Aug 19, 2011

Zahorchak Departs

Although the school board president said Zahorchak's departure was necessary to save money, and the newspaper dutifully reported that, we can't afford too many savings like that. Lets add up the savings. Effective principals removed from our schools and hidden in closets down on Penn Street. Remember Falko? Successful principal who kept Allen under control, removed and reassigned to the never implemented Over Achiever Academy at 4th and Allen. Remember the hundreds of honor students pleading with the school board to stay at Allen and Dieruff, where they participated in the extra curricular activities and mentored their fellow students. Remember all the additional administrators hired, including Joyce Marin, revealed on this blog. This blog recognized last fall that Zahorchak had more ideas than we either needed or could afford. Let's hope that the school board learned something from this expensive lesson. Take your time with the next hire, your instincts aren't that good.

Fire Him Now, October 13, 2010
The Nickel and Diming of Allentown, November 9, 2010
White Charter School, February 21, 2011
Defending A Bad Decision, March 2, 2011
Allentown School District, April 1, 2011
Caution, unconfirmed rumor, April 14, 2011
School District on Front Burner, April 30, 2011
Pathways To Success, June 2, 2011
The Idea Man, June 8, 2011
Hardball on Penn Street, June 24, 2011
Zahorchak's Politics Compromise School District, June 29, 2011

The above is a partial list of the posts this blog brought to bear on the appropriateness of the board hiring Zahorchak, and his performance in that position. I have omitted my posts about The Morning Call not crediting this blog in their coverage, despite scoops, and direct comments from school board members and the superintendent alike. The posts above speak for themselves.


binzley said...

No gloating MM. You were right re: Zahorchak from the beginning. The board should take very seriously who it hires for this important position. They obviously did not do due diligence in their previous hire.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Michael, you have provided worthy input into ASD's blunder in hiring an inexperienced bureaucrat. Thank you.

Urban education today is a much different animal than most could ever imagine. Degrees and titles might actually mean nothing in winning the battle that is today's public education.

This guy, Zahorchak, was hapless from the start. The ASD teachers said as much, but they were ignored. Maybe it's time to actually LISTEN to those on the front lines.

My hope is, a new school board recognizes there were several other ways to pare expenses without cutting back on folks who actually do the ESSENTIAL work, together with kids.

ASD will wallow along until it finds a successful urban education leader with a PROVEN record of success. A leader who recognizes a motivated classroom teacher, given all the tools necessary, CAN make a difference in kids' lives.

Anonymous said...

Is he really gone?

Anonymous said...


Were you not a Zahorchak apologist from the beginning?

Now you have switched camps?

michael molovinsky said...

inquires indicate that zahorchak is still in our employ, however, that compensation would end if he takes a position elsewhere.

binzley, or anybody, is entitle to shift positions as the reality of a situation changes. perhaps he felt that as captain of our ship, thing would sail better with support. despite the post, it is not the intention of this blog to gloat over zahorchak's departure. let us say that this short tenure put the students, teachers and taxpayers through quite a few gyrations.

binzley said...

Thanks for the defense MM but let me try for myself. RE: Retired ASD teacher, let me say that Dr. Z was experienced. He was a very good teacher. He taught my college class and was a great success. He did it with skill. And by the way, "Bureaucrat" is not nor should it be a dirty word. Shame on folks who use ti that way.

RE: the charge of being a Zahorchak apologist, I plead guilty. Dr. Z is a good man and a friend. He is sincerely motivated to improve public education. He did not get into this business in order to obtain wealth.

MM has it right however, when a city hires its lead educator he or she should be given at least a year to make the improvements needed to help students. I did not believe Dr. Z was given any slack from the beginning. If the next super is criticized right out of the box, which is the temptation on this blog, I regret to say, we will lose another year in our efforts to educate our children.

I would not have hired Dr. Z for superintendent. I said so privately at the time. The ASD board did not do its job here. Dr. Z is a good man and I wish him well.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, for the record, let me say although he was criticized early on this blog, he was not criticized in the press and elsewhere. we are in an era where media scrutiny is virtually nonexistent. for example, the current articles on the hockey arena could have been written by the city's press agent; there's not even a hint of a downside. this blog doesn't exist to be the nay-sayer, however, i will continue to call it as i see it.

binzley said...

I know you do not like my views on things like this but why is it that there is little media scrutiny? The monied interests don't want it. If Woodward and Bernstein ran the Morning Call we would have a list of all the business men and lawyers who are making money off the arena, the campaign contributions of each and an investigation as to how these decisions are really made.

Thanks for doing what you can but we need a free press not a for-profit corporate press.

Anonymous said...

Local radio news says guy gone because schools can't afford his salary but radio does not go on to report he's still here at same salary plus! What a disgraceful news broadcast. Maybe someone in Allentown will uncover the truth about his new salary and new contract as well as why he changed jobs at this point.

Wise Man from the West End said...

