Coatesville high school

Coatesville Area Senior High School.

Coatesville Area School District floors have been polished to perfection, bus routes have been honed to save the district about $500,000 in transportation costs and all students will receive free breakfasts and lunches, but the superintendent’s office will be empty when classes resume Aug. 26.

In a prepared statement, Superintendent Cathy Taschner and the Coatesville Area school board jointly announced her departure during the Aug. 13 school board meeting. Taschner was not at the meeting, and Tuesday was her last day on the job after 5 years as superintendent.

Board attorney Mike Levin said the school board and Taschner had reached a separation agreement in executive session, and she will receive one year of salary and full benefits. 

But Taschner was not the only official to depart. Richard Fazio, who was just recently named school district business manager, has also resigned, citing personal reasons. His last day will be Sept. 10.

And school board member Ann Wuertz has resigned — bringing the total to three leadership vacancies announced during the meeting.

Levin said the school board had just awarded Taschner a “proficient” evaluation. The school board approved the separation agreement by a 5-4 vote, with board members Robert Fisher, Thomas Keech, Brandon Rhone, Henry Assetto and Rob Marshall Jr. approving, but Wuertz, James Hills, Tom Siedenbuehl and Tyrone Carter casting no votes.

Wuertz, in tears, called her decision  to resign a moral issue, and said she can’t see out her term working beside people she doesn’t trust and be complicit in a decision she knows to be wrong.

The school board stated the district had hired Taschner to restore propriety in the aftermath of a difficult time.

In June of 2014, Taschner replaced Richard Como, the former superintendent who was discovered to have exchanged racist and sexist texts with former athletic director Jim Donato. Como went to prison for theft and ethics violations.

The board thanked Taschner for her commitment to students, staff and the community and said under her leadership Coatesville had “positively repositioned itself” and gained national recognition.

In the joint statement, Taschner  said, “I am honored to have been able to provide that strong leadership and to have done so with integrity in a way that has restored propriety to the district.” 

Taschner, however, had herself become a controversial figure who was sometimes openly criticized and picketed at school board meetings.

The local activist group Coatesville Community and Parents had called for Taschner’s resignation. Group member Liz Muirhead thanked the school board for their decision. She cited concerns about the loss of students to charter schools, rising property taxes, unpopular financial decisions, declining academic performance and standardized test scores, and teacher resignations and turnover. Muirhead said the district needs new leadership.

With rising charter school tuition costs, and no relief in funding reform from the state legislature, Taschner had been working to rebrand the district and encourage students to return to their public school.