Saturday, August 13, 2016

Strickler skips meeting without explanation; board grapples with questions



Tom Strickler dominated the conversation at Thursday night's Columbia Borough School Board meeting of the whole, even though he wasn't there. Despite questioning from residents, the board offered no reason for his conspicuous absence.

Not only was he absent, his name was absent from the agenda; that is, there was no mention of his name with regard to his appointment by ELANCO School District as "Director of Operations" for Columbia. The appointment was approved at ELANCO's August 8 meeting of the whole, where Strickler was present, along with ELANCO Superintendent Dr. Robert Hollister.

The Columbia board tiptoed past the issue on Thursday when it discussed the agenda item "Modification of Executive Service Contract date change 8/9/2016" without mentioning Strickler's name. In fact, his name was not uttered until later in the meeting when resident Frank Doutrich asked a series of pointed questions.

Hollister also was not present at the meeting. Ken Klawitter, who most recently had been Columbia's acting superintendent, attributed his absence to vacation. He added that Hollister had requested that Klawitter be at the meeting as an advisor. "Even I'm not here officially," Klawitter said.

Questioning procedure, Vice President Kathleen Hohenadel asked why both boards were not involved in the change of the "start date" for the director of operations position from July 18 to August 9. ELANCO reportedly made the decision independently of Columbia. Board member Charles Leader then asked if the board follows Roberts Rules of Order, but no one could answer definitively.

When questioned, Klawitter said several people applied for the director of operations position. "I think," he said, using air quotes, "there might have been a total of 12 that applied, and five were interviewed."

Klawitter announced that a $250,000 grant is available for the districts [Columbia and ELANCO] to pilot the new program because - according to Klawitter - they are the first ones legally to do it. He offered scant details about the possibility.

Frank Doutrich asked the amount of the director's salary, but no one offered a definite answer. Klawitter explained that Columbia Borough is responsible for paying up to $165,000 a year (pro-rated) to ELANCO for a contracted service, out of which Strickler's salary will be paid. "I'm just astonished that you don't know what the salary is," Doutrich later told the board. 

Doutrich also asked for Strickler's job description, and Klawitter told him to check with Hollister. Klawitter said he had only a general idea of the duties. "I find this hard to believe," Doutrich replied.

Asked by Doutrich who would take the superintendent's seat at meetings, Klawitter replied, "Anything that would require a commissioned officer would be Dr. Hollister." Hollister is expected to average a day a week in Columbia, Klawitter explained. Attendance at a board meeting can qualify as one of the required days.

Resident Kay Leader asked if Strickler will attend meetings. Board President Cole Knighton replied, "He'll be here, and I don't know that I can say anything more than that."

Leader also said that it appears as if Columbia has lost any control over the issue. "I think you as a board have a lot of work to do in this community to put out a positive feel. To the community it doesn't look good as far as what your decisions have been and what you have allowed ELANCO to control." 

Knighton explained, "Everything's going to function as usual, pretty much. Dr. Hollister will be here one day a week, I believe, and Tom will handle the day-to day operations." He added that Strickler's office will be in Columbia. He also said Strickler will attend future meetings.

Knighton downplayed a resident's perception of negative feelings among community members. He reported hearing positive feedback about the newly created position at a recent golf outing.

Former board member Fran Resch told council that he had resigned for more than just "health reasons," as was previously reported by LNP, based on Strickler's reading of Resch's resignation letter. (His letter implied that he did not totally agree with the direction the board was taking.) He said he had suggested a specific person to replace him but was told by a board member that they did not want her.

Resch asked why Vice President Kathy Hohenadel was passed over for the position of president when Strickler announced his resignation in June - and a second questioner asked why a motion was made to nominate, and subsequently appoint, Knighton as president. "It's a board decision," Klawitter said.

Doutrich asked if there was currently a full board and was told one seat remains to be filled.  According to Board President Cole Knighton, no one has applied for the seat. "We had that out there for letters to be submitted by August 1. We've received zero, so we're still looking," Knighton said. Knighton later explained that anyone can apply at the courthouse "and they're in," in regard to the open seat. He said the position was advertised on the district website and in LNP.

