Coming Soon…

April 16, 2010

The award-winning investigative reporter Ken Bonnell (formerly of The Weekly Recorder) will be telling the “Stephanie Komorowski Story”.

What’s Public and Private in Trinity

January 26, 2010

I would like to start this post by explaining how I came across the Yahoo Personal Ad of Trinity High School Athletic Director and Football Coach Ed Dalton. A concerned parent brought the ad to my attention. This parent had several questions regarding the content of the ad and wanted the Trinity School Board Members to be aware of the concerns. However, because of the aggressive nature of several residents supporting Dalton, this parent was too scared to present the information to the board. Because they have seen me stand up for things in the past they asked if I’d be the one to present the document.

The personal ad was presented to the board at the January 21, Trinity School Board Meeting so we knew that all members were aware and received the information. The only member not present was Jerry Chambers, who has missed two meetings in the last two months.

I don’t want anyone to think I am targeting Dalton. I did not look for his personal ad. I wouldn’t have presented it if I didn’t have concerns, and since it has been presented I have been told by many people that they also shared the same concerns. When I got up to speak I didn’t even mention his name. WTAE had even sent a camera man to the meeting. If I wanted to make a big deal out of this I could have, but the big deal was actually made by Dalton’s small band of followers.
School Board Member Tom Bodnovich opened the meeting explaining to the room full of people that only 5 people were allowed to speak according to the school board policy. He wanted to make sure people knew it wasn’t his decision, it was policy.
I waited and when no one stood up to be the fifth speaker I asked if they were allowing anyone to speak at the end. They determined that speakers were only allowed at the beginning of this meeting. So it was then or never, and I felt this matter needed to be looked at.
Is a personal ad someone’s personal business? It would be if it weren’t plastered all over the internet for students, parents and anyone with access to a computer to see. And when your employer’s logo and students are in these so called personal ad’s, again are they personal?
The first issue with Dalton’s personal ad was his wearing of Trinity apparel in most of the pictures. He is clearly identifying his employer in something personal. He didn’t say in the ad where he worked but it was all over the pictures. Some school districts have suspended teachers for just posting pictures on sites. And most companies don’t want their image used without their permission.
Speaking of permission, there were students in the pictures that I’m sure were not aware they were part of a personal ad. What about the Observer Reporter? Did they know Dalton used one of their pictures (it actually had their name across the picture)? Did they give him permission?
But the most disturbing part of the personal ad was the age range this faculty member was interested in. And even that part I didn’t go into detail about in front of the crowd. Dalton, who is listed as both 49 and 50 years of age in the ad, had his age range of interest at 21-30. In bold letters he wrote “I HAVE NO INTEREST IN ANY WOMAN OVER 32 YEARS OF AGE.”
Many have questioned if someone couldn’t have posted this without his knowledge or if someone put in that age range without his permission. But no one can just post a personal ad, there are checks and balances, and if he posted an ad and someone wanted to change it they would need his password.
Since the meeting his pictures have been cropped to take out the students but he is still wearing the Trinity outfits and his age range has not changed as of three days after the meeting.
Is the type of woman he is looking for anyone’s business? If he’s overseeing girls who are only three years away from his dating range I would think so. And remember that was a range. He only specified for sure he didn’t want anyone over 32, which is 18 years younger than him. And there is such a grey area once kids hit a certain age that it hard to tell for sure what age a person is (that’s why they card people who even look like they are 30, because it’s so hard to tell if they are even legal to drink).
As many pointed out, there could possibly be students that are 21 that are students. These would be extenuating circumstances, but it is possible. Remember Dalton has only been working at Trinity for 11 years so if there was a student that was 18-19 when he started they would only be about 30 now.
As a graduate of Trinity I can say I’m disturbed and concerned because since I was a student (and even way before my time) the unwanted solicitation by teachers in the district has been well known. One teacher was arrested after he was moved from one school to another and one had to resign after he was caught purchasing inappropriate items and using questionable language with a student. I am not saying either one of these teachers was guilty, I’m just saying what happened.
The rumors that have surrounded certain Trinity teachers and their sexual interest in students have always been an accepted part of the school district. Some teachers have even married ex-students. There is nothing wrong with that, but if teachers are acting inappropriately towards their students there is an issue. The problem is at the school district tends to keep these matters quiet and tends to move the teachers from one school to another or simply moving them out of the subjects they teach. And that’s only when found out.
I have an article from MS magazine from the mid 90’s where a student who was in school with me talks about how a 47 year old teacher showed her inappropriate affections that could have brought the high school to its knees. There have always been rumors about who everyone believes this teacher was, but as of yet the identity has not been brought to the public attention.
