Why is Juniata County School District paying people not to work?

As you’ve probably already seen on our front page today, former director of secondary education Edward Apple is still collecting salary from the Juniata County School District despite his current status as an “unassigned employee.”

Apple joins former superintendent Keith Yarger in the club of those who are receiving compensation from JCSD despite not having any actual job responsibilities.

In fairness, per the terms of his separation agreement with the district, this is the final week Yarger will collect said salary and benefits (his effective resignation date is this coming Monday).

The district has said this arrangement is the lesser of two evils when compared to the cost of potential litigation. But the public still has had to finance a superintendent the district hasn’t had for two months. How exactly is that fair to those who struggle to make ends meet just to pay their school taxes each year?

As for Apple, his position was eliminated under the recent reorganization and he was not reassigned. Normally, that results in being laid off or furloughed, but for some reason that hasn’t been the case for Apple. Why does the school district continue to pay Apple and yet have nothing for him to do?

If the school board says, like with Yarger, paying Apple to not work is somehow in the district’s legal and long-term financial interest, the question must be asked: how could the board allow JCSD to be put in a position in which that is the case in the first place for multiple members of its administration?

Like the circumstances surrounding Yarger’s departure, this seems peculiar at best and suspicious at worst from a board that hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt. It’s even more eyebrow-raising because during that same meeting Apple was denied a position as a volunteer assistant baseball coach at Juniata High School by the board, normally the type of vote that is a mere formality.

As has been the standard modus operandi, the board hasn’t said much, but these are questions to which we feel the public has a right to know the answers.

It is our hope that — in the interest of transparency with the taxpayers of Juniata County — the school board provides all of us with those answers sooner rather than later, perhaps at Wednesday night’s board meeting or after Yarger’s resignation takes effect on Monday.

It is also our hope that a strong public showing at Wednesday’s meeting will indicate to the board that a matter like this cannot simply be allowed to go away quietly, nor is it acceptable to essentially be handing out gobs of public money for nothing.

However, if, despite all that, the board still insists on remaining tight-lipped, then it’s incumbent upon the public, if it really wants transparency from its school directors, to eventually remedy the issue at the ballot box.

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