Our opinion: Spreading the wealth

Judging by the school board’s action Monday night, Brandon Hufnagel’s abrupt departure as superintendent has apparently left a hole bigger than the man himself.

To fill the gap, the board created a committee of five middle management administrators, providing them stippends totalling $10,000 a month.

The board will still be saving a little on the deal. Hufnagel’s contract was for $125,000 in annual salary, plus benefits, of course.

Nevertheless, we have to wonder at the board’s largesse when it comes to filling this temporary vacancy behind the big desk.

We have to assume that when a school board searches for a superintendent, it looks for not only an administrator adept at keeping things running smoothly, but also a source of creative thinking, inspiration and enterprise, someone capable of infecting the rest of the staff with those attributes. It’s not just that he or she is the lead apparatchik, but rather a fountainhead of excellence.

Hence, they tend to be well paid.

Indeed, we recently commented that when Hufnagel took the reins of the school district he quickly provided the board with a compromise to forestall the district flying apart in regional disputes. Like all compromises, it has not been universally embraced as a panacea, but it did solve a nagging problem in short order.

Does the board believe that by throwing money at a group of individuals it can create a facsimile of what it had?

Is the sheer volume of work undertaken by a superintendent such that five people are required to expend hundreds of hours of additional time and effort just to take up the slack?

Or, is this simply a case of we budgeted this much money, we might as well spend it?

May we suggest that each of these five administrators are veteran professionals and will do just fine keeping the wolves at bay until a new superintendent arrives, just as they would have without bonus pay if their chief executive had been laid low by a serious illness.

Throwing money at a challenge is an unfortunate message to send in the wake of two years of austerity that included a plea to rank and file faculty and staff to take pay freezes and something those people will remember the next time they sit down to negotiate a new contract.

We hope the board, which will apparently rely on help from the Pennsylvania State School Boards Association to select its next superintendent, will succeed in its search and fairly quickly select someone with the qualities we mentioned earlier.