I’m not saying that Dalton is going or has gone after any of Trinity’s students. I have never heard any rumors regarding Trinity Students. I just know what has gone on at Trinity. I am concerned that a demographic was targeted and specified, and that that target is very close to the age of students he is working with. Is it his personal business? Absolutely, but then keep it personal and don’t put it on the internet on a dating site.
How are girls at the high school going to feel? The consensuses from those I have spoken with have used the same word, “Creepy.” One teenager who went to the site pointed out, “He looks old, he doesn’t even look young.”
Again this ad was public information, anyone could find it. I did not contact Dalton regarding it because I am still waiting for him to contact me from a call I made to him a month ago. And the last time I talked to him he lied to me.
I want to stress again that when I presented this to the board I did not mention his name to the public. I just handed out the papers to the board members.
It was the curiosity of the residents that brought his name to their attention. If they weren’t looking over the shoulders of the school board, they came up to me afterwards and asked. They made it their business, I didn’t. Had they not made a big deal no one would have known who this person was except the school board. And you have to ask yourself, had it have been someone else how would they have reacted?
At the end of the meeting I was attacked like a wounded gazelle by a pack of hyenas. The pack was small but they were rabid. One couple was screaming in my face telling me it was his personal business and were not bothered at all by the age range. I kept trying to tell all of them that I didn’t try to make this a big deal, again I never said his name, had they not inquired they wouldn’t have known. They told me they were going to look into my background. I was later told by someone else that this couple is referred to as useful idiots. They are the ones that others get to do their dirty work and their joy seems to be in harassing people.
Another woman who at the last meeting told the board how she couldn’t get a job teaching at Trinity also screamed in my face. It’s good to know that she approves of what was in the ad and has the class (or lack thereof) to scream in my face because I had concerns for the students.
But the most disturbing person of the evening was the father of Assistant Principal Chad Daloia. At one point he grabbed my left arm hard and he was yelling at me and belittling me. I want to note that both of his sons and wife, that all work for the school district, were in the room. As he was screaming at me his wife went by and told me I should be ashamed of myself.
My question is for what? For bringing something to the school board’s attention regarding students? For the fact that I did it in an understated way?
The father wouldn’t leave me alone; he seemed to want to start fight with me. He was upset that I had never contacted Chad regarding an article I wrote about Dalton allegedly threatening school board member Colleen Interval. Chad was named in the police report but at that time his statement was not available for the public because the investigation was ongoing. For some reason Chad, who according to sources wasn’t present when the incident happened, wants me to talk to me. He’s called Cody Knotts at the Weekly Recorder who told him I didn’t have to talk to him and now his father is attacking me regarding the matter.
If Chad wants to be interviewed so badly why didn’t he call me? And why does he feel his input is important? I would think that if you were working for a school district you wouldn’t want to put your name out there. In the business world, management would know better than to want to talk to the media.
What concerns me is this man who was accosting me is the father of two employees of the school district. He was so aggressive with me that I had to threaten to call the police and have him escorted from the building if he didn’t allow me to get away from him.
One parent, who thought it was wonderful that I presented this information to the board, told me she thinks they would have hurt me if the WTAE camera man wouldn’t have come over with his camera on us.
I love that the board has been criticized for every little thing they do, but these residents are allowed to act like inmates at an insane asylum. As I stated before this group is really not that big, and more of them are starting to realize that they are being fed false information.
The reason most of them may have shown up could be due to the fact that Rick West sent out a mass text message stating critical decisions were going to be made. There is a small group trying to convince others that things are going on that really aren’t.
What will be interesting to see is how many of the followers will want to continue to be associated with those who are becoming more and more hostile and violent.
And how many people will continue to support Dalton? They can’t blame the school board or anyone else for his personal ad. How many of these parents would be ok with him if in three years their daughters brought him home for dinner? Besides the few parents that were screaming at me after the meeting, everyone else has been disturbed by the age range being targeted. Again it’s personal, but it’s out there for everyone to see, it’s not like he’s trying to hide it or has changed it.
The sad thing is that more parents showed up last meeting outraged over his job being opened then will show up next meeting regarding what he has posted in the internet. They may be disgusted but they won’t do anything. And what about these so-called student leaders, what will they do? Continue to blindly supports someone who has put it out there that he’s potentially in their dating pool?
If there is nothing wrong with what I gave the school board then what’s the big deal? And if there are questions that should have been addressed then shame on all those who didn’t want them to see it. You say you want the truth. Well there it was in black and white. As Jack Nicholson say’s in a Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth.”

