THE CITY of Wilkes Barre is improving. A nationally ranked college, a hospital with state-of-the art medical facilities and a university steadily growing. A city with natural beauty, parks, recreation.
A prospering city depends on availability of higher education, quality medical facilities, recreation and a first class K-12 school system; an awesome responsibility for the board of education and superintendent.
There is too much at stake; the future of our youths and the rebirth of a city. The former and present boards fail to recognize the magnitude of the problem. Fraud, nepotism, and incompetence in the city school district victimize our children.
It is inconceivable that the board and superintendent may be oblivious to the depth of their problems that need to be prioritized and solved. Does anyone realize what the priorboard's behavior did to the credibility of the board?
The most recent disregard for taxpayers' dollars:The district paid its solicitor $325,000 in 2011with no written contract or major litigation – a solicitor under investigation for possible fraud.
This district appears to be a magnet for corruption and incompetence. The board continues to do piecemeal studies and pours millions into the patchwork repairs. The board forgives nearly a half-million dollars in taxes on a city-owned property.
Job preservation keeps the superintendent from mentioning a deplorable creditability problem with the public and this board. He shares in this creditability problem.
The motion to close Meyers without valid data was irresponsible. There is no argument that the students deserve and need safe and quality facilities. There is no argument that to achieve the necessary facility upgrades or a new school a public vote will be needed.
It's not rocket science to figure that when the board of education lacks credibility. in a city of citizens living on fixed incomes, a bond issue might fail.
Electing a sitting board member and accused felon (who later pleaded guilty) president in 2009; enacting a policy that colleges will have to pay for student teachers; the inability to complete a hiring policy; these are not positive board actions.
Renewing the superintendent's contract for four years without a formal evaluation or even a written contract is certainly questionable.
Restoration of integrity has to be number one. Leadership starts at the top; formal evaluation of the superintendent is needed. He was at the helm when all this occurred. Board credibility can be enhanced by evaluation of the superintendent and staff and subsequent action. The implementation of a hiring policy will go a long way in the eyes of the public.
This cannot be solved exclusively internally. Seeking the publics' input and ignoring the advice must cease. Until reinstatement of the trust occurs, no progress can be made in this once award-winning district.
Second to credibility are facilities, which impact curriculum, motivate learning and instill pride for community, students, faculty and support staff. This in turn motivates families and business to come to the city.
A district-wide study of every school and building is required before any decisions are made that involve building and/or renovations. The study will produce a master facility plan in line with the funding capabilities of the district and taxpayers. It will identify the maximum use of present facilities based on present and future enrollments and curriculum requirements.
At this time, closing a school is not practical based on an internal evaluation of space and schedules. There is a lot more involved such as social issues, discipline concerns involved in moving students and the potential flight out of the district by students and parents against sending their children to another school in the district.
In the event that two or three existing schools are to remain, renovations must be planned. Updating only one school creates a parity problem; you don't want to create a situation in which where you live determines the quality of the building and curriculum.
Step back, do the comprehensive study and make the decisions based on documented facts.
Time will allow for gaining credibility. Time will allow for gaining supportable facts.
And with any luck the time may see a turn around in the economy.
Then, perhaps, a bond issues passes, as reasonable people presented reasonable facts make reasonable decisions.