Tom Strickler

Columbia Borough Superintendent Tom Strickler.

The Columbia Borough school board is expected to vote Thursday night on whether to part ways with a superintendent who has been a polarizing figure from the time he was hired.

According to a meeting agenda, the board will vote either to replace Tom Strickler when his contract expires in December or retain him for an additional three to five years.

Strickler, who became superintendent in January 2018, said in a phone interview Wednesday that he was surprised to see the item on the agenda. Based on conversations he’s had with the board, Strickler said, he was expecting a contract extension of at least four years.

“I was not aware that they were going to put anything on the agenda,” he said.

Board President Charles Leader and Vice President Kathleen Hohenadel did not return phone calls or an email message sent Wednesday afternoon. Board member Lauren VonStetten, when reached by LNP | LancasterOnline, declined to comment.

Strickler was hired as superintendent following a first-of-its-kind shared leadership experiment in which Eastern Lancaster County Superintendent Bob Hollister ran both districts for a school year and a half starting in 2016. Both districts continue to share IT and business services.

Strickler’s current salary is $107,000.

The board approved Strickler’s hire in November 2017 by a 6-3 vote. Leader and Hohenadel accounted for two of the three dissenters.

After the vote, Hohenadel told a reporter Strickler was “a divisive figure” and expressed concern with Strickler’s business-oriented background.

A 1976 Columbia High School graduate, Strickler spent more than three decades in business before he returned as a Columbia administrator, though he did serve on the school board for 15 years, 10 as president.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Elizabethtown College and a master’s in the same from University of Phoenix.

In order to become superintendent as a noneducator, he acquired a commission qualification letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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