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 firstname.lastname@example.org.