Ringgold board bickers under police guard

June 26, 2013
Monongahela police officer Steven Kenyon, seated in the rear, attended Ringgold School Board’s Wednesday meeting to keep peace a week after Director Larry Mauro, seated, second from left, started shouting at the business manager over the budget. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

NEW EAGLE – A Monongahela police officer was brought to a Ringgold School Board meeting Wednesday to keep peace a week after a director disrupted a committee meeting by throwing papers and shouting at the district’s business manager.

The meeting Wednesday started out calm, but soon erupted when a different director, Charles Smith, began arguing over the district’s 2013-14 budget because its numbers were tweaked in the month since it was introduced.

“I believe this district is throwing the dice,” Smith said, while questioning $640,000 in additional expenses that were added to the budget.

Earlier Superintendent Karen Polkabla said the change resulted because of a miscalculation last month of federal revenues, that the district since learned it will receive more than what had been expected.

“Where was this money coming from?” Smith said later, when the budget was brought back to the table.

Board President Mariann Bulko said the district business manager, Randy Skrinjorich, “is answering your questions but you won’t let him.”

“This is not a budget meeting,” Bulko said. “Roll call.”

The new $39.6-million budget was then adopted without a tax increase in a 7-2 vote with Smith and Director Larry Mauro casting the no votes.

It was Mauro who began screaming last week at Skrinjorich, sticking a finger in his face in a brouhaha over budget changes, and the exchange was captured on video by someone in the audience and posted on YouTube. Mauro said he was tired of the employee “mouthing off,” and Skrinjorich replied he was tired of Mauro yelling.

“No comment,” Mauro said during a break in the meeting when asked about the outburst. “It speaks for itself.”

Ringgold board meetings this year have been long and contentious, especially while seven of nine seats were up for grabs in the spring primary. Smith, who has been a Ringgold director for two decades, lost the election and Mauro has a challenger in November.

“This is just disruption,” Director William Stein said during the meeting recess.

Bulko said the district managed to balance a budget without layoffs or cuts in the curriculum.

District solicitor Tim Berggren added the changes in the budget were legal.

“We are in the black,” Bulko said.

Meanwhile, Skrinjorich said Ringgold has built over the years a $12 million fund balance.

The police officer left the meeting without needing to intervene. Polkabla said he also had been asked to attend because directors were expecting problems in the audience that never materialized.

In other business the board promoted assistant high school principal Jason Minniti to high school principal at an annual salary of $91,000.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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