Tuesday, June 30, 2009

First time in Pennsylvania history - Judge removes 8 of 9 school board members

Thank you to Anonymous 10:00 p.m. from the previous thread for the tip on this story.

Judge removes school board in PA

Eight school board members have been booted off the North Schuylkill School Board. A judge ruled they can no longer serve on the board after several residents sued.

It leaves the district without a new budget and that could mean payless paydays for employees.

Robin Hetherington runs a farm near Ringtown. She, along with more than 50 others, recently sued and won a legal battle against the North Schuylkill School District.

"I was shocked. I was shocked. It's an incredible thing for any administration to be wiped clean like that or nearly clean," Hetherington said.

A judge, citing neglect of duty, removed eight of nine school board members. The lawsuit centered around Mark semanchik. The board named him acting school superintendent and wanted to keep him.

Citizens cried foul saying Semanchik didn't have the qualifications required by the state.

"There was no teaching experience and up until May first there was no graduate degree in education," said Lloyd Hampton, attorney for the citizens. He added the education code calls for, "a master's degree, a graduate degree in education."

"I am surprised that he could do that. He could pick up and remove eight people just like that and now have nobody," said Donna Spotts of Frackville.

Tom Metzinger lives across the street from the only school board member not removed by the judge.

"I think they should have been cleaned out, clean them up. If they're not going by the law you got to get rid of them," Metzinger said.

The break-up of the school board is the talk of the town.

"If they weren't doing their job they shouldn't be there. I mean we pay our taxes, the money wasn't going where it should be there is no reason to be where they're at," said Len Hoover of Ashland.

"If you're going to run a school, a school that's having enough problems you should be doing the right thing and they shouldn't be doing what they did with the superintendent," said Sammi Weikel of Locustdale.

The state department of education said it is reviewing the matter and trying to find out what to do because this has never happened before in the state's history.

The former school board members said there could be payless paydays for employees if the judge doesn't change his mind. State law says a budget must be voted on by the board by next Tuesday.

a href="http://www.wnep.com/wnep-schyl-judge-boots-school-board,0,6541212.story">http://www.wnep.com/wnep-schyl-judge-boots-school-board,0,6541212.story



Anonymous said...

OJR should look into this for the
spiteful behavior of the Fab Five!

Anonymous said...

Another example of the Dictatorship of the Judiciary....

Anonymous said...

This link has been all over the ojr comments in the Pottsmerc.com so I'm sure they're pushing this forward.

Since pasd school board has our own Retard 5 who voted to move the library forward, maybe we need the same treatment applied?

Looking forward. After November school board elections, we'll have a minimum of 5 out of 9 against this assinine plan.

Watch for the library to try to push things thru prior to election. If I were on the library board, I'd be very worried about November and the death of this concept.

Get involved.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Protesting/Picketing to take place tomorrow 7:00 AM
We are protesting outside the Administrators building, Sen. Rafferty's office on 100 by rita's, Rep. Gerlach's office at ludwigs corner, and hopefully in phoenixville when dinniman will be there tomorrow! We need volunteers! 7:00 AM Tomorrow, i know its early but Myra, OJR needs us! Contact Nick Clemens, Tracey McMeekin for questions.


Anonymous said...

Why would they protest in front of Rafferty and Gerlach's office?

What do they have to do with it?

Why not Dinniman's office too? (I guess because he's a Democrat? Hmmm... are there ulterior motives afoot here???)

Anonymous said...

All the candidates have supported the concept of the OJR SD rescinding their hasty vote.

The picketing is more to show the public how all parties in Harrisburgh on record agree, this was not fair, and should be reversed before further affect on the school system, children and staff. Not a protest. Poor choice of words. Just a place to go to ensure focus stays hot until she is reinstated.

Anonymous said...


State Legislation Proposed by Senator Andrew Dinneman
By Laura Catalano
Special to The Mercury


HARRISBURG — State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19th. Dist.) introduced a bill in the state Senate Thursday that would limit the power of lame duck school boards to act on a superintendent's contract following primary elections.

The bill was drafted in direct response to the Owen J. Roberts School Board's recent termination of District Superintendent Myra Forrest. Three members of the board majority who voted to terminate her contract had lost their seats in the May primary election.

Senate Bill 1007 would ban school boards from acting on a school superintendent's contract if three or more of its members are in lame-duck status due to a defeat in a primary election, and if at least 11 months remain on the superintendent's contract. The bill will be referred to the Senate Education Committee, of which Dinniman is minority chairman.

