Panther Valley resignation sparks salary talk
Panther Valley school board members accepted a letter of resignation from special education director Dr. Catherine Nelson Thursday night.
Nelson was recently appointed to serve as special education director at Weatherly Area School District. She worked at Panther Valley since 2017.
Nelson will continue working for Panther Valley through Oct. 22.
Before accepting Nelson’s resignation, the board considered offering her a pay increase. The $10,000-plus raise would have brought her salary in line with Weatherly’s offer, but board members voted 5-3 to reject it.
Nelson got emotional telling the board how she faced a difficult decision because of her love for the teachers and families in the district. But she said she also had to respect herself as the only special education director in the county with a doctorate degree.
“I had already made my decision prior to this offer coming to me. I didn’t pursue this or try to use this as a bargaining chip — this decision was hard for me because I love all of the staff and the students and families at Panther Valley,” she said.
Some board members said they voted against a raise for Nelson because they just approved a contract for administrators, which includes the special education position.
Wayne Gryzik said he agreed to a smaller pay raise for the administrators group — 3 percent versus 5 percent — because of the district’s financial situation. He said he thought it would be a slight to the other administrators.
“If I knew there was an extra $10,000 to give each one of you for wages, I would have given it to each one of you to try to keep (you) happier and to keep you here. You deserve a lot more money than what you have,” Gryzik said.
William Mansberry said he voted against a raise for the same reason.
Board member Keith Krapf went a step further and said he thought it would be wrong for all the teachers in the district who he feels could also use a raise.
“I couldn’t give anyone an $10,000 pay raise without doing it for our teachers,” Krapf said.
Panther Valley has a shrinking tax base and the highest tax rate of any school district in Carbon County. It’s one reason that the district has joined a lawsuit which argues that the formula which the state uses to distribute education funding is unfair.
As a result of their financial situation, the district has lost many faculty and administrators to other districts in Carbon County who can afford to pay teachers more.
Nelson took the job as special education director in 2017 after Sandra Michalik resigned to take the same position in Jim Thorpe Area School District.
Board President Gary Porembo said that when he heard Nelson was resigning, he asked if she would stay if Panther Valley matched Weatherly’s offer. While the vote failed, he said he believes that the district needs to better compensate its professional staff.
“I think we gotta start somewhere to start raising these salaries. It’s got to start from one position and go all the way through. We can’t keep losing good personnel,” Porembo said.