Thursday, March 07, 2002

Reading school head sought

Board declines to extend superintendent contract

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

        READING — The Reading Community Schools will get a new superintendent this summer — the district's third in four years.

        The Board of Education has decided not to renew Superintendent Sherry Parr's contract when it expires July 31. Instead, the board is interviewing consultants to assist it in a search for a replacement.

        “I'm very disappointed I did not get a new contract. I was not given any reasons,” Mrs. Parr said. “Reading will have a special place in my heart.”

        Board President Tom Bemmes, one of three board members to vote for the nonrenewal, said the board, on the advice of its attorney, would not discuss reasons for declining to offer Mrs. Parr a new contract.

        “When we are free to talk, we will explain our actions,” Mr. Bemmes said.

        Attorney William Deters II said the board has received correspondence from Mrs. Parr's attorney raising questions about wrongful termination and discrimination. Mrs. Parr's attorney could not be reached for comment.

        “I think she should have been offered a contract,” said board member Jim Perdue, one of two board members who voted against last month's nonrenewal.

        Mr. Perdue declined further comment.

        Mrs. Parr said she will begin looking for another job and plans to stay in Reading until her contract expires.

        “No one will see a difference in my work ethic,” Mrs. Parr said.

        Mrs. Parr became superintendent of the Mill Creek Valley district of 1,400 students in January 2000, replacing John Varis, whose contract was bought out in exchange for his resignation after a controversy arose about comments he made about arming teachers.

        Mrs. Parr was hired as Central Elementary School's principal in 1992, a position she held until being named interim superintendent in November 1999. She was named superintendent six weeks later.

        She oversaw creation of the district's first strategic plan, established an entry-year mentoring program for new teachers and negotiated a city/school agreement for use of athletic facilities.

        In her tenure, the district began an all-day kindergarten, began a free and reduced-price meal program, established a safe schools hot line and expanded community communications through a newsletter and Web site.


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