I wish to point out though that he is not gone. The city schools have still implemented his half-baked plan, a plan that put 240 teachers through a furlough process needlessly. The majority of those 240 have been brought back SOME were brought back within hours of the budget passed in June. The reality was that this was an economic move purely nothing to do with a better curriculum or improving the test scores of the district. He was forced to bring back teachers because he didn't have enough to even properly run the building. The board left this guy off the hook for months with half-truths, non-answers, and in some cases out right lies. Unfortunately, Dr. Z rides off into the sunset now while we in the city are left with the policies he designed and now couldn't even bear to implement on his own. Re-read the Call article...there are at least 3 different reasons for this departure if you read the article carefully. The entire debacle of Zahorchak from start to finish has been a joke and a disaster which until his ideology is repealed, will still be with us.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 6:54, not to gloat, but i think you will find the closest thing to the truth on this blog, despite the short posts. consider the new job and salary compensation for the mutual termination of his five year contract. there are a number of reasons for the board's change of heart concerning their choice 14 months ago. some may have been displeased about the joyce marin job insertion, exclusively revealed on this blog. some may have been displeased about a reported abrupt management style. some may have been displeased with the public's perception of changes in the school district. zahorchak himself may have become alienated with criticism of his leadership, creating a mutually acceptable exit strategy.

wise man, your comment is right on the money, and the money is the relevant term. for the departure to be described as money saving, is face saving, on part of the school board, and superficial on part of the press.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest that Allentown School District Zahorchak and Pinellas County, Fl School District Janssen switch positions. Both have been found to be lacking in their current positions, however dont have the tact to withdraw gracefully before their contracts end. Should they switch positions, both districts could gloat over their new choices, watch in amazement all the new ideas both can present to their new districts, and above all, both could collect their remaining contracts and severance pays from the respective school districts. Everyone wins! Another Gold Ring from the Contract Carnival Merry-Go-Round!

binzley said...

To answer the question of Dr. Z staying on the payroll, it is this: In order to get Dr. Z to resign without a fight, the board gave him his salary for another year. This will provide Dr. Z with money and a one additional year's credit toward his retirement account. This is often done in situations like this. To the board's credit this was accomplished easily and without great expense. If one wants to see how bad a termination of a superintendent can be look at Philly where the price is @ $1.5 million and great wars among the populace.

The real question for MM is what was, in fact, the final straw? Serious readers want to know.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, i stand by my 7:31 comment, don't let my repeated use of the phrase may detract from the accuracy.

Anonymous said...


Labile, obsessed with public image, could not handle board criticism, political clout minimized with the new governor, fickle, could not stand to be pushed back on ideas and or decisions, would not work with colleagues at other districts, a whore when it came to local political influence, threatening to subordinates and always had to be on top.

And, oh least I forget, if you think there are financial problems now, wait until the arena is built.

Top priority was his career - not the community or the students.

"In the know, believe me."

Much, much more to come.

Monkey Momma said...

I wonder what the kids and families of the ASD think of these shenanigans. It is distressing to read of the trouble in this district. But, could anyone be a successful superintendent here? As Mike Donovan suggests over at his blog, the solution to ASD's woes is complicated and requires more than just a school district solution - it requires a community solution. Unfortunately, our community has just made it quite clear the priority here is restaurants, an arena and freakin' convention center - NOT school.

In any event, I want to thank Molovinsky for continuing to report on the details of what's happening in the ASD. Keep calling them as you see them, MM, because nobody else is!

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Monkey Momma, after 33 years in ASD, I can offer this opinion. The district's families, the kids, are primarily concerned with stability and familiarity with their neighborhood school. They don't analyze what's going on in the city, at the ASD administration building.

IF they can develop a comfort level with their building principal, their teachers, their guidance counselors, their school nurses, etc., there is a CHANCE they'll buy-in to greater academic achievement.

Radical changes in the staff (and classes offered) of the neighborhood building are upsetting. Many parents who are poor, or lacking in English speaking skills, are fearful of simply entering the buildings.

Managing ASD is VERY different from managing Parkland, East Penn, etc. VERY LITTLE can go "by the books."

Dynamic urban education leaders ARE out there. Unfortunately, the resumes of Zahorchak, and the previous Superintendent, were lacking in the kind of experience and skill sets ASD requires.

Anonymous said...

With all respect Mr. Donovan has many great theories but falls short on follow through in his public service efforts.

It has always been evident the priorities of the mayor and his council neglect the true needs of the city. No one in the city seems to be rushing to the aid of the ASD.

People are helping the ASD in many areas but no one writes about it on any blog. All of us have our perspectives, regretfully when things happen as the topic of this post we tend to rush to judgement.

Those who do make an effort and are sincere in their approach to public service are often vilified through broad generalizations and generalized disparagement. After a while they just walk away.


binzley said...

Chumscrubber and Retired ASD teacher: These are two of the best posts I have read on Molovinsky on Allentown.

Chumscrubber point out that no intelligent sensitive young person who reads these blogs and similar media would ever aspire to public service and take the generalized abuse that seems to be put forth in mean and viscious ways.

Retired teacher points out that in educating our young very little has to do with the actions of politicians and city leaders, even superintendents. it is the quality of the building principals and teachers that are the key.

Anonymous said...

Monkey Momma,

For years I attempted to get the school board and various superintendents to recognize their responsibility to address city issues that bear a direct impact on the district. They needed to be advocating the district’s best interests at various zoning and planning meetings. They refused. The results are what they are; Allentown is the fastest growing municipality in the state with rapidly rising rates of poverty and exploding school enrollments. This is a big problem that will seriously impact the district’s ability to provide any of the district’s students a quality education.
The school board needs to be a presence at planning and zoning meetings. They need to make it clear that changes that allow or facilitate continued student population growth undermine the educational opportunities for the district’s current students. Where are our priorities? Who is watching out for the district’s children?

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Share Scott Armstrong August 21, 2011 10:31 AM post. Still recall the time years ago a phone call to a school principal about 6-year-olds alone crossing 7th Street to a nearby elementary school brought the following: "It's not our job."