Composite photo of the newly composed Columbia Borough School District Board of Directors. (The District’s solicitor and superintendent are fourth and fifth from left.)
At the District Website | “We’re thrilled to announce Columbia Borough School District’s new app! Access sports scores, cafeteria menus, news updates, even emergency notifications! Download the app on Android: http://bit.ly/2TG99l5 or
new directors | At last night’s School Board of Directors’ meeting, three persons were selected following an group interview process to become school board directors to finish terms necessitated by a death and two resignations. One was a surprise resignation — School Board of Directors president Keith Combs submitted his resignation on August 15, 2019; the effective date of the resignation was August 15, 2019. No reason for the resignation was cited by Board Vice President Charles Leader who assumed the leadership role at last night’s meeting.
Since the Board of Directors was interviewing interested candidates for two open positions already, the Board decided to interview for three to accommodate for the resignation notice announced on the revised agenda. Each of the four applicants — Sandra Duncan, Kate Keyser, Robert Misciagna and Lester Putt — were presented with the questions from the seated directors. Curiously, two of the directors opted out of qualifying questions.
There’s more about last night’s meeting at Columbia Spy.
Selected applicants, Lester Putt, Sandra Duncan and Kate Keyser reciting the oath of office. The selected applicants were not formally introduced to those in the gallery following the oath of office.
The applicants selected by the sitting directors were sworn in by a seated acting president. Section 402 of the School Code empowers the Temporary President at the annual organization meeting of a school board to administer the oath of office to school directors who have not already been sworn. 24 P.S. § 4-402. When the oath is administered at times other than the annual organization meeting in December, there is no authority for a Temporary President of a school board to administer the oath, and another official with such power is needed for that function.
Here’s how one Pennsylvania School District administered the oath of office to a newly appointed director.
And here’s an oath of office template:
Appointees’ terms of office | “The term of office of each Board member shall be four (4) years and shall expire on the first Monday of December, except that the term of a Board member appointed to fill a vacancy shall expire on the first Monday of December after the municipal election occurring more than sixty (60) days after his/her appointment. The term of a Board member elected to an unexpired term shall expire at the termination of that term.
Removal from office | “A Board member who neglects or refuses to attend two (2) successive regular meetings of the Board, unless detained by sickness or prevented by necessary absence from the district, or if in attendance at any meeting neglects or refuses to act in his/her official capacity as a school director, may be removed from his/her office, with prior notice, on the affirmative vote of a majority of the remaining members of the Board.”
Qualifications | While one of the School Board Directors asked the four interested applicants for their qualifications for the position of director, the qualifications are stated in the District’s local policy manual:
“Each member of the Board shall meet the following qualifications:
- Be of good moral character, be at least eighteen (18) years of age, have been a resident of the district for at least one (1) year prior to the date of his/her election or appointment, and not be a holder of any office or position as specified in Section 322 of the School Code; nor shall the individual be a member of the municipal council.
- Shall not have been removed from any office of trust under federal, state or local laws for any malfeasance in such office.
- Shall not be engaged in a business transaction with the school district, be employed by the school district, or receive pay for services from the school district, except as provided by law.
- Shall take and subscribe to the oath or affirmation prescribed by statute before entering the duties of the office.
- Shall file a statement of financial interests with the State Ethics Commission before taking the oath of office or entering upon his/her duties and annually by May 1.”
In 2016 | The Columbia Borough School District cast a wider net the last time there was a school board vacancy. In June, 2016 this advertisement was published in The Merchandiser.
This time with two vacancies | the only notice was published at the School District Website. Additionally, Columbia Spy and Columbia news, views & reviews published information about the vacancies.
How can you give a reason for your nomination, be given information indicating your rationale is flawed, and still maintain your decision with no further explanation? How you you administer an oath of office from a seated position? How can you have a discussion with candidates asking if they are free thinkers and if they are not afraid to stand against the majority but then turn around and encourage them to vote on issues they don’t have the background info needed to make an informed decision? No wonder our your people have no faith in our leaders. No wonder our young people want to leave and never look back. Such a shame.
Before last evening’s vote to appoint the new board members, wasn’t Ms. Kedney the newest member? If so, why would the senior members follow her lead to appoint those three in one motion? And Heather is right, why would the newest members be encouraged to vote immediately, before reviewing the topics? The entire episode left me thinking, “What the hell just happened here?”