Knighton became defensive when resident Doutrich cited his spotty attendance record. Knighton said he is "looking to change jobs" to be able to attend all meetings. Later in the meeting, he explained that he had sometimes participated in meetings via telephone.

Klawitter suggested getting in contact with Strickler. "Somebody needs to call the director of operations and sit down and have a conversation with him," he said. "Somebody needs to communicate, because there seems to be a void of communication. You've got two camps, but nobody's talking." Kay Leader responded, "This is a public meeting, but he's not here, and we're not allowed to know, apparently, why he's not here." She said the situation seems secretive.


50 comments:

  1. What a coward you are Tom Strickler, and a slacker already. You are on the payroll and should NOT have missed this meeting. Shame on you!!!

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  2. He's laughing all the way to the bank!

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    1. Yup...went from concerned citizen to raking in $100k. Wake up people!!

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  3. Ever think that those complaining could be subject to a lawsuit for slander. Where did the people get Mr. Stickler's resume? Was it is official resume? Probably not. Ever think PDE has put their rubber stamp this concept. And last I knew Mr, Resch who is a great guy resigned for health reasons and the treatment of a long time district employee. Also look back at the vote, it was unanimous to go with this concept by the Columbia board. And Mrs. leader might be a mouth piece for her husband, who voted for the agreement. strickler is an elanco employee. Not a Columbia employee. Go to their meetings and complain. You probably won't get far and if you really want to make a difference take the seat that is open and share your opinion. And if you want to talk about transparency, look at the last three council appointments. Just saying.

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    1. Where do you find slander in people's statements? There were others who applied and I find it hard to believe none of them had experience in education. This is a problem and needs to be addressed. He created away to get a position. How anyone can justify this is unreasonable. Mrs. Leader is a well respected educator who spent her entire career in Columbia and still lives here. Her opinion matters more than most. The fact is he should have been there to take the heat and he failed to represent his new position. Why because he knew he was going to have to face the community. Rubber stamping an unqualified individual seems a little far fetched. People need to keep voicing there concern. Show us his certificate from PDE, but he circumvented the process. So the borough is in a very bad spot because your leaders are more concerned about their own agenda than our community.

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    2. Columbia taxpayers should NOT be inconvenienced to drive to ELANCO's meetings to get answers. Utter Bull-S. If that resume is not official than perhaps you need to talk to Stricklerabout that.

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    3. Right there is part of the problem and thanks for pointing it out. I already pay more than a fair amount for taxes, now instead of getting answers in Columbia at a meeting,im expected to drive to ELANCO. That is totally screwed up. This great deal is getting worse by the minute.

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    4. Strickler is a public official. He is also a public figure, because he has gained a significant degree of notoriety in the context of this issue. The bar is very high for public officials - but especially public figures - to prove slander or libel.

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    5. The resume not official???? Wow, so you think that's how he got the position, with an altered resume?

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    6. His resume was posted online. Only Mr. Strickler can vouch for its authenticity.

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    7. 29.4 miles/32 minutes to go to ELANCO's meetings. Taxpayers are already paying for this position and you want them to drive to New Holland in the evening to be at their meeting, because Columbia decided to enter into a contract.

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    8. He played the game, and converted a volunteer position into a $100k, not bad for a basketball referee. $165k for Hollister to be there 1 day a week?? And just so you can follow the money..you are paying ELANCO $165k for Strickler and 1 day of ELANCO. Wake up Columbia!!

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    9. "Go to their meetings and complain" tried that... Columbia residents are not permitted to speak at the ELANCO meeting. Maybe they will prefer picket signs outside for all to see, instead of voices inside.

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  4. How do you know he skipped the meeting. With the obvious lack of communication by both boards, was he even told he must attend the meeting? Regardless of who received the position, it would be rather presumptuous for a new employee to just simply show up without being told to do so.

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    1. As director of operations, he is expected to be at every meeting. He is now "on the payroll." At Thursday's meeting, Cole Knighton said Strickler told him he would not be at that meeting, so obviously he knew he was expected to attend. When questioned, Knighton did not give a reason for Strickler's absence.

