JS board votes down school closure hearings

From staff reports

JERSEY SHORE — A motion before the Jersey Shore Area School district’s board to set dates for public hearings for the closure of Avis and/or Salladasburg Elementary schools was defeated Monday night with a tie vote of the boad.

Voting for the measure were Craig Allen, Michelle Stemler, Harry Brungard and John Pecchia. Against were Karen Stover, Merrill Sweitzer, Mary Thomas and Kelley Wasson. Christopher Fravel was absent.

The agenda item would have set up meetings in mid-January to explore the direction the public and the board want to take in dealing with the continued budget deficit.

District Solicitor J. David Smith told the board that an approval of the item would have set in motion a procedure that requires the date of the hearing be advertised and then within 90 days after the hearing a vote would have to be taken. If that vote resulted in a school closure, then teachers would have to be notified within 60 days if there was a loss of jobs.

Following the vote, Bob Pryor, Mifflin Township resident, criticized the board for not doing their job.

“I’m really disappointed,” he said. “Who is looking at the reality in this district of what is going on. We have some very bad future deficits coming up here and we have people who don’t even want to consider closing a facility. Not that we want to, but we have to. For pete’s sake, do your job.

“I’m getting the perception that some of these members here aren’t ever going to change their minds and don’t think that we should ever be closing a school, period, at any cost to the taxpayers,” he added.

In response, another resident, Alicia Bilbay, commented that she felt there were other plans that needed to be on the table and not just school closures.

Speaking about a plan that previously had been mentioned by Thomas, which would have resulted in the sale of the district service center, Bilbay said, “The board doesn’t want to even look at, doesn’t even want an appraisal, doesn’t want to know the figures of what it would cost to move the technical stuff to the middle school.”

Under reorganizational matters, the board voted Allen as the new board president, Thomas as vice-president, Stover as assistant board secretary and Stemler as treasurer. They also approved various committee appointments.

The board voted to retain the following fall sports head coaches and sports: Doug Moore, varsity boys soccer; Darrin Bischof, varsity girls soccer; Thomas Gravish, varsity football; and Ann-Marie Dincher, varsity girls tennis.

The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m., Jan. 14 at district board room, 175 A&P Drive.