Coming next, when will Stephanie Komorowski learn not to throw stones at glass houses?

From Beginning to End, One Big Misunderstanding

January 15, 2010

If I had only one statement to make about what happened at the Trinity School Board Meeting on January 7, I would take a quote from King of the Hill: the parents and students who stood up against the board showed us what feces would result “if shame ate too much stupidity.” They “made me envy the deaf and the blind.” Anyone who had a true understanding of what happened from beginning to end just shuddered as these residents expressed ill-informed views, made uneducated statements, and even contradicted each other.  They are the exact reason Trinity needs to be exorcised or have an enema from what currently exists. 

Although about 200 people showed up for the meeting, not everyone was against the board, and most of the audience was made up of student-athletes – not taxpaying residents.  Those who were in favor of the board’s original decision didn’t speak until the end of the meeting when most of the lynch mob had left. The crowd that showed up to keep Ed Dalton and Thomas Sabol in their current positions was a less civilized crowd to say the least. The agenda asked that people not be personally attacked, but that didn’t stop them.  And this was after they got what they wanted.  To say they were intimidating is an understatement.  A lot of residents are unhappy that the board rescinded their position – they were a minority of the crowd that night, but a majority that came out to put them in office last year.  These residents and taxpayers need to understand that the board had no choice.  What happened to them was done through bad or faulty information from those no longer working for them.  They believed that they had to act due to time constraints.  They knew they were inheriting a mess but didn’t realize how bad it was. 

Unlike past boards, this one tried to take action.  Did they act too fast? Maybe, but when do you start?  They were voted into those positions with the knowledge that residents wanted them to make changes.  More were happy with the original action to open the positions than were against.   It is unfortunate that what happened all the way around has been so misunderstood, and that the true hero’s have taken a short fall.

            First of all everyone needs to understand what really happened and why.  It wasn’t the whining of these parents or students that got the board to change their mind.  It all had to do with contracts.  The negligence of a past school board, superintendent and solicitor have lead to a problem no one knew about.  Ed Dalton, the Athletic Director and Football Coach, and Thomas Sabol, Director of Food Services, each had two contracts. One through Act 93, which is what has allowed them to keep their jobs, and also a separate contract.  Act 93 allows administrators and other workers that aren’t teachers to keep their jobs when their contracts are up, though they can renegotiate their pay. No one seems to know or understand why these employees had two contracts.

            Sources say the second contracts came about when Dr. Tom Turnbaugh became superintendent in 2005.  He not only had them in Act 93 but then gave them separate contracts.  Solicitor Tom Brongo would have been the legal advisor at the time.  Dalton’s contract called for him to be guaranteed a teaching position at top salary if his contracts weren’t renewed.  But why?  According to sources, no one has ever seen this before, not even at state level.  And why would a past board vote on this knowing that he has been out of the classroom for over a decade?  Did they know they had voted on that?  Several past board members didn’t know that was in his contract.  They also say they didn’t realize that he and Sabol had two contracts. 

            Should this surprise anyone?  Not if you’ve been going to Trinity School Board meetings over the years.  First of all, the school board members of past almost always blindly vote on whatever the Superintendent has told them.  They didn’t seem to research anything themselves and just did as told.  Second, in Turnbaugh’s last months he pushed through contracts that weren’t even finished, and had the board vote on them, only to finish them afterwards.  And the solicitor that Sam Puglisi, Gerry Chambers, Jenifer Fechko, Jim Knapp and Jeff Miller all wanted so bad, Brongo, allowed this all to happen under his watch.  Unfortunately the new board is now suffering from the negligence of these past members.  But the blame doesn’t lie just with them. It’s with the board before them as well. 

