BURRELL TOWNSHIP — B. Edward Smith, president of the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board, has resigned, citing medical and family issues.
The board voted 6-1 to accept his resignation.
Board members Beverly Caranese, Tim Canzano, Linda Brown, Holly Gibson, Mary Whitfield and George Rowley voted yes. Holly Hall voted no. Rick Harper was absent, as was Smith.
Before the board voted on Smith’s resignation, Hall called
for an executive session to address rumors circulating in the community about the circumstances surrounding the action. The private session lasted about 30 minutes, after which the board accepted his resignation but did not discuss what happened behind closed doors.
Under Pennsylvania’s Sunshine laws, executive sessions may be called for reasons of personnel, legal or real estate matters. Solicitor Jack Cambest said after the meeting he believed Smith fell under the umbrella of personnel even though he is an elected official, not an employee of the school district.
After the meeting, Hall said she voted against Smith’s resignation because she “didn’t like the manner it was handled.” She said that something she wasn’t privy to happened after a buildings and grounds committee meeting a few weeks ago, sparking Smith’s resignation.
“I still don’t know what went on because they refuse to talk about it,” Hall said.
She, too, declined to comment on what was discussed in the executive session.
Nonetheless, Smith’s letter of resignation cited medical and family issues.
People have the right to resign for any reason, Cambest said.
When reached by phone this morning, Smith reiterated that his resignation has nothing to do with anything but his health.
“I don’t know what she’s talking about,” he said about Hall’s comments.
He said that doctor visits and stress over medical conditions factored into his decision.
“I’m 76 years old,” he said. “I think it’s time just to start smelling the roses and let somebody else take over.”
Smith has served as board president since 2010 and was most recently re-elected as president at the December reorganization meeting. He has been a school board member since 2001.
He said he enjoyed his time on the board, during which much progress was made in the district, he said. He cited numerous years without tax increases, and said he was especially proud of the district’s increased use of technology.
“We are one of the best in Indiana County as far as that goes,” he said.
Smith has served in various capacities, including on the county’s tax collection committee, as a representative of the Indiana County Technology Center, and as the head of negotiation.
The board will advertise to fill the vacancy and will reorganize at the regular meeting March 19. Vacancies must be filled by an appointment through the board within 30 days.
Smith’s replacement will serve the remainder of his term until December 2015. The seat represents Region 1, encompassing Blairsville Borough Precincts 1, 2 and 3, and Burrell Township Precinct 2.
In other business, the board:
• Adopted an official policy outlining procedures for school resource officers regarding the use of weapons and force. The 11-page document highlights the responsibilities of the officers including required weapons training and qualifications, the use of deadly force and discharge of weapons.
• Hired Jennifer Spisak as a long-term reading specialist for Blairsville Elementary School for $20,000 to be paid through grant funds. She will work from Thursday to the end of the 2013-14 year.