At September's Wyalusing Area School Board meeting, board members voted unanimously to extend Superintendent Dr. Chester Mummau's contract for an additional three years effective at the end of his current contract on Sept. 28, 2015. The vote came after board members held an executive session for an hour and 40 minutes to evaluate Mummau's performance in private, a process which occurs yearly. September's meeting agenda made no mention of the evaluation or a possibility of a contract extension, and has caused some community members to speak out on the topic of transparency.

At Monday's meeting, the board changed the wording of the motion to replace the word "extend" with "renew," because, according to Mummau, an extention would have put his contract over the state maximum of five years. His current four year contract, combined with the three year addition would have totaled seven years and been considered unlawful, he said. Due to the board amending the motion to read "renew," the contracts are considered separate entities and legally do not combine to exceed the five year limit. The motion states that no changes were made to the contract. Board members voted on the change of wording and it passed with an 8-1 vote, with only board member Richard Robinson voting no.

When casting his vote, Robinson said that he does not agree with the board renewing the contract at the present time and, "I don't think it should be done for a year." At last month's meeting, however, Robinson voted yes to the incorrectly worded contract 'extension.'

Community member Gene Anne Woodruff claimed that the board is not meeting the recommendations of the Pennsylvania School Board Association in regards to when a superintendent's contract should be renewed.

However, PSBA Assistant Executive Director for School Board and Management Services Tom Templeton said that the organization does not hold a formal position on when a school board is to extend or renew a contract.

He did note that Wyalusing's case was a bit out of the ordinary by saying, "renewals typically happen within a year or so (of contract expiration)." Mummau's renewal was voted on approximately two years before his contract was set to expire.

School Board President Deb Stethers said the discussion and subsequent renewal of the superintendent's contract was done in order to give Mummau adequate time to plan for future employment if board members had decided not to renew the contract.

Mummau reaffirmed this, "I asked for renewal now because I remember one of my professors at the University of Virginia telling us to always ask for renewal at the midpoint of a contract when I was in the Superintendent's Preparation Program there about a decade ago."

He explained that the purpose of this is to gauge interest from the board on contract renewal and if they are not interested, it's a message to begin looking for other employment.

"I'm a planner," Mummau said, explaining that a large amount of time is necessary to research other districts that are offering employment opportunities, just as he researched the Northern Tier before his tenure as Wyalusing superintendent. He also mentioned additional time would be needed to sell and purchase a house if he had to relocate for a new position. Mummau said it would also be fair to the district to give them adequate time to search for a new superintendent. Board member Barb Hugo mentioned at Monday's meeting that there is a shortage of superintendents. Templeton echoed Hugo's statement, "The pool of (superintendent) candidates is more shallow than we've seen historically."

The controversy was unveiled Monday when three board members came with prepared statements that were read at the beginning of the meeting in response to "rumors."

Board member Brian Zeidner made clear to community members in attendance that personnel issues are one of four topics that a school board is allowed to discuss privately according to state law.

"The board is well within its scope of authority to review the superintendent's performance or renew his contract. The consideration, decisions and action in this regard by this board are legal and appropriate," Zeidner said.

Stethers also read a prepared statement detailing the important parts of being a school board member, one of which was to select the superintendent and work harmoniously and honestly with them.

In concluding her statement, she said, "The board did its assigned task at the September meeting, in assuring that there would be a continuation of the exemplary work performed by Dr. Mummau, by renewing his contract."

Hugo also presented her thoughts to the community, at one point directly addressing some community member's concerns of a lack of transparency in the decision.

"In retrospect and in the interest of continuous improvement, I would like to see the upcoming evaluation reported on our agenda one month before the actual event. This will give staff and community members the opportunity to express their thoughts both positive and perhaps improvement oriented."

She also noted that the board members and the superintendent are always welcoming of input, not just at the time of the yearly superintendent evaluation.

Stethers, Hugo and Zeidner as well as board member Barb Prevost who delivered an unprepared speech had nothing but praise for the work of Mummau during his position as superintendent.

Mummau is now under contract as superintendent of Wyalusing Area School District until September 28, 2018.

According to Hugo, Mummau's salary prior to the evaluation taking place was $105,000 and he receives an automatic two percent raise each year meaning for the upcoming year his pay will total approximately $107,000. This is considered below average for superintendents in Pennsylvania's region 12, which was reported to be $118,763 in 2010-2011 by a PSBA survey. Mummau also received a one percent bonus, equaling about $1,050, granted by the school board after a "positive" evaluation last month, Hugo said. This bonus is a contracted line item and is not necessary to vote on, Hugo said, mentioning that the board is empowered to grant up to a three percent bonus each year.

Tim Zyla can be reached at (570) 265-1634; or e-mail: tzyla@thedailyreview.com.