A recording of Wednesday’s Pennridge School Board’s committee meeting on Zoom, which never moved beyond the members arguing whether it was actually legal to go ahead with it, is another instance of the Republican majority’s inability to properly and legally manage district business.
Two and one-half hours prior to Wednesday’s 6 p.m. scheduled school board committee meeting, a last minute cancellation and rescheduling notice was issued to the Pennridge community advising that due to poor air quality, caused by smoke from wildfires, the meeting would be postponed until Thursday.
The school’s website was updated and reflected the one day change. But then another notice was hastily issued, barely 60 minutes prior to the original Wednesday meeting start time, stating the meeting was back on and interested parties could view and participate via Zoom.
At 6 p.m., most viewers stared at a blank screen for approximately 45 minutes before learning the Zoom had failed and that the meeting really would be rescheduled, although a date has yet to be announced.
While more than 250+ viewers waited to gain access to the virtual meeting, a few of the would-be viewers were able to log onto the Zoom of which portions were recorded. Bickering and rancor between board members is overheard revealing a continuation of the dysfunction and power struggles the public has been observing over the last several months.
“I just want to let you know that I do not want to participate in this meeting,” Joan Cullen is heard saying.
“We were not able to consult with our solicitor to determine whether this meeting is actually legal or not, and I do not believe it to be legal based upon our policy and the state sunshine laws.”
“I think it’s outrageous that the public has been so disrespected to have this changing back and forth at the last minute up until one hour before this meeting to change the time,” Cullen continued. “It’s pretty obvious what’s going on. It wasn’t a mistake.”
Board member Ron Wurz is then heard asking President David Reiss if he realizes the meeting is in violation of the Sunshine Act.
“Can you stop? Can you guys just stop being ignorant about it,” Vice President Megan Banis-Clemens said. “People are trying to protect people based on the air quality and still be able to have a meeting.”
“The law is pretty clear to anyone with even the most basic level of reading comprehension,” Cullen responded. “To say that people had the best intentions, I think it’s incredibly misleading.”
“Who cares? You realize that no one cares about anything you’re saying right now,” Banis-Clemens replied.
“I think there’s a lot of people who care about what I have to say,” Cullen answered. “And a lot of people care about the public, Megan, you don’t appear to be one of those people. And I think it’s disgraceful.”
The recording of the meeting ends abruptly and it remains unclear as to when the meeting will be held, although committee meetings are traditionally held prior to full board meetings, one of which, per the District’s calendar, is scheduled for Monday evening.
The agenda for Wednesday’s committee meeting had contained topics about which the community has tremendous interest.
One in particular was a scheduled presentation, via Zoom withHillsdale graduate Jordan Adams of Vermilion Education, LLC.
In April, the Vermilion contract had appeared barely 24 hours prior to the board meeting and was met with consternation and confusion by four board directors. The contract is open-ended and does not describe the scope of work for which Vermilion is being retained.
At the May board meeting, and in follow-up to the vote to approve the Vermilion contract in April, a large turnout of teachers and community members attended what turned into a very volatile meeting. Five board members exited the dais for 45 minutes and the police arrived on scene prior to the conclusion of the first public comment period.
When the five directors eventually returned to the stage, acting solicitor Kevin Skjoldal of Eckert Seamans then violated the Sunshine Act by changing the rules for public comment causing the meeting to further deteriorate.
“Republican or Democrat, this community should be appalled by how the board is operating… this transcends politics and as an outsider, or a person from places that are not like Perkasie at all, I worry that this community will not care about or understand what is happening here,” wrote a Pennridge teacher on social media about Wednesday evening’s events. “Please pay attention, spread the word and vote.”