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    2. Are you aware of the damage done to a number of vehicles on the 200 Block of South 2nd Street between 2 and 3 AM SATURDAY MORNING???
      Will the victims suffer just because Columbia considers this GHETTO?
      212 south 2nd st needs to be Condemned and the Drug activity STOPPED IMMEDIATELY!!!
      PLEASE SPY HELP

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    3. We're hearing it was a white vehicle possibly driven by a drunk driver that hit cars on the right side of the street about 3 a.m. A vehicle that was stolen in York might also figure into the incident.

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    4. The black vehicle was apparently stopped by Columbia Police.
      A white vehicle hit a number of cars on the LEFT SIDE, heading North. 200 Block is one way, one poor woman stated her car is a total loss.

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  5. They just made a job for him. Just cost the.tax.payers more money.like we don't pay enough already.

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  6. Why not hire a real superintendent. Too many government programs that will fail the community. This is laughable. Strickler is not qualified to run a school district. His own company went bankrupt and yet the good old boys club in Columbia pushed for this position. I know there are a few good board members who will standup for Columbia. I hope all of our voices will be heard. At 165k you could hire a real superintendent. Also the district doesn't have an assistant superintendent. Look at all the teachers that have been lost in the previous 5 years. I had a lot of respect for Dr. Klattwiter, but I am starting to question his judgement. Cole has very little knowledge of education and is the worst person to act like this is a good thing. Maybe he should finish his siding on his home and resign from this position as a board member. Tom is a manipulator at best. I hope the community keeps going to the board meetings.

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    1. I agree totally. $165,000 would have gotten a very qualified superintendent that would be in the district daily. They now created a title for Assistant Superintendent called "Director of Curriculum/Federal Programs Coordinator" Gregory McGough $86,000.00, that they just hired. Director seems to be the new word! Hopefully this guy has a teaching background. If so, how would Mr. Strickler supervise him when he knows nothing about curriculum?? None the less even write curriculm for a class. I feel the board is responsible for this mess and the major ring leader. These are the people that need contacted, the only way that the contract between Columbia and Elanco gets ended. Also putting presser on the Elanco school board since they also agreed to this mess they knew not what they were getting into!! Contact all board members. http://www.elanco.org/pages/Eastern_Lancaster_County_SD/District/Board_of_Directors/Board_Members

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    2. Great response!! Lets call all the Elanco board members and ask if they would support a non-teaching educator to fill in as (Director of Operations) DOO, position at their Elanco school district. Would they vote the same way for their district??

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    3. Let's see how Mr. Knighton will run the school board meeting by telephone!! He should have left with Ms. Poindexter when her attendance was inadequate. But no, Mr. Strickler and Dr. Klawatter protected him. When Dr. Klawatter was question four years ago he said the same thing he just quoted "that he was looking for a new job." So now you know how the boys play!!

      Also, Mr. David Hughes, Building & Grounds Director, $64,250.00, watch your back, someone may be after your job!!

      And, Business Manager Amy Light $89,250.00, I heard that there is a replacement for you also.

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    4. Knighton is only there as a pawn for Strickler. Not if, but when this experiment ends with ELANCO, Knighton will abdicate his postion back to Strickler. So that open board position is being held for Strickler. So one of us needs to publically run for that open board positon AND we need to get the "No-show" Knighton out, or else it will back to good ole boys, and Strickler will get $100k of our money that he shouldnt have as he "volunteered" for the school board.

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    5. The seat is for anybody right now, and I mean ANYBODY!!! If you go to Lancaster to the election office and fill out the paperwork, you will be seated. Since the board didn't fill the vacancy, you can bypass the board. I say do it Frank Doutrich!! Do it!!!

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    6. I agree! Go Frank!

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  7. What a total mess!!!!
    Lies, transparency, old boys, poor continue to suffer.
    Columbia needs OVERHAULED!

