Last updated: August 15. 2013 11:25PM - 1285 Views

A large crowd awaits a chance to question the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board Monday.
A large crowd awaits a chance to question the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board Monday.
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Sorry, Wilkes-Barre Area School Board, your rationale fails.

Asked by several residents about the questionable Aug. 1 hiring of Brian Leighton as home and school visitor, the board punted to solicitor Ray Wendolowski, a man who spent so much time trying to smooth over rough spots in board actions Monday he should buy a belt sander.

The problem was twofold: First, as reported after the Aug. 1 meeting, Leighton was not recommended by the interview committee. Second, as reported by The Times Leader Sunday, Leighton’s state certification was “inactive,” meaning he couldn’t legally hold the job. (The fact that Leighton is the brother of the mayor of Wilkes-Barre doesn’t help public confidence, but it’s a side issue).

While details will almost surely remain shrouded as “personnel” decisions, odds are excellent that Leighton was not recommended by the interview committee — comprised of district administration and staff — because of the certification issue. The board’s hiring policy requires administration to winnow candidates by checking qualifications. Leighton would have likely been removed from the list of potential candidates by this paper screening alone.

The board acknowledged Monday that Leighton was chosen over another candidate with fully active certification (and a master’s degree, compared to Leighton’s bachelor’s).

Wendolowski skated around the certification issue Monday with semantics, contending that it was “incorrect” to say Leighton lacks the proper state certification for the job because he is certified (which this paper reported), but the certification is inactive because Leighton has not completed continuing education courses required by the state (also reported).

This is a distinction without a difference. As far as the state is concerned, Leighton can’t hold the position full time with his current status.

Wendolowski acknowledged as much when he said Leighton had apparently completed course work to satisfy the continuing education requirements, and that a college transcript proving as much was on its way to the state. Wendolowski then noted — again, as this paper had done — that even with an inactive certification, Leighton could work for up to 90 days as a substitute teacher.

But here’s the rub: The five board members who voted to hire Leighton on Aug. 1 didn’t vote to make him a substitute, they voted to hire him full time. Nor did they vote to hire him pending any action by the state on his inactive certification. They made no mention at all about his certification problem.

So either those five members voted to give Leighton the position full-time knowing he couldn’t legally have the job without state action and didn’t reveal that tidbit, or they voted to hire him not knowing it.

The former is a blatant breach of public trust, the latter is a breach of due diligence.

Papering over it all with tissue-thin semantics is outright insulting.

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