Dinniman, reached by phone at his Harrisburg office

Thursday, said he wrote the bill in response to the flood of letters, e-mails and phone calls his office has received since Forrest was terminated on June 22. He estimated he'd received at least 100 calls and letters, and he noted that the number of people who turned out for a school board meeting to protest the board's decision was also impressive.

About 1,200 people attended that meeting, the vast majority seeking to have Forrest reinstated. The school board majority, however, refused to rescind its 5-4 vote to dismiss the superintendent, despite the fact that students, parents, teachers and residents plead with them for nearly six hours to do so.

"I've been involved for over 17 years in Chester County political life," Dinniman said. "It's very rare you would see 1,000 people show up at anything. When I saw how strongly the citizens felt, and that they were willing to sit at that meeting for hour after hour to plead their case, and I thought their case was just, I wanted to show some support."

more on

Anonymous said...

,....He acknowledged that this bill will not affect Forrest's contract, however.

While legislators have no authority over school boards, they do write changes to the school code, which details how superintendents are chosen by boards, he said. The bill Dinniman introduced won't have any impact on the Owen J. Roberts case, but it can prevent a similar situation from occurring again in another district.

"It would make sure the voices of the citizens being expressed in the primary elections are not being ignored or set aside," he said.

Because the bill specifies that a superintendent's contract must have 11 months remaining, it would enable any incoming board to give the administrator 150 days notice that their contract would not be renewed, as required by law. The bill also directly addresses the primary election, because anyone losing a seat in the November election would be off the board in December, and so would not have time to replace a superintendent.

In addition to introducing the bill, Dinniman, along with State Representatives Curt Schroder (R-155th. Dist.) and Tim Hennessey (R-126th Dist.), sent a joint letter to state Auditor General Jack Wagner on Wednesday.

Anonymous said...

The letter refers to numerous e-mails from constituents in the Owen J. Roberts School District concerning Forrest's termination.

"We have been asked by numerous concerned parents and school district residents to forward this matter to your attention. Please advise if the office of auditor general has an interest in this matter, and what, if any, steps you might take," the letter stated.

Dinniman said the auditor general's office had already contacted at least one citizen in response to that letter.

Forrest was terminated at a late night meeting last Monday, following a surprise motion by board President Edward Kerner that caught unaware not only the public but several board members. Kerner cited a clause in her contract that allows for "termination without cause."

The motion was approved in a 5-4 vote despite impassioned pleas to reconsider from teachers, administrators, members of the community and the board minority. Approving it were Kerner, along with board members Eugene Endress, John Dutton, Debbie Bissland and Karen Zelley. Opposed were Rosemary Bilinski, William LaCoff, Barbara McMeekin and Eric Scheib.

The termination was effective immediately. Assistant Superintendent Kathryn L. Soder was named acting superintendent.

The decision quickly sparked a firestorm of protest. Parents, teachers and students have rallied to "Save Myra," and 1,200 people turned out at a special school board meeting Monday, which had originally been advertised as a meeting to appoint a superintendent.

While the vast majority of those who have spoken have been in support of Forrest, some residents have come forward in favor of the school board.

Former school board candidate Laurie Hiltebeitel sent a statement to The Mercury which stated in part:

"During the election season, I met many people who expressed their desire to see Dr. Forrest move on from OJR when her contract expires. This past week I have spoken to many constituents who support the decision of this board. Although some do not agree with the manner this verdict was delivered, they do agree with the outcome.

"It is evident that Dr. Forrest works well only with the board members that obediently comply with her agenda," Hiltebeitel's statement said. The statement said that Forrest, by example, has "emboldened the teachers union to act defiantly toward this board when they do not get their way."

She also accused Forrest of "using The Mercury as a means of communicating her opinion rather than speaking directly to the entire school board at appropriate meetings."

Meanwhile, parents who oppose the board's actions are preparing to fight them legally, if necessary. A "Help Pay the Lawyers" Fund has been established on the www.thefactsaboutOJRSD.com Web site, which was founded recently by the Owen J. Roberts Parents Alliance.

"Help us use all legal remedies available to better influence the decisions of this school board that is not acting in the best interests of the overwhelming majority of residents," reads a statement on the Web site.

The school board has scheduled another special board meeting on Monday for the purposes of appointing an acting superintendent. No names of proposed candidates for the position have been released, and LaCoff said Wednesday that he had not received any names. That meeting will be held in the auditorium, as large crowds are once again anticipated.

Anonymous said...

"The picketing is more to show the public how all parties in Harrisburgh on record agree"

Gerlach is in Harrisburg?