Demoted Austintown principal now promoted to AD

By Amanda Tonoli


A little more than a year after his demotion, James Penk has been given the position of athletic director of Austintown schools.

Austintown Board of Education approved Penk’s new position during a Thursday evening regular meeting.

Don Sherwood, board president, said Penk has always expressed interest in Austintown sports and has “a great pulse on the community.”

“The coaching staff loves him, and the community loves him,” Sherwood said. “He deserved to be rewarded for all the hard work he’s done.”

Penk was demoted in June 2017 to assistant principal of Austintown Fitch High School from his position as Austintown Middle School principal.

The investigation leading to his demotion probed two instances of alleged misbehavior, which Superintendent Vince Colaluca said at the time were severe enough for the district to consider Penk’s termination.

A report said Penk had a large kitchen knife in his desk he had found in a trash can at the middle school, and he joked around with the knife on multiple occasions when meeting with subordinates.

Penk also failed to properly address or report employee behavior that would violate board policy and/or Ohio law regarding use of sick leave. There also was an employee complaint involving harassment or discrimination, the agreement said.

But Sherwood said Penk is deserving of the new position.

“He’s spent his entire career here in Austintown and has had his hands in so many projects,” he said. “Anyone that knows Jim Penk at his core would be ecstatic about this. We’re lucky to have Jim as part of our team.”

Sherwood said Penk’s salary, which was not available at the meeting, will remain the same on his administrative salary schedule.

Penk isn’t the first administrator to receive a new position after discipline for an action regarding a knife.

In May, Tim Kelty, now Austintown Elementary head principal, was promoted from his assistant principal position at AES after a month’s paid administrative leave.

Kelty’s personnel file said: “Effective immediately and continuing until further notice, you are being placed on a paid administrative leave of absence pending an investigation into potential misconduct including potential misconduct involving alleged inappropriate comments and/or conduct regarding students; alleged inappropriate comments/conduct involving staff members; and alleged inappropriate conduct involving handling of student discipline.”

Among Kelty’s alleged offenses was during the 2015-16 school year, he threatened a second-grade student with a knife when disciplining him in his office, witnessed by a teacher.

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