            Sources have also said that Turnbaugh was telling groups that they wanted to get their contracts done early because the new board wasn’t going to work with them.  This is why there were so many contracts renewed early.  So as all of us are taking pay cuts, losing our jobs and not seeing increased incomes but instead increased taxes, those who got their contracts renegotiated early all got raises, and we are paying for it.  This is what the new members and several of the old members were trying to stop when they filed for an injunction.  President of the Board Tom Bodnovich has been concerned about the tax payers since his first year on the board.  Both he and School Board member Jack Keisling have been fighting to keep taxes down and reign in spending.  If residents went to meetings they would know this.

            The school board had no other option but to rescind the motion from the December 10 meeting.  Had the contract had not been an issue, all jobs would be open, and the vote would not have changed.  Could they have kept all coaching positions open? Yes.  They probably caved more under the pressure and knowing they were going to have to rescind the bigger positions. 

            The second thing people need to understand, and this is something nobody that got up to talk that night seemed to grasp, is that no one was fired, positions were opened.  All that meant was these positions were opened for others, including those who held them, to apply.  If you were the best coach for the kids you had the spot back.  As a past student of Trinity that played several sports over the years I can tell you I did not have the best coaches.  But every year, these teachers making good money were getting extra money to come out and “coach”.  I’m not saying they aren’t teachers that are good coaches, but if you are good what do you have to worry about?

            And contacts were up. These men weren’t fired or they wouldn’t still be working.  They knowingly took jobs that were contractual.  That means limited to a certain amount of time at that amount to be negotiated at the end of the contract if both parties are interested.  Both Dalton and Sabol are making more than the average person holding their same positions.  In a time when people are struggling and companies are cutting back, why isn’t Trinity?  Why are they paying their employees more?  Are our residents richer than other places?  These employees are making three times what most households make in the Trinity School District.

            While we are on the subject of contracts, there was another one that was discussed that night that was not renegotiated or opened: that of the interim superintendent R. Tim Marks.  As parents and students questioned why they would let such a good man go, they didn’t seem to have an understanding of what he had agreed to.  According to school board members, the contract that Marks agreed to stated he would not apply for the superintendent position.  He was only hired for six months, no more and a full time job wouldn’t come out of it.  When Keisling tried to change things in the contract to save the school district money before it was voted on Turnbaugh told him that Marks may not come if they changed anything in the contract.  So he know what it said and, as far as the board knew, was not interested in renegotiating. 

            During his time as superintendent he was caught in lies by a school board member at several meetings and in the public eye.  He was getting paid $500 a day.  He didn’t have the credentials the current temporary superintendent has or the other consultant.  Why are these few students and parents so outraged?

            The truth is the meeting was more like a staged coup than rational people discussing relevant topics.  Each parent or student that stood up seemed to have or sometimes actually had a script.  It didn’t matter that the current temporary Superintendent James Dicks tried to explain what was going on.  It didn’t matter that they got what they wanted.  The witch hunt was not over.  They questioned decisions not only on Dalton and Sabol but also on Marks and even the fact that the school board was sending Assistant Superintendent Yvonne Weaver to Trinity South for 6 weeks.

            The board had explained from the beginning that a lot of their decisions were going to be economical.  Why wouldn’t you send Weaver, the Director of Elementary Curriculum, to a grade school for six weeks instead of going through the process of hiring someone temporary and pay them $4500?  She wasn’t being asked to work more hours and could take her work with her.  People do realize with technology like phones and computers that can be done, right?  But better yet how did one of the students know how much they were saving since it wasn’t brought before the public?  And what did he care? Most of those kids probably don’t know who she is.  But this student and his entire family stood up, each asking their own set of questions. 

            The disappointing thing for me was it was South Strabane Supervisor Dan Piatt.  After seeing him that night I regret ever having faith in any decision he has ever made for my township, and he was just re-elected for six more years.  Piatt of all people should know that board members can’t always reveal to the public all reasons for their decisions.  We elect them in hopes they will make a decision that is the best for us.  When Piatt makes a decision from now on should we be asking him “why” every time? His prepared speech, which was hard to understand through his tears, was mumbled and read through so fast, it was hard to understand him.   

            But to shed a little light for some here it goes.  Sabol along with making about $30,000 more than  the average food director (and by the way he isn’t a dietitian so if your kids have allergies or need a special diet he has to refer them to someone else) was also not aware of but not fixing a problem with middle school lunches.

