CHELTENHAM The Cheltenham school board has appointed a former superintendent to "monitor" its embattled superintendent, Natalie Thomas.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the board voted, 7-2, to hire William Kiefer as a "superintendent monitor" to evaluate and investigate Thomas, 57, who has been involved in a number of disputes with staff, resulting in the departure of several high-level administrators and labor relations issues.

In a statement, Thomas said, "I am fully cooperating with Dr. Kiefer's efforts."

Attributing many of the problems to Thomas, the board's resolution stated it believes the district has "lost focus" because of a "disruptive and toxic environment for community, faculty, and students."

Thomas, whose annual salary is $180,000, has been on the job 18 months. The district would not disclose Kiefer's salary or projected length of service. School spokeswoman Susan O'Grady said terms had not been finalized, although Kiefer started work Wednesday. She said she was consulting attorneys as to whether the salary figure could be released. Under Pennsylvania's Open Records Law, school district salaries are public record. - Kathy Boccella