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  8. How is it that the ELANCO superintendent can sacrifice a day a week from his responsibilities at that school district? Not to mention all the other responsibilities involved. In light of his "allegiance" to ELANCO, how effective can he be at Columbia?

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    1. Agreed, how many people are willing to take on extra tasks at their current jobs? If they do, something else has to suffer and if it doesn't then one must ask how important the original position is. This is just stupid.

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    2. Actually Columbia board should had stated the superintendent needs to spend two or more days a week in the district. As a resident I feel we are getting short changed, only one day a week??? Why wouldn't Klawalter accept that type of agreement for $165,000. Suspicious!!!

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  9. It seems the "left hand does not know what the right hand" is doing. The Stickler appointment is creating chaos.How effective can the Blanco superintendent be when he will be in Columbia one day a week. To top it off,when he attends a board meeting
    , that counts as a day. In a sense.Strickler is assistant superintendent. He has alot to prove if he can do the job. Meanwhile,Elanco is getting Columbia money.

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  10. The only way to rectify our roll as taxpayers is to show up at this week's public meeting and voice your concerns. Call the Elanco School District Superintendent, local news media, PA State Representative David Hickernell to bring this to surface. Read the Sunshine Law Act of being transparent. This Board is negligent of their own By-Laws of the rule of order, Roberts Rules.

    I am going! What about you?

    TidePride!

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    1. Two residents attempted to contact Dr. Hollister last week with no reply, as he is/was on vacation. In addition, I was told that there is a chain of command with regard to contacting school district officials. Good luck getting answers!

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    2. Citizens are at the top of the chain of command. These officials are answerable to us. They need to remember that they are public servants, not rulers.

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    3. Yes I agree. There needs to be a large showing of residents at the next meeting. We should demand answers!

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    4. When and where is the meeting being held?

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    5. The next school board meeting is at 7 p.m. this coming Thursday, August 18, at the district office at 5th and Chestnut.

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    6. ELANCO meeting is tonight August 15. If you have enough gas make the drive.

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  11. I find it amazing that with no administrative experience, a guy who in the past few years has been employed as a security guard and Amish tour guide could land such a job. Meanwhile, others who have worked and educated themselves in the career path were overlooked for this opportunity. We, the taxpayers, have also been cheated!!

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  12. It is time the state steps in and takes control. I feel bad for the teachers and students that will suffer due to this mess. The position should be filled by a person with a background in education and public administration, not a person of various trades with a weak success rate. Taxpayers are getting short changed.

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  13. I'd like to hear a lot more about this grant money that Klawitter briefly mentioned. Is it a matching grant? Is it shared with ELANCO? Whats the bottom line.

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  14. Why does not WGAL hold a town meeting ever in Columbia? They have their select few towns and that is it.This school situation you definitely get attention then They get their jollies on reporting negative stories a great majority of the time, this could be one.

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  15. State ethics commission needs to be notified to investigate if a violation occurred.

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  16. We need taken over by Hempfied, Donegal someone. Sick of paying these outrageous taxes. I also paid for private school for my children. Now there's more money wasted. It's a boys club here in town. Look at the water company. They make insane amounts of dividends yet most of the town has no water pressure. Step into the 21st century Columbia.

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  17. So with all of this back door dealing going on in our school district. Was the past Superintendent Carol Powell pressured to leave Columbia School District? She left abruptly in the middle of her contract that was paying her $115,000 per year until 2017.

    She was a breathe of fresh air and seemed to be very involved with our community. I looked up the article from December 22, 2015 on Lancasteronline.com. She makes a comment in this article that had me scratching my head of " “Thank you for the lessons learned during my tenure,” Powell said in a comment to the board. Was this because she knew the writing on the chalkboard?

    As usual living by the Susquehanna River that something smell fishy!

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    1. I was at the meeting when Powell resigned. The tension in that room was so thick you needed a knife to cut it. I did not know what was going on then and I still don't, but one thing I do know, something was wrong there that night.

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  18. Consolidation is the only answer. Putting your kids in this school system is putting them at risk!

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  19. This was so stupid. Pull the plug on the contract and take the lumps!

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  20. Bow your heads and PRAY.

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