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Chester County Press

Revised lawsuit filed against Hillendale Elementary principal and PTO

12/20/2016 09:37AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The bad blood between Chadds Ford resident Kathleen Tobia and the principal and PTO of Hillendale Elementary School is continuing after Tobia filed an amended complaint on Dec. 12.

Tobia, a former member of the Hillendale Parent Teacher Organization, initially filed a suit in July in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. That suit was dismissed, but she filed another civil action complaint on Dec. 12 through Exton attorney Kevin Connors.

The complaint names the Hillendale PTO, Steve Dissinger and Jennifer Scattolino as defendants. Tobia was a member of the executive board of the Hillendale PTO, and served as co-vice president during the 2015-16 school year. She maintains she “was instrumental in securing a grant to support the Hillendale Trail Project, although the grant was accepted by Dissinger.”

The Trail Project involved paving a path around the school grounds as part of the school's ongoing commitment to promoting exercise and environmental responsibility. The project was recently completed.

In the complaint, Tobia maintains that after she was snubbed over the $30,000 grant, she “became the subject of continuous and persistent verbal abuse and umbrage by the Board and Dissinger” after Tobia pointed out that the PTO had incorrectly collected sales tax at a PTO book sale, without utilizing the state tax exemption available to the school.

Tobia said Dissinger claimed that she had resigned from the board, and then, “in an effort to create a more compliant Board, Dissinger appointed Scattolino as co-president for the 2016-17 school term, never securing formal ratification by [PTO] members.”

The complaint alleges that Scattolino was then allowed to appoint friends as PTO board members without a full vote by members, which is “improper under Pennsylvania law,” according to the complaint.

Dissinger also allegedly “accepted gifts from the PTO, in the form of sports tickets and other gifts [which had] been funded by monies donated by parents intended for school programs for students,” according to the complaint.

Tobia is asking the court to order a new PTO board election, to “order Dissinger to disgorge all gifts made to [him] in his capacity as Hillendale's principal,” and to “require [the PTO] to revise its bylaws to conform with Pennsylvania law,” according to the complaint.

At a Sept. 19 meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board, a capacity crowd of residents turned out to offer support to Dissinger and the Hillendale Elementary PTO. At that meeting, Unionville-Chadds Ford superintendent John Sanville said on behalf of the administration that, “We find the allegations to be without merit. The good name of an exemplary principal is at stake, along with PTO volunteers and a PTO president. Steve Dissinger is a man of the utmost integrity. He is respected by his peers, beloved by a community that he serves, and his record of excellence stands as an unimpeachable testament to the quality of his character.”

Sanville added, “The administration and the board strongly support and defend Steve in this matter, and we also strongly defend the Hillendale PTO and volunteers, and Jennifer Scattolino. … It is unfortunate that the taxpayers of this district have to pay to defend a dispute of this nature, nor is it in the best interest of our students that the district administration and its volunteers are distracted by having to defend what is clearly without merit.”

On Monday afternoon, Sanville responded by email to a request for comment, writing, “As this is an ongoing court case, I am limited in what I can say. However, I continue to stand by Steve Dissinger, Jennifer Scattalino and the fine members of the Hillendale PTO. I find the allegations to be specious and totally without merit. We are one community with a single purpose, the safety and development of our students. Courts are not the proper place to resolve the issues of one disgruntled volunteer.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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