LiB exists to promote awareness and involvement of all community members in the ongoing work of local government. Dear LiB letters may not represent the views of all LiB members, but are published for the purpose of encouraging further discussion and engagement.
I am writing this letter because I am very concerned about the events that took place on Monday January 14, 2013 at the Northgate School District board meeting. Last week rumors started circulating Bellevue and Avalon that superintendent Dr. Joseph Pasquerilla was going to propose cutting 20% of Northgate’s teachers, as well as reduce classes offered, increase class sizes, lower graduation requirements, cut classroom aides, and shuffle kids between elementary schools based on class size instead of which borough they live in. As I prepared for the board meeting, I tried to find out what I could regarding the proposed cuts. The only written sources of information I could find was a pamphlet from the Northgate Education Association that listed some of the proposed cuts and raised some questions about what it could mean for the community and an article in The Citizen dated 1/11/2013. While Dr. Pasquerilla did answer some questions at an Avalon PTO meeting four days ago, neither he nor the school board made any attempt to provide adequate proof of the need for such drastic cuts. The agenda for the board meeting wasn’t even posted until the day of the board meeting, giving the community little time to organize and prepare.
Not only am I sad to report that all of Dr. Pasquerilla’s proposals were passed but I am also angered in the manner in which they were passed. Not one school board member or administration official has shown sufficient proof that the cuts are needed. In fact all along they have maintained that it is not a budget issue but simply a decision based on enrollment. Dr. Pasquerilla only provided enrollment numbers for 1995, 2002, and 2012. The vice president of the school board, Dr. Timothy Makatura, is a neighbor of mine and voted in favor of each of the superintendent’s proposals. I thought since we were neighbors, I could approach him for more details on what prompted the school board to make such cuts. He told me that it was something that he had personally been thinking about for a long time and that it was needed. When I asked him why the community, including teachers that work in the district, hadn’t heard about the proposals until last week, he couldn’t provide an explanation.
The timing of these events isn’t the only thing that angers me. When I asked Dr. Makatura about the need for such cuts, he echoed comments by Dr. Pasquerilla, saying that it was simply due to declining enrollment. However when I pressed him further, asking for figures proving that the declining enrollment warrants such drastic cuts, he tried comparing it to a business that sells less product than it used to, and so there would not be a need to keep as many employees. When I pressed even further, stating that the school district is not a business that sells widgets and should not only be concerned about the bottom line, he looked me straight in the eye and said because they can’t legally furlough teachers due to a poor economy. So there you have it, a board member finally admitting that Dr. Pasquerilla and the Northgate school board have been lying because they can’t legally get rid of teachers for the reasons they want.
It was amazing to see how the school board could listen to over three hours of citizen outrage at Dr. Pasquerilla’s proposals, only to have their minds already made up. No one cared to discuss the issue further even though it was only officially proposed minutes before they were to vote. However, when Dr. Pasquerilla asked the board members to decide how frequently to publish the school newsletter, The Torch, either 0, 1 or 2 times a year, the board members decided to table that item for the future because they needed time to think about it.
One board member, Shirl Reinhart, even got up and left in the middle of community testimony, never to return to the meeting.
I am further angered by the fact that Dr. Pasquerilla says that he has the best interests in the community at heart, when he does not live in the community, has only been with the district for less than a year, and further research reveals that he has been linked to a ‘diploma mill’ scandal where he was paid for recruiting teachers to take classes that he taught, earning them a useless master’s degree that would not be recognized in the state of PA.
Below are the names of the school board members that were present at tonight’s meeting. I would urge that any members of the community that find their behavior unethical and not in the best interest of the community write to them and voice their displeasure. They are elected officials and need to know that they represent the interests of the community, not those of the superintendent. Finally I would like thank school board member Dr. Shannon Smithey, as she was the only one to go against the superintendent and vote to save Northgate School District.
Daniel O’Keefe, President, email@example.com
Dr. Timothy Makatura, Vice President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Paladin, Treasurer, email@example.com
Brigitte Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Klicker, email@example.com
Anthony Barbarino, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirl Reinhart, email@example.com
Marita Bartholomew, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Shannon Smithey, email@example.com