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Pennridge School Board Bickering Comes To An End As Republicans Exit The Board

Over the last several months, school board meetings have been marked by intense disagreements among directors, highlighting what became a stubborn 5 to 4 majority split.
Pennridge School District (Google maps) via WHYY.

The terms of four Pennridge school board directors ended at the conclusion of Monday’s board meeting. The seats of Megan Banis-Clemens, Joan Cullen, David Reiss and Jonathan Russell, all Republicans, will be filled by newly elected Democrats Leah Foster-Rash, Chris Kaufman, Bradley Merkl-Gump and Carolyn Sciarrino. Democratic incumbent Ron Wurz retained his seat.

Over the last several months, school board meetings have been marked by intense disagreements among directors, highlighting what became a stubborn 5 to 4 majority split.

One specific controversial issue, the hiring and retention of Jordan Adams, a curriculum “consultant” with no degree in teaching and his start-up company Vermilion, to revamp the district’s academic content, has been a heated topic of discussion since April.

READ: Vermilion Education Gives Pennridge School District Curriculum a Right-Wing Makeover

Hours of public comment by parents, students, teachers and taxpayers were inspired by Adams’ ultra-conservative recommendations. However, constituent commentary was completely ignored by the Republican board majority.

Ending the district’s relationship with Adams and Vermilion Education was a campaign promise made by the slate of five Democrats who ran and flipped the board majority in November’s municipal election.

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Predictably, the motion to terminate the contract with Adams, along with approving the payment of his $4,937.50 invoice, initiated a contentious exchange between board members Cullen, who had disapproved of Adams from the get-go, and Jordan Blomgren, current chair of the curriculum committee, who introduced Adams to the district.

“The point is that you went out, you found this contract, this person, you did all of the work behind the scenes. You did not allow us to vet anyone,” Cullen said. “You did not allow us to consider any other sources, and this product that he gave us here is, yes, an absolute embarrassment.”

READ: Leaked Audio of Vermilion Education Head Jordan Adams’s Presentation to Moms for Liberty

She went on to express that the report’s price tag, close to $5,000, was a waste of taxpayer money. “This is the biggest grift,” Cullen said. “Congratulations to him for managing to fool five of you people but I’m not going to be fooled.”

Blomgren came to the defense of Adams and Vermilion.

“As I promised when I ran for school board in ’21, I will continue to fight to keep bias, social justice activism, CRT, and DEI out of our schools,” she said. “So I do want to thank Mr. Adams for his service to the district.”

Blomgren’s comments and point of view, especially with regard to DEI, are curious in light of a pending investigation alleging discrimination and a hostile environment in a formal complaint recently filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

The board approved the termination of the Vermilion contract and to pay Adams’ final invoice with an anticipated vote of 5 to 4 (with 4 abstentions).

The appointment of Blomgren to fill a board position at the Upper Bucks County Technical School also provoked contentious dialogue. The seat was not due to be vacated but Megan Banis-Clemens, by resigning her seat early, created a path for the board majority to appoint Blomgren.

READ: Pennridge School Board Efforts to Overhaul District Curriculum Doesn’t End With Vermilion Education and Hillsdale 1776

“I think the way this was handled is wrong, so I can’t vote for it,” said Wurz. “This should be left up to next week and the next board to decide this and this is just a game being played.” He also added that his decision to vote against the appointment was not personal or a reflection of Blomgren.

“I would say to you that a week before your term expires, actually, moments before your term expires, you shouldn’t be making this replacement,” Cullen added.

The board majority voted to accept the resignation of Banis-Clemens and the appointment of Blomgren to the UBCTS.

Exiting board directors Russell, Banis-Clemens and Cullen made final remarks at the end of the evening and thanked Pennridge staff for their assistance and commitment to the district.

“To the new board members, congratulations … But also, please keep in mind the promises that were made, the reasons why people elected you,” said Cullen. “So always keep that in mind and, you know if it’s something that maybe is not quite to your liking, it is a public school.”

READ ALSO:

In Pennridge School District, Books Once Shadow Banned Are Now In The Trash Can

Bucks County Judge Rebukes Pennridge School District For Acting In Bad Faith, Orders It To Produce Library Records And Pay Legal Fees

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Jenny Stephens

Jenny Stephens is a freelance journalist who has written for a variety of publications, including The Reporter. An avid collector of all things vintage, she resides in the Philadelphia area.

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