FACED WITH picking up the pieces after Luzerne County's agonizing and embarrassing public corruption scandal, which exposed the Wilkes-Barre Area School District as ground zero for bribe-passing and other bad behavior, they could have chosen to do the right thing.
They did not.
They could have adopted reforms; instead, they resorted to old-school ways.
They could have embraced transparency as a standard operating procedure; instead, they picked trickery.
They could have been hailed as community heroes; instead, they will be remembered as colossal disappointments, or worse.
The five-person school board majority – Robert Corcoran, Louis Elmy, Dino Galella, Philip Latinski and John Quinn – abruptly voted last week to end what had been expected to be a far-ranging and meticulous search for a new district superintendent. Instead, they hired the in-house candidate.
They did so Monday night, hours before Election Day mania gripped many people's attentions, without putting the item on the board's printed agenda. The vote came late in the meeting, after much of the audience already had left. For good measure, the same five also passed a teacher-hiring policy that won't prohibit the sleazy practice of selecting board members' relatives for plum district jobs. (For the record, Corcoran, Elmy, Galella and Quinn all have either a relative working for the district or one who has applied for a job or promotion in the district.)
Last week's voting flurry seemed to catch the board's four other members, including its president, by surprise. Seemingly, it was as if the five-person majority had plotted its moves beforehand, beyond the public's eyes and ears.
Since 2009, the various versions of Wilkes-Barre Area's board collectively have failed to react to the corruption revelations in any meaningful way other than to complain that it's old news and to ask, Can't we put this behind us?
Unwilling or unable to make the responsible decisions, this board has, as of Nov. 5, indicated that it is not going to change. So you and like-minded people across Luzerne County must change the board. That process, which will include electing new school directors, shouldn't wait until later years or involve only a handful of reform advocates. Start now.
• Send a letter to the school board expressing displeasure with its actions, or send it to this newspaper, or both. Or simply clip out this editorial and mail it to the district office; they'll get the message.
• Attend a future board meeting. Speak out, display a sign (Shame on you should about cover it) or simply sit in silence. Your presence will speak volumes.
• Identify residents of the school district who will make viable candidates in future elections, with an eye on reshaping the board majority.
• Enlist others – from federal, state and county lawmakers, to neighbors, to groups such as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association – to amplify calls for change.
By contrast, if you do nothing, it's tantamount to setting back the clock to December 2008 and pretending you have no knowledge, or control, over what happens within your community's public institutions.
Those days are over.
Attend the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board annual reorganization meeting set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3, in the Administration Building, 730 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre