The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Snyder County

April 16, 2014

Midd-West board feels backlash

Petitions target president, board member

MIDDLEBURG — Petitions to oust Midd-West school board President Victor Abate and director Ronald Wilson began circulating less than 12 hours after the board unanimously voted to suspend acting Superintendent Daphne Snook without pay pending the outcome of an investigation into a breach in the district’s email system.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, at least 50 people had endorsed the petitions.

“The school board is out of control,” said Lewis Longer, of Richfield.

Julie Eriksson, of Kreamer, also supported the petition, leaving the comment, “I’m tired of the unprofessionalism.”

The petition seeking Abate’s removal expressed dismay that he has promoted private agendas and special interests over the public good.

“Since Abate has been seated on the board, the entire district has been inundated with witch hunts and negative attention,” it said. “A

dysfunctional board impacts student achievement and common sense dictates that the negative climate created by chaotic and turbulent board meetings is not confined to the board meetings, but permeates the entire district.”

Wilson is being singled out for sending a mass email to district employees threatening their jobs if they don’t follow board directives and another sent to Beavertown pastor James Plank threatening to file contempt charges against him for disagreeing with board decisions.

Audience members gasped when Plank read portions of the letter aloud at Monday’s board meeting.

School boards “establish a model of collegiality and collaboration that builds confidence across the community. Ron Wilson’s belligerent behavior to the staff members and local constituents should not be tolerated and demands immediate removal from the school board,” the petition said.

Abate declined to comment on the petitions and concerns expressed by district employees and residents.

Wilson did not respond to a call Tuesday.

Resident Jenn Arbogast signed the petition and criticized the board for not acting in the best interest of children and taxpayers, particularly in regard to the October’s resignation of Superintendent Wesley Knapp after Knapp was charged by the board with incompetency and neglect of duties as well as for the board’s lack of support for the controversial Reader’s Workshop program that has divided board directors, teachers and parents.

Snook said the dispute over the program was at the root of her suspension and denies violating the district Internet policy or improperly breaching the email system.

Arbogast said the community will be paying close attention to the board while pursuing Wilson’s and Abate’s removal.

They are the third members of the nine-member board this year facing an angry electorate that wants them out of office.

Director and former board president Nancy Kroh is going to Snyder County Court next week to fight for her seat and argue against a petition endorsed by 73 residents who allege she committed unlawful acts and was derelict in her duty while serving as president.

The district is paying her legal fees to the Camp Hill law firm, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman and Goggin, which as of Monday were $6,784. The board on Monday tabled a vote on paying the bill.

Meanwhile, the board has 30 days to fill the vacancy created by Scott Norman’s resignation. He said a lack of leadership on the board and “dirty politics” being played by some unidentified directors led him to leave in March, just four months after being elected.

Abate said the board will be accepting letters of interest from the community members and will set up interviews with prospective candidates.

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