NOTE: This posting contains commentary and opinion!
The glowing commentary and the smiling faces of tomorrow’s leaders set a wonderful stage for last night’s School Board of Directors meeting.
These students were recognized as January Students of the Month at last night’s Columbia Borough School District. The students and their parents were honored and applauded as their principals and teachers read testimony to their academic and personal performance. The students and parents beamed with pride.
January’s Students of the Month are: Emily Stephens – Grade 12; Ciara Arroyo – Grade 11; Madison Simpson – Grade 10; Breanah Mitchell – Grade 9; Kayloni Costello – Grade 8; Shayla Barley – Grade 7; Kiera Brown – Grade 6; Kirsten Resch – Grade 5; Lillian Ross – Grade 4; Jeinelys DeJesus Colon – Grade 3; Sophia Carson – Grade 2; Alexis Droege – Grade 1 and Nevaeh Davila-Reyes – Kindergarten.
Before being introduced as an ensemble of January’s Students of the Month, Superintendent Robert Hollister congratulated them for their awards and challenged them to continue in their paths to greatness.
- The staff of principals and teachers who introduced the students also glowed as each spoke to the character and “teach me” faces that brighten their days teaching at Columbia’s public school campuses.
- Columbia High School’s band director also applauded and introduced members of the Columbia High School Band. The band achieved significant awards and acclaim in band competition in spite of having a small compliment of talented musicians – who demonstrated incredible stamina during a football season, band competitions and a rigorous practice schedule.
- “January 2017 is School Director Recognition Month!” and the superintendent also read his proclamation which recognized the stamina, fortitude, sacrifice and contributions that Columbia Borough School District’s school board directors commit to while fulfilling their elected positions of public service. He pointed out that these ladies and gentlemen undertake these roles for no compensation. And he thanked them for their selfless service while, often, having to withstand public scrutiny which sometimes can include criticism.
- The board meeting was convened at 7:00 pm by board president Keith Combs. Click here to see the agenda. All the board directors were president – though Barry Ford and Cole Knighton for the second consecutive meeting did report in via telephone. Technology is wonderful when it works; last night, the call-in meeting attendance was an exercise in frustration for board members and citizens. A “computer glitch” did not capture Ford’s and Knighton’s “here” status at the beginning of the meeting and conversations during the meeting were often garbled and unintelligible. The district’s citizens will be much better served with significant technological improvements. The school board ought to consider embracing a protocol for call-in directors. The school board ought to consider informing meeting attendees which board directors are calling in in advance.
- Several of the school board directors spoke to the need of a comprehensive organizational chart which defines and illustrates the authority and accountability at the district level. They also spoke to the need to have a position description of the duties of the director of operations. They said that in the seven months of the Columbia – Eastern Lancaster County agreement, they and the community remain confused by the absence of the documentation.
- The board agreed last night that “public” or “citizen’s comments” will be a part of school board of directors meetings – at the onset of the meeting and near the adjournment of the meetings.
- The board agreed to an extension of the agreement that extends the Business Service Agreement that engages the services of Eastern Lancaster County’s financial chief, Keith Ramsey. Ramsey has been serving as Columbia’s fiscal officer since the termination of former business manager, Amy Light.
- The board again tried to consider the selection of someone to fill the vacant board director position in spite of the motion accepted at the Special Meeting the day before. The attorney representing the district said the board could go ahead with an appointment.
- Frank Doutrich, a citizen, repeated the actions he’d taken and identified during the Special Meeting. When board members asked for the documentation, he said he’d brought them “last night” but “did not have them with him tonight.”
- The superintendent asked Doutrich if he would provide the documents to the director of operations tomorrow (January 20). He said he would.
- The board’s legal counsel advised the opinion that the board could move ahead with a action to select a replacement board member because the citizen had not taken steps to inform the school district of his filing an action with the Lancaster County Courts. He said the district had received no notice of the claim.
- Doutrich’s actions are documented at the Lancaster County Prothonotary’s Office Website. You can read the documents here.
- It reminds us of a “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” moment. Small-town citizen tries to do the right thing and follows the letter of the law to the best of his understanding and ability. Does the right thing! And gets ambushed by big-time legal experts.
- This kind of issue – citizen petitioning the court to act – when a school board misses a deadline according to the law has little precedent in Pennsylvania. We could find only one obscure and decades old case. The courts, evidently, are reluctant to act (perhaps because of big-time legal experts’ communications with the courts whether transparent or not).
- In that 1966 case finding, though the courts have “exclusive power to fill such vacancy” – the decision sided with the school board. “Although the remaining members of The Gaston County Board of Education have failed to perform their statutory duty to fill the vacancy on the Board within thirty days after it occurred, it was error for the trial court to order an election under G.S. 115-24 to fill the vacancy.”
- We believe that, pretty much, sounds like the line used several times by legal counsel.
- We believe that even though citizens try to do the right thing – the right thing is not always what the laws state – nor what any average, upstanding citizen looking at the facts would decide is “the right thing.”
- We will have more about this meeting in a few days. Last night’s meeting was adjourned at 9:21 pm.
Again, when citizens do not attend public meeting, they are left with getting information via “secondary sources.” Sources like media reports or conversations with others who may have attended the meeting or rumors. We strongly encourage citizens to attend public meetings to see and hear what happens. Columbia news, views & reviews does audio record these meetings in accordance with current state laws. If you would like a copy of the digital recording, contact Columbia news, views & reviews by emailing email@example.com