            Middle school students now have their 40 minute lunch divided into two twenty minute periods.    One part study hall and one part lunch – that alone is wrong.  How does a kid get through the lunch line and eat and have time to digest a meal in 20 minutes?  Do teachers get 20 minute lunches?  The problem with Sabol isn’t the amount of time they have for lunch, it’s the actual amount of lunch they have to eat.  Apparently the cafeteria runs out of meals by the last group and these students are eating chips and candy bars and a piece of fruit.  For some kids this is their only meal of the day.  Why aren’t there parents screaming about that?  Sources say Sabol is aware of the problem and has told them he doesn’t want leftover food.  The same problem may also be going on in the grade schools.

            So when Trinity student Ben Brownlee and the others were thankful for their juice machine that Sabol put in, were they aware that students are going without food?   They also thanked Chambers for not voting with the other last time.  He wasn’t there to vote, another meeting was less important and he left.  So you were thanking him for not taking the time to attend the meeting?  They also thanked Knapp who has barely said a word in two years.  He has never discussed education, but suddenly is taking an interest in this cause revolving around sports.   And these kids were called student leaders by their parents and others there supporting someone’s cause.  They talked about how proud they were of the kids for getting involved.  But what wasn’t said was that many students were bullied or teased into signing petitions.  Or that what these kids were saying weren’t the facts.  During his comments, Brownlee, who said he was going to West Point, attacked one of the school board members proclaiming to the audience that she had told him in a phone conversation what he wanted didn’t matter. The member tried to correct him but he kept going.  Again the agenda asked that no one make it personal and to stay on point. So much for a student leader, if that’s where our country is headed, good luck.  

            These same students praised their education, again showing the new board is right to have concerns in that area.  If these students can’t do the research and don’t have basic comprehension skills, Trinity needs to overhaul their faculty and get rid of the dead weight.

            The truth is most schools are cutting back, and as I’ve said before there will be a lot of changes if residents don’t want their taxes to sky rocket.  Recent boards have spent money and drastically lowered the capital reserve.  Most of which has had nothing at all to do with the education of the students.  The state of Pennsylvania has made it so teachers get 95% of their last year salaries instead of 75%.  Since most Trinity teachers retire at about $78,000 a year now, their pensions are over $70,000. On top of that, if they took the recent early buyout, they get another $7,000 a year for so many years – and they aren’t working.  This means that one retired teacher’s pension, not to mention any social security, is the income of about 5 retired residents on fixed incomes or two to three average household incomes.

            Because of this and other changes in the pensions, Trinity will have to come up with $2.5 to $2.6 million in two years and every year from then out.   And since a recent consultant didn’t see the area expanding (that means no additional tax base), they have to get it from somewhere.  This board is very well aware of the problems that are before them.  They are trying to not only handle the economic problems and keep taxes down but also improve the education system at Trinity that has been neglected for decades.  However, the parents that showed up that night didn’t commend them on being concerned about that and hiring two highly qualified men to help, they scolded them for trying to save money.

            I take that back.  There were two very brave and well spoken citizens that came forward that night.  One gentleman addressed the fact that they were elected to make these changes and told them to keep up the good work.  And Karen Richmond, a parent that tries to come to all the meetings was my hero.  She got up and thanked the parents who showed up that night and that she hopes to see them again.  She recognized Mrs. Piatt, whose last appearance at a meeting was when she came to thank the board for astro-turf.  Piatt started yelling from her seat at that point.  She had told the audience when she spoke she was a kindergarten teacher, what would she do to her students if they acted like that?

            Richmond went on to try to inform the crowd that these board members had done nothing wrong, no one was fired and Marks had a specific contract.  Again Piatt started yelling.  But as always, Richmond held her own.  She thanked the board for continuing to work on improving the education for the students.

            In the end did anyone win? No.  Those fighting to keep Dalton won by default, and again was that a win?  And those who tried to do the right thing were held back by past boards’ ignorance.  But this has all just begun.  Hopefully those who voted to make changes will take more of an interest than just sitting back and judging the new board.  It’s not an easy road they have ahead of them, but they are the ones who were brave enough to take it on.

More to come, this story isn’t over and there are still more details to discuss.

Here Ye, Here Ye!

January 14, 2010

Welcome to my new blog. Get the scoop on the events in Trinity and around the world right here!


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