Phoenixville School Board considers investigating former principal's time in district

PHOENIXVILLE — Following the revelation that a former district employee was charged with possession of child pornography, the Phoenixville Area School Board may explore if there were any warning signs to his alleged crime.

In a relatively unexpected move, board member Dan Cushing made a motion at the end of last Thursday’s board workshop meeting to explore whether there were any indications or missed signs of misconduct from Troy Czukoski, who worked as an administrator in the district until last July.

“The board should endeavor to engage special counsel to investigate what, if any, signs or signals did the district fail to notice that might have led to detection of the charged criminal act,” Cushing said.

Czukoski stands accused of possessing more than 150 but less than 300 images of children engaged in sexual acts on flash drives, CDs and DVDs.

Discussion surrounding Cushing’s motion was careful, as Superintendent Alan Fegley told the board the district’s solicitor advised that the Czukoski issue was a personnel issue and would best be discussed in an executive session.

“If I understand what Dr. Cushing is moving forward here, it’s not a discussion of anything Dr. Czukoski did, it’s an investigation of what the school did,” board member Kenneth Butera said.

About 90 earlier, near the beginning of the meeting, Fegley read a statement from the district similar to one posted Tuesday on the district’s website shortly after news broke of the charges against Czukoski.

“The district recognizes questions have surfaced, what, if anything, the district knew about the behaviors that led to these charges while Dr. Czukoski was employed in the Phoenixville Area School District,” Fegley said. “Quite frankly, unequivocally, the district did not have any indication that Dr. Czukoski was engaging in any conduct even remotely similar to that (for) which he is now charged.”

Fegley said Czukoski was reassigned in February 2012 from his role as a principal as the middle school to head a new virtual academy initiative, a move which Fegley said was “in no way motivated by knowledge or suspicion” that Czukoski was engaging in inappropriate or illegal conduct.

In July, Czukoski resigned from the district to take over as head of Springton Middle School in Delaware County.

Only in October was the district informed that Czukoski might have been involved in illegal behavior, according to Fegley, when they saw reports in the news on “undisclosed” issues.

Late in October, the district was subpoenaed by an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service for personnel information on Czukoski, and complied.

“The district was not informed at that time as to the nature or the purpose of the federal investigation,” Fegley said.

Only recently, when district officials read an article in The Mercury, was the district clued in on what Czukoski was charged with.

“Let me be very clear,” said Fegley. “The board of school directors and the administration of the Phoenixville Area School District would react with certainty if there was any reason to believe an employee of the district might be engaging in any unlawful conduct, but especially conduct that is potentially harmful or detrimental to children. The employee would be immediately removed from the district and the proper authorities would be contacted that day, and the employee would not receive a recommendation from the district for another job.”

Cushing’s press for further information in the matter did not appear to be a disagreement with the district’s statement but a desire for an exhaustive look at the issue.

Butera seconded Cushing’s motion, prompting careful discussion around the board table.

“I feel like there is so much information to take in … I don’t disagree there needs to be a discussion; I just feel totally unprepared to make a decision tonight or even vote on that,” said board Vice President Jan Potts.

“It’s safe to say there are obviously a lot of details to be flushed out. We obviously need to discuss it in executive session,” board President Joshua Gould said. “In my mind, I think it’s very appropriate to do a little self-reflection and look at (whether there is) something that we could have done or would do in the future in this situation. And I sincerely hope the answer is ‘No, there’s nothing we could have done.’”

“I don’t want to rely on hope to know that that’s true,” Gould continued. “I want to know for sure.”

Eventually, the board moved into an executive session to discuss the matter.

After 40 minutes, they returned and Cushing decided to withdraw his motion and bring it back in next week’s meeting “in a different form.”

Gould reiterated that the board spend time in self-reflection over the next week.

“We’ll spend some time crafting a motion,” Gould said.

This story was originally published on www.pottsmerc.com.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno