Published June 28. 2022 10:16AM
A Central Columbia School District administrator is Lehighton Area School District’s new superintendent following a split vote Monday night.
Lehighton voted 6-2 to hire Christina Fish to a contract running through Aug. 31, 2025. According to the contract, Fish, who has spent the last 12 years as Central Columbia’s director of pupil services/special education, will make $132,500 in her first year with Lehighton as well as receiving a $7,500 signing bonus. She is set to receive a 3% increase in each of the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to help Lehighton move forward,” Fish said after the meeting. “I’m excited to work with the staff, teachers and administration to do what is right for the kids. This is a wonderful district.”
Fish’s hiring didn’t come completely void of controversy, however. Directors April Walker and Walter Zlomsowitch voted no, and Zlomsowitch resigned his position on the board later in the meeting.
“I thought when we were first sitting down to try to find a replacement, the goal was to find an experienced superintendent,” Zlomsowitch said. “That was my thought but I guess it was just an assumption.”
Directors Barbara Bowes, Joy Beers, Nathan Foeller, Jeremy Glaush, Brian Shaner and Kerry Sittler voted in favor of hiring Fish.
“Although I wasn’t happy with the original process, I spent many extra hours sitting in the back looking at the packets we received,” Bowes said. “I was at all of the interviews including the second interview. I honestly feel that Ms. Fish will do a great job. She has a big job ahead of her in correcting the problems that have arisen. I ask that you give her a chance.”
Lehighton has been under the guidance of acting Superintendent Jack Corby since the board terminated the contract of Jonathan Cleaver, who had been superintendent for nine years, in December 2020, alleging previous boards approved illegal contract extensions. Two days later, Cleaver filed a lawsuit against the district alleging breach of contract. That matter is still pending in Carbon County Court.
Fish joined Central Columbia in 2010 as special education director. In addition, she is the district’s Title IX officer, Office of Civil Rights officer, homeless liaison, and foster care liaison. She also worked for the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit for 17 years; six as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing, one as an educational consultant in behavior and curriculum & instruction, and 10 as a special education supervisor.
“Lehighton is very similar to the district where I currently work,” Fish said. “I like the size. I like the single campus feel where we can really focus on kids K-12. Central Columbia has a great pathways model and I know Lehighton is starting off on that and I’m eager to help them move forward.”
Fish said her initial goal is to learn more about Lehighton and become a part of the community.
“I really want to help Lehighton heal as we move forward and focus on what’s great about the district and the opportunities for our students here,” she added.
Part of Fish’s contract states that, “In its sole discretion, the board may grant additional salary increases and merit-based bonuses.”
That language bothered Lehighton resident Autumn Abelovsky.
“That just screams you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours to me,” Abelovsky said, “much the same as the replacement and appointment of the district solicitor.”
Abelovsky also questioned how the board could justify paying Fish $30,000 more than she made with her previous employer.
“With the 3% annual increases, Ms. Fish will be earning in 3.5 years the same as Mr. Cleaver earned here after 10 years of service as superintendent,” she added.
Fish’s start date in Lehighton is yet to be determined as it is unknown when Central Columbia will release her.
Lehighton on Monday approved an agreement with Corby for him to assist the district as acting superintendent/acting assistant to the superintendent, from July 1 through no later than Aug. 31, 2022, at a cost of $650 per day.
Monday was Dr. Keith “Jake” Boyer’s last meeting as acting assistant to the superintendent.
“The best part of my experience was the interaction with all of the students,” Boyer said. “This district has great kids. Please continue to work together for the betterment of the students. They are our best natural resource.”
Christina Fish JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS