School Board or School Bored?

Board Calls for Recess Amidst Public Comment Period, Lasts Nearly 45 Minutes

Facebook Post taken by Alison Kuhns

Facebook Post taken by Alison Kuhns

On April 26, the idea of bringing in a consultant by the name of Jordan Adams to write curriculum for Pennridge’s schools, grades K-12, was proposed by the school board. 

The company, which goes by the name of Vermilion, has been in business for five months. The company is located in Michigan and has had no previous public school experience. Last board meeting, many speakers who participated during the public comment portion of the meeting made it a point to recognize the fact that the company had been rejected by a school in Florida prior to working with Pennridge. The company has also been rejected for being “too extreme”, and as many of the public speakers commented, is affiliated with the University of Michigan, which is a conservative, right-leaning college. The concern of many is that bringing in someone who works for a company associated with the University of Michigan will lead to the new curriculum being biased and omitting certain information deemed necessary to teach to students. Many fear that this will result in the curriculum becoming “white-washed” for which previous speakers have expressed concern. The Vermilion website states that one of their principles is “students shall not be used by political parties or ideologies” and that “transparency fosters trust and respect among teachers, parents, and the community,” which is slightly hypocritical, seeing as Vermilion is affiliated with a right-wing, conservative University that would most likely write curriculum with the viewpoint of such.

This policy was introduced by the school board on April 26, and the staff was notified 24 hours before the meeting took place. Many expressed frustration at this short notice and staff, students, and community members remarked consecutively that they felt as though the board was trying to sneak in the policy. This week, on May 10, Corissa McDonald, the student liaison, spoke about how she and the student body felt as though they were “blindsided” by the proposal. Others, on April 26, felt as though the board was being secretive and argued that the board says they prioritize neutrality and transparency and argued that neither was apparent in the proposal. 

Megan Banis-Clemens, a member of the school board, addressed the concern, saying “There was no secret meeting, I don’t even know where that comes from.”  Nevertheless, members of the community still showed concern for the policy. Angela Schoettle, a teacher in the History department at Pennridge, expressed concern regarding the proposal, and on behalf of herself and her colleagues, stated, “As a department, we feel this proposal is another rushed decision.” The Vermilion contract would be paying the consultant $125 plus any travel and boarding expenses Adams would need whilst staying in Bucks County to complete the curriculum. Teachers are currently paid $32 an hour at Pennridge, and many felt that the money would be better spent increasing pay for teachers or on mental health help for kids. 

During the meeting on May 10, Megan Banis-Clemens called for a recess in which most of the board members followed and allegedly spoke regarding Mrs. Laura Foster’s public comment regarding the Vermilion contract. During the public comment, Mr. Reiss, Megan Banis-Clemens, Mrs. Foster, and a member of the audience all tried speaking at the same time. The previously mentioned speakers ended up speaking over each other before Megan Banis-Clemens called the recess. As was observed last meeting, there was some dissonance between board members and public commenters. Oftentimes last meeting members and audience members spoke over each other and there was disruption in the room. 

The recess lasted for around 45 minutes. During the early minutes of the recess, Mrs. Foster’s microphone was left on, so she proceeded to finish her statement. Police were called to the scene as well, but no action was taken after they arrived. Afterward, members of the community began speaking to one another again; people got out of their seats and met with each other, and some people left. Around 8:30 p.m., the meeting resumed. The solicitor explained the rules as requested by Dr. Bolton regarding public comment. In a post made by Linda Reid, a member of the community and borough, she expressed her complaints about the school board meeting. In the image to the left, one can see Reid’s post and her personal thoughts on the matter. Reid, as well as many others present during the meeting, states in her post “The #pennridge School Board is a mess.” Others were also displeased with how the meeting was run.

Though the Vermilion contract was spoken about and approved on April 26, another contract that had been proposed was approved on Wednesday, May 10. The school board ultimately passed a new policy by the name of 720, earning a 7-1 vote, which mandates students to use the bathroom according to their biological gender.  

Not only will the new bathroom policy affect students, but also the staff. The policy indicates what bathroom teachers will be permitted to use. Teachers will no longer be allowed to use multi-use restrooms that students use, and must use single-use or bathrooms explicitly stated to be for the staff. Policy 720 states, “School and district staff, parents, visitors, and volunteers shall not use multi-user student restrooms. A staff member shall be permitted to enter a student multi-user restroom facility to utilize the sink area and to monitor student safety..” The question of how this will be monitored still stands. Who is to stop staff from using the restroom when they enter it? Who is monitoring whether they are using it solely to wash their hands? It also states that during school hours, school and district staff will have access “to staff-only multi-user bathrooms.” On the first page of the policy, however, it states that under the “Purpose” column that “The purpose of this policy is to respect the rights of students and staff”, however, taking away the staff’s right to use the restroom does not appear to be respectful. There are few bathrooms already designated for teachers, so if a teacher is not directly in the area of a single-use bathroom, the trek to get to one could take valuable time from their lessons or prep time that they do not have to waste.