The Pennridge School Board majority intends to eliminate four subject supervisors who oversee K-12 Reading, English, and Language, along with K-12 Mathematics, K-12 Science and K-12 Social Studies, according to information provided to the Beacon from credible sources and multiple social media platforms.
Removal of these administrative roles will require a vote by the school board and may appear as an agenda item as early as June.
There is speculation that the supervisory reorganization may be tied, in part, to the district’s recent decision to engage Vermilion Education, LLC, who was retained to rewrite the district’s curriculum in April.
Laura Foster, a parent and taxpayer in the district, said teachers at the school have confirmed the removal of the four supervisors.
“It’s devastating to the teachers that I’ve spoken to who have trusted and relied upon these curriculum supervisors to inform their teaching practices, to listen to them and to take their feedback about what’s working and not working in the school. To lose them as a resource is a detriment to the school and it’s a detriment to my children’s education,” she said.
Foster also believes that the removal of the supervisors is due to the hiring of Vermilion.
“To see these positions being eliminated in favor of Vermilion, their lack of experience and their clear right political agenda is devastating,” she added.
The Pennridge School board has been at odds with itself as revealed by a 5-4 vote to reduce the required social studies credits needed for graduation at the December board meeting.
In a December OpEd board vice president Megan Banis-Clemens wrote:
“There’s no cost to letting students choose, or need to rewrite seven years of curriculum, and students who want to continue to take the fourth Social Studies credit can. That being said, there may be some merit to adjusting curriculum for other reasons.”
But there is a cost. At the April board meeting, school board director Jordan Blomgren insisted fellow board members vote to enter into a contract with Vermilion Education, LLC, a five-month-old company with direct ties to the privately run Hillsdale Christian College at a rate of $125.00 per hour plus expenses.
Several board members expressed concerns about the lack of transparency in the process and contract.
“You can’t change curriculum without spending money,” said board member Joan Cullen. “We do not have a total number for what this expense is going to be,” Cullen added.
“I just want to go on the record that I didn’t receive this contract until the public received it as well as my disappointment. It just exemplifies some of the dysfunction that we have,” said board member Jonathan Russell. “There’s some of us on the board who are not getting any of this information ahead of time and then we’re asked to come here and vote on it and it looks like we’re a mess because it is a mess,” he said.
In a five to four vote, the board passed the motion to execute the contract. Voting against the contract were board members Cullen, Wurz, Batycki and Russell.
The public first learned of the board’s interest in the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum at a January board meeting. A slide presentation revealed the “overlaying” of the K-12 “Classical Education” curriculum onto the district’s existing curriculum.
“Our end goal is that every single kid who leaves Pennridge loves this country and understands our constitution … that’s not happening right now,” said school board director Ricki Chaikin.
Jordan Adams, founder of Vermilion, is a graduate of Hillsdale Christian College and was the Associate Director for Instructional Resources at the Barney Charter School Initiative, described as an “outreach program of Hillsdale College devoted to the revitalization of public education through the launch and support of classical K-12 charter schools,” according to its website.