Lehighton Area School District is promoting from within for two new administrative job titles approved Monday night.
Melissa Volcskai was hired as director of instructional technology integration and curricular innovation at a salary of $88,000, while Rebecca Karpowicz was named business affairs/human resources coordinator at a salary of $48,000.
Volcskai was previously principal for grades 3-5 at Lehighton’s elementary center and Karpowicz was the confidential secretary to the assistant to the superintendent.
Board President Larry Stern said the moves are part of a group of internal reassignments that will save the district around $80,000.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we have the best people for these jobs and we’re very fortunate that we already had them here within our own district,” Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said.
According to the job description approved Monday, Volcskai will:
• Direct and oversee the integration of technology into the classroom,
• Collaborate with administration to develop technology integrated curriculum and select technology programs and/or learning tools and resources for the classroom teachers,
• Assist in the development of online education programs,
• Train teachers, staff and administration as needed, in classroom technology and online curriculum, and
• Coordinate the management of instructional and noninstructional school related networks.
“Melissa has been the lead person for integrating our technology in the classroom, especially over the past year during COVID-19, and making sure the staff had the professional development they needed to make things work,” Lehighton Assistant to the Superintendent Tim Tkach said. “She did all the legwork. When we started with STEM here in the district, she was very instrumental in that.”
Cleaver said Volcskai’s principal position at the elementary center would likely be filled through another internal reassignment.
The human resources/business affairs position, Cleaver added, had been proposed last year.
“We currently no longer have an assistant business manager or a confidential secretary to the business administrator, as well as another business position we didn’t fill four or five years ago,” he said. “Rebecca has been doing all of the things that will be asked of her in this job. She knows the business office inside out.”
Some of the duties listed in the human resources/business affairs job description include assisting in the preparation and implementation of the school budget, assisting in data processing procedures to provide management information, reports and budget forecasts, assisting in projecting revenue, expenditures and managing of district investments, assisting in providing monthly accounting of all income and expenditures to complete monthly reports for school board, and assisting with any and all duties associated with human resources.
Both Volcskai and Karpowicz were reassigned by a 5-4 vote.
Director David Bradley voted against the reassignments, saying the jobs should have been posted so candidates outside the district could apply.
“You shouldn’t just pigeonhole someone into this job,” Bradley said. “You’re asking for one person to apply and then that one person gets the job. That isn’t how it should be. You should want to make sure you’re getting the best person.”
Others, such as district residents Barbara Bowes and Brian Shaner, echoed Bradley’s thoughts about advertising outside the district.
“I’m all for promoting from within, but is it not best to find the most qualified person and perhaps advertising outside?” Bowes asked.
Shaner, meanwhile, said his comments weren’t about the people who were getting the jobs, but rather “the process” to get to that point.
“I’m sure they’ll do a great job, but why not take a look at other people,” Shaner said. “It only takes a little bit of time and it really is a best practice.”
The residents also pointed out that the board voted to hire a candidate in Karpowicz who did not meet the written qualifications in the human resources/business affairs job description.
The job description called for the successful candidate to have an Associate Degree in human resources and/or a business related field, which district officials, when questioned during the meeting, said she did not have.
Lehighton school district solicitor Eric Filer said there was nothing legally binding, however, that would prevent the district from hiring Karpowicz.
District Business Administrator Edward Rarick came to Karpowicz’s defense, saying he had no experience in school business matters when he was hired to the position, but worked tirelessly to learn the ins and outs of the office.
“Rebecca knows the business office inside out and it’s a testament to her ability to learn anything that is put before her,” Rarick said. “I will back her 100%.”
Director Rita Spinelli said both Volcskai and Karpowicz had gone ”above and beyond, doing the work of two or three jobs.”
“They are very well-qualified,” she said.