By Elise Franco
Schools Superintendent Vincent Colaluca and board of education member Harold Porter say they will work out their differences to move toward a better Austintown school district.
Last month Porter sent an email to Colaluca and the school board, calling for the superintendent’s resignation. In it, Porter called Colaluca a “dictator” and an inadequate leader.
Colaluca responded with a written letter of his own, distributed at the Sept. 19 board meeting, that states Porter publicly made “false and defamatory statements about me.”
Since then Colaluca said he’s reached out to Porter to try to work out their issues.
“I never had an issue with Mr. Porter, but do I have an issue with someone asking for my resignation? Sure I do,” Colaluca said. “Can we move past it and move forward? Yes we can.”
Porter said he stands by his comments but is willing to move on for the sake of the school district.
“I can professionally work together with him, and I will not jeopardize the integrity of the district to keep a feud going,” he said. “I will pledge not to publicly go after him, but my feelings are still the same.”
Colaluca said he and the board need to maintain focus on what matters the most: students.
“My responsibility is to take care of the district as a whole,” he said. “We’ve cut costs without taking away services or academic programs.”
Colaluca said the district tried other methods to raise or save money, such as pay-to-participate sports, but it wasn’t the right thing then and isn’t the right thing now.
“For our community, with our demographics, pay-to-play and reducing busing doesn’t work,” he said. “We needed to find other ways to make the adjustments.”
Teachers and staff have had to bear the brunt of the cuts to maintain the current level of academic services, the superintendent added.
“When it comes to our staff, have we made some adjustments that make it tougher on them? Yes,” he said. “The feeling that ‘the job has gotten harder over the years and I’ve not gotten more pay,’ is true.”
Colaluca said wage freezes, reductions in force and reductions in busing hours have been an unfortunate necessity to keep Austintown’s academics on the rise. He said that even through the hardships, the district achieved a milestone on this year’s state report cards by meeting 26 of 26 performance indicators for the first time.
“People are stepping up and doing the work,” he said. “Hopefully, when these report cards come out, they’ll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.”