Juniata County Schools hires Dawson as superintendent

Tussey Mountain School District Board member John Baughman, left, speaks to Superintendent Gary Dawson in 2017 after the board hired him as superintendent.

Tussey Mountain School District will be looking for another leader as Superintendent Gary Dawson is set to move on to another district.

Dawson was hired as superintendent of the Juniata County School District Wednesday night.

The Mifflintown district’s board of directors approved Dawson’s hiring on a 5-to-4 vote in a special voting session.

Dawson will fill the position currently filled by interim Superintendent Christie Holderman, who took over in June. She followed interim Superintendent Shawn Kovac, former Everett principal, who had served in the position since February.

Kovac was appointed following the resignation of Keith Yarger, who left as state police were looking into undisclosed allegations, according to published reports. The district had expressed “concerns about transparency,” the board’s attorney said in a statement regarding Yarger’s resignation.

Dawson is to officially take over the district “on or before Nov. 18,” said Polly Digon, secretary for the board.

Digon said the split in the board was because of several factors expressed by board members and the public in a district that has experienced some turmoil in recent months.

“Some board members wanted to wait. We have a new administrative alignment here and they wanted to see how that worked out,” she said.

Digon added that new board members will be sworn in after November and “some wanted to let them make the decision” on a new superintendent.

Also, there was a financial consideration, the secretary said. Holderman is set to return to her job as assistant superintendent. Some were unsure if the district needs a superintendent and an assistant superintendent.

Still others wanted Holderman to stay at the helm because they believed she bolstered morale, according to comments in an article published Thursday by the Lewistown Sentinel.

Digon said she didn’t immediately know what Dawson’s salary will be. His contract will expire June 30, 2023.

Digon said the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit (11) conducted the search for the new superintendent. The entire board participated in interviews, she added.

Tussey Mountain board President Jim Hodge said he was surprised Thursday by the news of Dawson taking another position.

“It came as a surprise as we were led to believe it was only a possibility,” Hodge said. “I wish him good luck and I hope he finds whatever he is looking for.”

Dawson, of Bedford, was first hired by Tussey Mountain at its July 17, 2017, meeting, at a rate of $101,500 effective Aug. 7, 2017, for four years.

He was hired in a period of transition at the district, not only as Mark Bollman had left to lead the Bedford County Technical Center, but also as the district was closing two of its three elementary schools and everything that came with the closure. Prior to working at Tussey Mountain, Dawson, a Cumberland, Maryland, native was an assistant principal in the Bedford Area School District, a position he had held since the closing of the Hyndman High School at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

Dawson did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Contact Katie Smolen at 623-1151 ext. 110 or ksmolen@bedfordgazette.com.

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