The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


February 4, 2014

My Turn: Voices deserve a public vote


Who attended these sessions?  According to the consultant’s own demographic account for the first two meetings, 85 percent held bachelors degrees or higher, and 90 percent were between the ages of 30 and 64. That is not a representative sample of the local electorate. What about those who don’t work the first shift, who live in retirement homes, who couldn’t get childcare, or who simply weren’t aware of the meetings because they didn’t have children in LASD or read the newspaper? Or who believed, quite reasonably, that these meetings were exploratory, and that an official vote would be held on a decision involving such a huge expenditure?

Following these public meetings, a petition of nearly 500 signatures of LASD residents protesting the Newman site was presented to the school board at the April 8, 2010, meeting. Half of the signatories lived outside of the borough. Yet the minutes from that school board meeting merely state that a petition was presented – nothing further. In fact, school board minutes from the April 8 and 22 (2010) meetings, both of which included comments from citizens who wish to renovate and expand the current school, are not included as part of LASD’s webpage concerning the master-planning process. 

The public input did have some effect, as the school board conceded that re-use of the building in town should be studied by an independent professional. 

The findings of that study, released in September 2010, showed that the existing high school could be renovated and expanded to the standards sought -- for less money than building new. This was significant new information, but LASD made very little effort to publicize it. Their public records of the meetings that followed the study include slides from the consultant but no additional information such as recordings or video. Citizen comments from those meetings are not reflected on the LASD master facilities plan webpage, which presents an edited rendition of both the process and the public response.

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