Very soon the Pennridge School District will have compensated its contracted and unqualified consultant Jordan Adams for his work via Vermilion Education in the amount of $12,562.50 according to two invoices submitted to the district, one of which has been paid.
Aside from a slight deviation in hours, 54 for May and 46.5 for June, there is essentially no difference between the two billings that detail the services provided.
What has the district received for this money? At least four board members have absolutely no idea.
Directors Christine Batycki, Joan Cullen, Jonathan Russell and Ronald Wurz have been excluded from any aspect of what appears to be a highly secretive curriculum revamp undertaken by Curriculum Committee Chair Jordan Blomgren, Board Vice President Megan Banis-Clemens and Director Ricki Chaikin.
A conspicuous divide is readily apparent to anyone who has observed recent Pennridge School Board Director meetings. Constant bickering between members, coupled with a consistent 5-4 voting pattern, has impacted everything from collective bargaining negotiations to the hiring of Vermilion Education to revise the district’s curriculum.
Inquiries from parents and community members to board directors Cullen and Batycki concerning the ongoing rift and the district’s curriculum have been outlined in an assortment of news articles and on various Pennridge-related Facebook pages.
Board director Jonathan Russell, who is also a member of the Curriculum Committee, told the Beacon that a Facebook post by board member Ricki Chaikin is lacking in accuracy.
“Director Chaikin indicated rather emphatically on social media that Mr. Adams answered all her questions and if any of us wanted information we could simply email him. That has not been my experience,” Russell wrote.
Russell wrote that he asked Adams if he had received instruction not to communicate with certain members of the board. No response came from Adams but Russell did receive a response from Banis-Clemens.
“Director Banis-Clemens did email me back and stated that “Board members are supposed to be going through Jordan Blomgren as the curriculum chair [with questions for Mr. Adams],” which is clearly contrary to Director Chaikin’s online statement to the public.”
Russell has subsequently advised The Beacon that he has now heard from Adams. “Perhaps there is some attempt to bring all members of the board into the loop of information moving forward,” he wrote.
In addition to the new invoice, a July 25 progress report from Adams regarding the ongoing curriculum review, began circulating online on Tuesday.
“Vermilion is continuing the process of drafting and revising recommendations and model curricula for district consideration in 7th and 8th Grade Analysis Fiction and Non Fiction (Reading/English Language Arts) and Social Studies in grades 1-5 and grade 9,” is the only insight anyone can glean from the report because that’s the only information provided.
If the activity detailed in this newest report is in any way similar to the activity presented by Adams via Zoom at the June Curriculum Committee meeting, taxpayers in the district have no clue what their hard earned money is actually buying.
To date, no amount of public comment from parents, students, teachers or taxpayers has been capable of causing the five rogue board members to pause or, at a minimum, detail their clandestine activities.
Board directors Cullen, Batycki, Russell and Wurz find themselves in a precarious situation because, in addition to being kept in the dark, they are incapable of upholding the oath of office to which they swore when seated due to no fault of their own.
After months of discord, there does not appear to be a Kumbaya moment on the horizon.
Russell summed up that sentiment in the final paragraph of his email. “While I believe Mr. Adams may have had some helpful suggestions and good intentions, the well of trust has been poisoned and at this point, both he and those who advance his cause will have a hard time finding anyone who wants to drink from the cup he is offering.