Former Gettysburg superintendent: Buyout a ‘cover-up’

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Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2011 11:34 pm | Updated: 12:19 am, Fri Apr 8, 2011.

A little more than two months after Dr. William Hall’s legal separation from the Gettysburg Area School District became official, the former superintendent feels he was the victim of a massive cover-up.

Speaking to the Times Thursday, Hall said board members intending to run for the upcoming election grew fearful of losing their seats.

“They were pissing backwards,” Hall said. “When an elected official is fearful of losing their position, that’s a good reason not to vote for them.”

Hall said that five of the nine board members became “maniacal.” He would not name which five.

Board members have said little about the specifics of Hall’s review, referring to it as a “personnel matter.”

“He failed to embrace the evaluation in a positive manner,” Board Member Todd Orner said in February. “A person receiving an evaluation should be willing to talk with the evaluator to try to improve the report. He did not.”

Hall was not at all pleased with the manner in which the board dealt with the situation that led to the board agreeing to buy out the remaining four years of its contract with Hall on Feb. 2.

It was agreed that Hall would be paid two years’ salary, at $135,630 a year, and the mortgage on the Cumberland Township house he purchased in 2009 from the district’s Tech Prep program. Board President Patricia Symmes said the mortgage equals two years salary, bringing Hall’s settlement to $542,520.

“When I was put on leave (on Sept. 20), I was told to go home and not show up on school grounds. No district employee could have contact with me,” Hall said of what the GASD school board told him. “That’s illegal.”

In September, Symmes acknowledged district employees had been told not to have contact with Hall, professionally or personally.

“Correct,” she said in September, “because it is a personnel issue.”

According to Hall, he received a “mixed evaluation” in the Spring of 2010 that contained both “good and derogatory comments” from the  board.

“The board had gotten maniacal,” Hall said. “One board member put comments that didn’t have anything to do with being a superintendent.”

But Hall maintains he was surprised with the board’s decision to sever ties with him.

“I had no idea,” Hall said. “I knew I had done things to make (the board) uncomfortable.

“I hired the first African-American teacher in that district in 30-40 years. There are very deep-seated racism issues on  the board.

“You could feel it,” Hall said of a tension that he described as “palpable.”

He said that with 501 public school districts across Pennsylvania, it’s common for some tension to exist between the board and its superintendent, but he felt that this one was atypical.

“To have a situation with a board so disparaged to the matter that they shelled out half a million dollars to make me go away,” Hall said. “There’s more questions about the integrity about the board than superintendent.”

Symmes said in February the board thought it had a superintendent who “walked on water” when he was hired in January 2007, but that things eventually changed.

Board Treasurer Karen Frey cited miscommunication issues when the board wanted the teachers’ association to freeze its contracted cost of living allowance for one year during the 2010-11 budget negotiations.

“He told teachers, ‘It’s a zero increase, take it or leave it,’” said Frey in February. “That’s not at all what we said.”

“Although I gave Dr. Hall a fairly positive evaluation, I saw enough in the months following the evaluation to vote in favor of putting him on leave,” said board member Keith Bruck in a February email to the Times. “The reasons range from him causing rifts between the administration and the board, the teachers and the board, and having the appearance that it was fine if these rifts occurred.”

Still, Hall feels the board acted with no couth and no professionalism in how he was treated between his administrative leave in September and contract buyout in February.

Hall referenced the  Adams County Tech Prep building proposed to be built behind the high school on Old Harrisburg Road. He said the project increased in costs by $1.4 million when the board decided to move the culinary program from the Gettysburg Fire Hall to the new building.

“They aren’t satisfied being at the bottom of a hole. They continue to dig,” Hall said of the board. “The way they acted was a gross abuse of the sacred trust the electorate relied upon to put them in office.”

As for right now, Hall said that he’s “taking it easy.” He has no plans to get back into school administration after 44 years of service.

“Be loyal,” Hall said when asked what he would tell newly-appointed GASD Superintendent Larry Redding. “If you can’t be, get out.”

Redding was named acting superintendent when Hall was put on leave in September and named substitute superintendent February. He was named superintendent on March 21 with a 7-1 vote from the board.

