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Superintendent Resigns, Acting Head Named

Holtzman takes job in Beaver Co.; father says board’s behavior ‘forced him out’

By Adam Reinherz
The Tube City Almanac
May 26, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Less than a year after being signed to a new five-year contract, the superintendent of McKeesport Area School District has resigned to take a job in another district.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the school board accepted the resignation of Superintendent Mark Holtzman Jr., effective June 30. Tia M. Wanzo was named acting superintendent, effective July 1.

Wanzo will receive an additional monthly stipend of $1,250 in addition to her present salary.

Beaver Area School District in Beaver County announced that Holtzman has been hired as its superintendent. Holtzman introduced himself to the district in a letter dated May 23.

In recent meetings, members of the school board have sparred with Holtzman over the legality of his contract. Holtzman was not present for Wednesday’s meeting, though during the public comment period, his father spoke.

“It’s a sad day for the district,” Mark Holtzman Sr. said, telling board members that their actions “forced (Mark Holtzman Jr.) out.”

Board member Dave Donato congratulated Wanzo and spoke of Holtzman’s service to the community despite significant hardships.

Having worked with local educators and administrators during the last five decades, Donato said, no one was “as giving as Mark Holtzman. Seldom have I seen the kind of individuals that would put together 12 and 14 hour days on behalf of kids in McKeesport Area School District.”

Holtzman had served as district superintendent since March 2017. At a special meeting in July, school directors in a 5-0 vote accepted Holtzman’s resignation and approved a new five-year contract. Four school directors were absent from the meeting.

According to the Pennsylvania School Code of 1949, a superintendent’s contract can only be extended in the final year of an existing contract and cannot exceed a period of five years.

Holtzman had two years remaining on his old contract. The move was controversial and drew attention from parents and taxpayers.

Earlier this year, board members voted 5–4 to hire an attorney to review the legality of Holtzman’s resignation and rehiring. Holtzman, in turn, hired his own attorney. Board members and Holtzman both publicly shared their assessment of the situation at subsequent meetings.

Mark Holtzman Sr. told the board that his son came to the district as a teacher before entering the administration. And with each climb, the father noted, his son continued helping students, often without any recognition.

“You lost a good one,” Mark Holtzman Sr. said, then urged the board to make Wanzo the permanent superintendent.

“She worked her butt off. She worked with one of the best,” he said.

During his five years as superintendent, Holtzman had been a vocal champion for McKeesport Area schools, testifying in favor of charter school reform and additional funding for poorer districts.

Donato said he questioned whether anyone was able to “do the little things better” than Holtzman.

“This was an unusual graduate alumnus that came back here and worked as hard as he could,” Donato said. “Think about the obstacles that this superintendent had to overcome: three years of COVID under the worst possible situations, mass professional retirements, and everything, and he’s holding it all together. I’m not sure that a lot of people, a lot of superintendents, that I served with in the past could perform under those circumstances.”

Donato praised Wanzo, saying that she and the outgoing superintendent “have been a heck of a team together, and after July 1 hopefully we'll be making the right decision at that time.”

Adam Reinherz is a Pittsburgh-based journalist. He can be reached at adam.reinherz@gmail.com.

Originally published May 26, 2022.

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