After two tight ballots, the Altoona region school board appointed Chris Cook as the vacant principal of the school on Monday evening.
Cook, whose appointment is effective immediately, will serve a two-year term on the school board that was released early last month with the resignation of former board chair Sharon Bream.
“I am honestly delighted that the board of directors voted and chose me” said Cook, who was approved by a 7-1 vote after two ballots, with the only dissenting vote from board member Dave Francis.
Cook will serve the remainder of Bream’s tenure, which expires in December 2023.
Bream tendered his resignation to the board of directors on December 5, with Superintendent Charles Prijatelj citing it as a retirement.
Cook, 41, graduated in 1998 from Altoona Area High School and currently owns seven small businesses in Altoona.
He won the seat ahead of seven other candidates, all of whom were publicly interviewed by the board on Monday night.
“It seems like an incredible opportunity has presented itself”, Cook said. “I am very excited to start. “
The eight candidates for the post, who were due to submit a letter of interest by Dec. 27, had five minutes to speak to the board and explain why they wanted to become a principal.
In the initial ballot-driven vote, board members Kelly Irwin-Adams, Val Mignogna, Eric Haugh and David Greenwood voted in favor of Cook’s appointment; Francis, Ron Johnston and Frank Meloy voted for Tina Johnston; and Stephanie McGinnis provided the only vote for Dave Aboud.
With no candidate receiving at least five votes in the first round, Cook, Aboud and Tina Johnston were invited to a series of follow-up interviews where they were asked about how parents should be involved in the process. of the curriculum.
After the follow-up question, Meloy transferred his vote to Cook, providing him with the five votes needed to claim the vacant seat.
“I think the eight candidates would have made an excellent choice”, said Méloy. “It was just a matter of trying to narrow it down to one person. There is nothing special that influenced me. We just had to reduce it to one person.
A final ballot took place to approve Cook’s appointment, with all board members except Francis voting yes.
Cook, who was previously treasurer of Second Avenue United Methodist Church and is currently a board member of the Blair County Arts Foundation, said he hoped to bring an additional voice of reason to the board.
“I want to be part of a team” said Cook, whose daughter is a high school student in the Altoona area. “I don’t want to jump here like a spearhead or a bull. I want to be able to contribute and be a team player.
Several candidates from various backgrounds lobbied for the vacant post.
Tina Johnston, who is Ron Johnston’s wife and has taught at the Altoona area high school for 26 years, said she was seeking the position to provide more representation at the high school level.
She narrowly missed the cut in the November general election as she contested one of four board seats, but finished fifth.
“I wanted to bring some experience from secondary education to the board”, says Tina Johnston. “We have a wonderful elementary representation on the board, and I think the people currently on the board can speak very well to the basics. But I feel like there is no voice for high school, and these kids are very important.
Aboud, who taught in the district for 41 years and retired in 2019, has shown an interest in opening up giving back to the district and continuing his extracurricular duties.
He was a student council advisor for 40 years and was twice named PA student council advisor of the year, and he wanted to create additional opportunities for students to engage with the community.
“I really want to keep getting involved in the school and helping others. “ said Aboud.
Other candidates who interviewed for the job but did not receive a follow-up interview included former principal Rick Hoover, who served on the board for four years and completed his mandate in December.
Hoover’s presentation to principals included his familiarity with board procedures, and he said he believed he could have eased the transition.
“I am 100% up to date. “ Hoover said. “I know the procedures (and) I know the committees. I have a good working relationship with the administration, teachers and students. If you put me in this place, I’m good to go on the first day.
Trudy Peterman, a former assistant superintendent from another district, praised her experience as an administrator.
Peterman touted her experience with budgeting, collective bargaining and day-to-day operations, noting that she would be an informed member of the board.
Another former district worker, Michael Pappas, worked as a warden for 35 years and said he believed he was ready to take on the responsibilities of a job as a “Prestige and responsibility”.
“I am here because I care deeply about our children and our city” Pappas said.
Natalie Barlick-Reed, a Penn Cambria alumnus who works as an emergency and critical care oncology nurse, touted her experience in grant writing as well as her knowledge of local, state and federal laws.
“I would prefer facts and knowledge to hearsay” she said.
Kelly (Williams) Bowers has a child with special needs in the district and has sought the position to provide more opportunities for children who suffer from the same challenges as hers.
“I have really spent the last 12 years bridging the gap between students with special needs and the district,” Bowers said, adding that she had worked with the district as a special education aide.
After the meeting, Francis encouraged respondents to put their names on the 2023 ballot for the school principal.
Mirror staff writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.