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Shaler Area Middle School welcomes new principal

September 1, 2018

The Shaler Area School Board has hired Eric Stennett as Shaler Area Middle School principal.

The Shaler Area School Board has hired Eric Stennett as Shaler Area Middle School principal.

Stennett, who will earn $110,000, is replacing Marty Martynuska, who will serve as the Reserve Primary School principal.

The vote on Aug. 15 was 7-1, with board members Jason Machajewski absent and Tim Gapsky dissenting.

Gapsky said that while he respects Superintendent Sean Aiken’s recommendation to hire Stennett, who has 27 years of experience as an educator, he is disappointed that the district isn’t filling the position internally.

Stennett, a Shaler Area alumnus, served at Shaler Area in various principal and assistant principal roles from 1998 to 2008. Most recently, he worked as an assistant professor and education director in Point Park University’s doctorate of education in leadership and administration program. He previously served as Hampton Township Middle School principal until August 2016.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Stennett back to Shaler Area School District,” Aiken said. “Dr. Stennett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in middle school leadership to the district.”

Gapsky said he thinks hiring from within the district would have eased the financial strain on what he considers an “unbalanced district.”

The school board approved a $85 million budget for 2018-19 in June that contained a 0.25-mill property tax increase. Aiken had said in May that the district had a “revenue challenge” and would be belt-tightening.

Before the start of the Aug. 15 board meeting, Dorothy Petrancosta, a Shaler property owner, said that “this is not the time” to hire an additional principal when student enrollment has decreased over the last decade. She referenced the district’s economic situation by mentioning that Mount Alvernia Day Care & Learning Center withdrew its offer to purchase the former Jeffery Primary School. The district hopes to get $300,000 for the building and is still looking for a buyer.

Board member James Tunstall said that he hopes the new principal will lead the administration in correcting issues it has repeatedly identified at the middle school.

“We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t do everything that we could to fix these problems,” he said. “We owe it to the district and we owe it to the kids in this district.”

“Given the state of the school and the test scores that are continually low, I don’t think the school is meeting the expectations that we should have for our students and our community,” said board member Suzanna Donahue.

Board President April Kwiatkowski said that, knowing Stennett’s background, he “is going to make a significant impact, not only in this (administrative) building with his colleagues in the different principal positions, but in the district as a whole.”

After the board voted to hire Stennett, Petrancosta said it should fire an employee to make up for the hire.

“Get rid of somebody. ... We have a fiscal situation going on and if you can sit across from me and tell me why you chose to vote this man in ... but you don’t have people who have been here as long as these people have been here, who can step up and do it, then get rid of them,” she said.

Stennett has a bachelor’s from Wittenberg University and a master’s degree from Wright State University, both in Ohio, and received his doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. He also has an instructional technology certification from Duquesne University.

He served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 15 years. He is a veteran of the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Stennett has three children. He and his wife, Colleen, reside in Hampton.

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