Frey cast the lone vote in opposition and board member Holly Fox was absent.

Hall’s discussion with the Times on Thursday was the first time he has spoken to the newspaper since September 2010. The former superintendent said Thursday he was displeased with the paper’s coverage with some school district issues. He also took issue with a headline and photograph that appeared in the paper the day after his settlement was announced.

Mark Walters may be reached at

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  • MarkinGB posted at 12:55 pm on Wed, Apr 20, 2011.

    MarkinGB Posts: 74

    Where is the investigative journalism? Is anyone going to dig for answers?

    Evidentally not.

  • Mrs_William_Hendershot_III posted at 12:48 pm on Wed, Apr 13, 2011.

    Mrs_William_Hendershot_III Posts: 3

    First, there is corruption in the school district, else WHY would the board pay 1/2 million for a buyout, this is NOT Wall Street folks. Get some investigative reporting on this situation.

    I grew up in Gettysburg and noting but a rual town with NO future for sure. Moved immediately to New York City, then off the Florida and then Maryland for a real education. Eventually, moved to the Phila area for about 20 years and now living in SC in kinda semi retirement in IT state government. SC is a great warm place to live and cost of living is greatly reduced.

    I follow the Times for curiosity, and when I visit about every 10 years I get Ernies Hotdogs for sure, love them bad boys... The sad part about PA, it has turned to the liberal progressives and is filled with corruption and debt and unions, which are destroying America period.

    Again, the governing body over the school board should pursue an immediate audit of the district and a complete background check of the entire school board.

  • cottonmouth posted at 9:18 pm on Tue, Apr 12, 2011.

    cottonmouth Posts: 1

    right on, aecfromnj. nobody comes out of this looking good. the scariest accusation leveled by hall: "they fired me to save their jobs." if that's true--that the board thought paying him half a million to go away would save their jobs--then we're in bigger trouble than we thought. a real class act, that hall.

    sadder still is the fact that some members of the board made a point of saying they thought hall "walked on water" when they renewed him. if that many people had so much trouble judging his character it doesn't bode well for the future. i'm going to go out on a limb (as an "outsider" who moved to gettysburg but whose wife's great-great-grandfather fought here; instant credibility!) and say this is what happens when a board that doesn't know how to hire a superintendent hires a superintendent who thinks he can play the board like a piano because he knows they didn't know what they were doing when they hired him. what a mess.

    here's an idea: let's check the educational credentials of everybody who serves on the board and everyone who serves in an administrative capacity in this school district. get that stuff on a website, for pete's sake. let's see what they've done, where they've been, what they've accomplished. and let's get them to describe what they plan to do to actually provide kids around here with a decent education that isn't based entirely on PSSA scores. a national search was actually warranted here. and be careful which "bums" you vote in if you want to vote the current "bums" out; as aimless as the current board might seem to be, anyone interested in coming in and using lower taxes as leverage for "improving education" is full of baloney!

  • aecfromnj posted at 11:57 am on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    aecfromnj Posts: 1

    I don't know who is disappointing me more here.

    Dr. Hall, for giving this interview in which he accused board members of negligence, racism, and "pissing backwards" (lovely expression)?

    The board, for handling his renewal and termination and the school closing so badly?

    Or our local news media, for writing articles like this that do nothing but repeat unsubstantiated allegations with absolutely no investigation?

  • ROCK 32 posted at 12:20 am on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    ROCK 32 Posts: 173

    The more people move here the higher the taxes are going to go to bring up the water, sewer and services that you all expect where you moved from. It would be great if people would build houses that are more logical then the McMansions that are being built now by 2 retired people. If people wouldn't built these big houses then their taxes wouldn't be so high and they wouldn't be complaining about the taxes they pay on them. If you want to play then you have to pay but don't drag the rest of us in with your trying to keep up with the Jones mindset. By the way this has nothing to do with Gettysburg as a whole this has to do with all the Townships that are the Gettysburg Area School District.
    Just so you know my family had people to fight in the battle here in Gettysburg but they were here long long before anyone even knew where Gettysburg was. Yes my ancestors are from Germany but this is the area they settled in.

  • Heated posted at 9:11 pm on Sun, Apr 10, 2011.

    Heated Posts: 4

    It's called Urban with it.
    You may have been born and raised here, but I'm pretty sure, somewhere in your lineage someone HAD to have moved here. So, you're upset with them too, right? How dare they move HERE from somewhere else. Last I checked, there was no Great Wall blocking anyone from moving to Gettysburg. If anything, I would think more people should move here. It would up the tax intake to the local government and schools and ease the tax burden on the rest of us poor souls who live here. If someone chooses to live here and work outside the state, GREAT! Because you pay taxes no matter what and your job has NOTHING to do with property tax except that you can afford a more expensive home. The people who choose to live here and work elsewhere are the ones paying taxes in the higher tax brackets because they are traveling to higher paying jobs. They are FUNDING this country. If all of the people who have moved here from out of state up and left one day, what situation would that leave the town of Gettysburg in? Hmmm. Interesting that the town is a tourist attraction. It's okay for outsiders to visit, but don't you dare try to stay!

  • ROCK 32 posted at 10:22 am on Sun, Apr 10, 2011.

    ROCK 32 Posts: 173

    Even though it sounds good to have one school system you will never see it because you now live in PA and not MD. If you do not agree with the Commonwealths way of doing things then its time for you to move back to where you came from. Everytime something like this comes up about the school or the state goverment transplants want to turn it into the state in which they moved here from. The ones of us that have been born and raised here and have our entire family roots here don't need transplants telling us what is best. The reason why you moved here was do to the low taxes and now that your here and taxes are going up you cry a river. The increased taxes that are being propossed is because you have stressed our system and infrustructure. The reason most of you are here anyway is to retire or sleep here and run back across the line to your jobs and by the way hows them gas prices doing for you now? You know all that extra money your paying on gas is not making it profitable for you to run back and forth across that line. Now maybe you might think about getting a job here to understand what it is really like to live and work here.

  • one eyed jack posted at 4:08 pm on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    one eyed jack Posts: 11

    Get rid of the entire board, Election day is getting closer!!!!!!!!!

  • mgarland posted at 12:35 am on Sat, Apr 9, 2011.

    mgarland Posts: 1

    Besides the closing of Eisenhower Elementary I guess the Board plans to recoup the money paid out to Dr. Hall with our outrages increase in property taxes because of the reassement last year. Coincidentally, while Citizens of Adams County were filing their reassement hearings/appeals is around the same time the Board sent Dr. Hall packing. Why do we have six school districts with six superintendents? Do you know the money we can save the county, tax payers and we wouldn't have to close a school if we went county wide with one superintendent? It's a thought expecially if they make over a 100K a year. They can be phased out when their contract is up.

  • ROCK 32 posted at 11:58 pm on Fri, Apr 8, 2011.

    ROCK 32 Posts: 173

    Mr. Hall I have this question for you. If it was a cover up why not come forward with all the details and seek legal action? I would think there would be something in your contract that would have held up in court. But I guess that wasn't what you had in mind from the begining you had an idea they would want to keep you quiet and what better way would be to buy out your contract. But the kicker that you didn't even think about is you would also be getting the school built house for free. Lets get one thing straight I don't like you or the board in this whole thing but I would have thought someone would've blew the horn on this one to show who was fighting for the taxpayer. How many board members are there and people that would've been in the no on this and not one thought to drop a dime anonymously to any newspaper.

  • AmazinGrace posted at 10:37 pm on Fri, Apr 8, 2011.

    AmazinGrace Posts: 142

    I have had a feeling all along that there is something to this. When news of the buyout became public, my first thought was that Mr. Hall has something on these people and they want to buy his silence. God help us...

  • GASD teacher posted at 8:09 pm on Fri, Apr 8, 2011.

    GASD teacher Posts: 4

    When Dr. Hall says that he "hired the first African-American teacher in that district in 30-40 years".....that is a bold-faced lie. Look it up. And another thing...any coincidence that Hall's buyout package and the amount the GASD is supposedly saving by closing Eisenhower Elementary are almost comparable? $500,000 by closing an elementary school? We are having to restructure every single K-5th grade student in the district to save enough money to pay Hall because the board got their feathers ruffled? GET RID OF THE BOARD!!!

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