Time to end W-B Area board’s intimidation,


Editor: What do outdated, scarce textbooks and supply shortages have in common with administrative raises, cavalier hiring, crumbling buildings, nepotism, crippling debt and misspent funds? It’s their home at the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.

Three incumbent board members are seeking reelection despite a gruesome record of achievement: Student performance is abysmal, taxes, the highest allowed by law, and nearly every facility fails state standards. One historic high school is unusable and abandoned. Two others have been systemically neglected and may meet the same fate. The board’s remedy which has yet to be fleshed out could cost a quarter of a billion dollars. While not all these problems are attributable to these three board members, in their first facility foray, these incumbents spent $4.9 million on a consolidated school site without zoning approval which ultimately was denied. Under this board, a surplus has rapidly approached a $70 million deficit. The fiscal response was “Pathway to the Future” which cut 37 teachers who served the very programs which keep some of our students in school. Further teacher and program cuts are to follow. In the meantime, administrators were getting raises and buyout incentives. A proposed high school consolidation does not include GAR, the high school with the largest number of impoverished children. Candidates Thomas, Caffrey and Evans approved this plan. While GAR students keep their neighborhood schools, they will not share in state of the art technology. A more recent iteration of the “plan” leaves the city without a high school, altogether, which will be a death knell for our neighborhoods.

These same board members refused to hear from school restoration experts, Bancroft Construction, which has restored historic schools with remarkable outcomes. The board has dismissed the research, opinions and involvement of community members and faculty. The board believes that consolidation will save the district money, despite quite the opposite outcome in Hazleton and Williamsport and the overwhelming conclusion of the educational literature. They ignore the consensus that larger schools are particularly detrimental to academically challenged students. At the April board meeting it was stated that the extra cost in busing would be offset by three less administrators. Williamsport with 1,400 students has a head principal and four vice principals; Hazleton with 2,200 students also has the same set up with five administrators. This board is not doing their homework.

The time is now for WBASD stakeholders to end this board’s intimidation, arrogance and bullying. Instead of the public being treated like children being told what is to be done, we need meaningful community dialog and collaboration to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Community input is a Pennsylvania Department of Education requirement. The district has a neighborhood school system, which is the envy of many districts, as well as many who are trying to emulate it. This board would destroy its major advantage. To quote Joni Mitchell, “ You don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.”

Urban consolidation in disadvantaged communities makes no sense. Read the scholarly articles published by Dr. Mark Schiowitz. You can’t read the board’s response to his articles because there is none. The recently retired superintendent said in a public meeting, “We can’t do it alone we need your help.” They have proceeded to do it alone; how has that worked? A second headline stated that a total of $6 million dollars has been spent, “with nothing physical to show for it.” Demand more, you are paying for it.

Richard A. Holodick, President

Bob Holden, Vice President

Jack Nolan, Treasurer

Melissa Etzle Patla, Recording Secretary

Dave Wilson, Board Member

Save Our Schools