clicked the link posted by benner insider and I could see the info.

Budley
Guest

Ellison was fined for ethics violations in May 2012, so do you really think he cares if he gives you inaccurate information now? It is what he has been paid to do all along. And for the record, Athletic Director Donato was out before school even started but Como & Company was trying to keep it quiet. Others will follow, all in due time. Happy days are here again!

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