The Crestwood School Board accepted the resignations of the district’s superintendent and business manager on Thursday.
Superintendent Bob Mehalick will become Assistant Superintendent at Hazleton Area Schools while Business Manager Peter T. Bard has been promoted to Susquenita School District in Perry County.
In his message to the public, Mehalick mentioned the upcoming changes at Crestwood and promised to help the next superintendent with the transition. However, he said the night was more about remembering Dr. William Ziegler, an orthodontist and longtime district resident for whom the council held a minute’s silence.
Board chairman Barry Boone, however, acknowledged Mehalick and Bard as “stalwart supporters” of Crestwood.
Speaking of Mehalick, Boone said, “In two years I’ve gained a lifelong friend, one who has guided this district through what have probably been the toughest years in its history.”
Mehalick came to Crestwood in 2019 after serving as superintendent of the Carbondale area and director of special education for the Wilkes-Barre area school districts.
He helped develop and implement policies allowing classes to meet remotely and, later, in
person in the last 22 months of the pandemic.
“I will definitely leave a part of my heart here because of what we went through,” Mehalick said after the meeting. “Going through a pandemic: they didn’t teach me that anywhere.
“We have always kept the attention, the concentration, the well-being of our students as a priority. I could only have done this with an amazing board, faculty, and community.
Raymond Joseph, a Grade 11 student, pointed out that Mehalick pushed for a unified track team involving all students, including those with physical or mental challenges. Joseph told the board that Mehalick made a difference to him and his classmates by attending school events and just talking to them in the hallways.
“I just wanted to thank you and let you know that we will miss you,” Joseph said.
Boone said Mehalick calls around the clock, weekends and holidays to update council members.
“His loyalty to this district is unquestionable,” said Boone, who tried to convince Mehalick to stay in Crestwood, “but his loyalty … to his old friends and his own district won out. He cannot not and should not be blamed for it.
Mehalick grew up attending schools in the Hazleton area, where he still lives and served for 12 years on the school board.
He said he believes Crestwood and Hazleton are two of the best school districts in the area.
“I know for sure that the quality of education and the quality of educators are as good as they come… The dedication of the staff in both is tremendous, the attitude of never giving up.”
He is studying for his doctorate in education at Wilkes University, and his $125,000 contract requires him to give 60 days notice before leaving Crestwood.
When his schedule allows, he continues to profit from the music industry, which he entered as a disc jockey to earn money in college 35 years ago. Now he travels as a road manager and advisor to performers.
Bard, who will become assistant superintendent of Susquenita, said he learned from Mehalick.
“Bob is a phenomenal leader. He taught me a lot of leadership skills. In the two years I worked with him, he taught me so much that it’s going to make me a better leader,” Bard said.
Boone, meanwhile, said Bard brought Crestwood “from the brink of bankruptcy.”
When Bard arrived in early 2020, Crestwood had a fund balance of $96,000, which he said was dangerously low for a district with a $44 million budget.
Primarily due to budget cuts, he said the balance has grown to $2.6 million, according to the latest audit, and Crestwood still has the lowest tax rate of the districts in the mid-unit of Alfalfa.
“I’m very proud of that,” Bard said.
For the next three months, he will remain in Crestwood and continue budget meetings, which will be held after monthly school board committee meetings.
“This board has some of the best people I’ve ever met,” Bard said.
He wants to help council members prepare for the end of federal pandemic money.
“The neighborhood hasn’t come out of the tax wood, but it’s in a better place than when I got there. That’s still my focus,” Bard said.
Bard, who lives in Hazleton, initially plans to make the 75-minute drive from his home in Susquenita and “see how it goes”.
At Susquenita, Bard was offered a $30,000 pay raise and more responsibilities.
In addition to managing the budget, he will advise the curriculum committee, a new role that he is passionate about.
He will also manage operations such as the physical factory, transport and catering, areas in which he has experience.
After graduating from Hazleton Area High School in 2002, he began driving school buses in Hazleton Area. He later worked on the security staff at the Hazleton Area school and as a substitute custodian during the summer while attending Penn State University at night.
In six years, he completed his Bachelor of Commerce degree from Penn State Hazleton.
He has since earned a Masters in Education from Wilkes University and is currently studying at Scranton University for a dual Masters in Business Administration and Health Administration.
At Penn State, Bard first studied meteorology. Now, as a hobby, he posts weather forecasts and information on Facebook at Weather News 1.