Sunday, May 14, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3502, May 14th, 2017

Candidates Joe Caffrey, Denise Thomas, Ned Evans, Melissa Etzie Patla and Al Horozy. (Photo: LuLac)
Friday night the NAACP Chapter of Wilkes Barre held a candidates forum involving the people running for the Wilkes Barre Area School Board. There were about 50 people in attendance at the Mount Zion Church up on Hill Street. To me, personally as a resident of Wilkes Barre, hell, as a property owner in the city who pays huge taxes, the lack of interest tells me that people don’t give a rat’s ass about local elections. You hear the loudmouths spouting off on the radio sitting on their fat and/or bony asses during the day, telling the world how smart/dumb they are, but they won’t come to a meeting.
That said, let’s get to the people that were there. The NAACP hosted the event like they do every election. It was organized and very conducive to a forum that put others event like this I attended to shame. Incumbent candidates Joe Caffrey, Denise Thomas and Ned Evans were there. There is one seat to fill and two going for it. Melissa Etzle Patla and former school teacher Al Horozy are vying for that seat.
Moderator Ron Felton asked questions regarding funding for schools. A lawsuit was discussed that was filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children in Pennsylvania the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and thrive in today’s world. The board members were aware of the action and made brief statements in support of it.
The construction of the new school was discussed too. Former NAACP head Larry Singleton asked about the money already spent on new sights as well as the offer from Geisinger for free land. Thomas and Caffrey said any site selection was going to have costs due to figuring out how it would fit into the building plan itself. Evans, who (hold on to your hats people) really impressed me with his grasp of details, passion and knowledge, said he felt there might be more costs to develop the land for a school project. Evans said it could double the cost.
Current NAACP head Attorney Guerline L. Laurore asked about hiring more teachers of minority status in the school. She also said that many students were not prepared for higher education because they saw no role models of color. Horozy talked about his experience with getting involved in the educational system while Evans recalled his days in the Future Teacher’s Club. Caffrey said that was something that was certainly encouraged and Thomas said that the effort needed to begin in the 7th or 8th grade. She even suggested trips to local colleges to let young students see what it was all about. Evans spoke to the fact that current teachers sometimes have to be the mother, father, rabbi and confessor to many students in the district. His comments dovetailed on my thoughts that education begins in the home. My sister was a first grade teacher for 33 years and on the first day of school some parents would bring their child in and say, “I hope you can fix him/her because I can’t do anything with them”. That’s a hell of burden to put on anyone because a child at that age should have at least a foundation of basic knowledge and social skills that begin in the home.
Nepotism was brought up and the Directors gave the predictable answers that you can’t fault someone for being a school director’s relative if they wanted or got a job. Evans candidly addressed his daughter’s hiring at West Side Vo Tech and said she was number 2 on the list when the top person could not take the job because of illness. The fact of the matter is with nepotism, this school board is paying for the sins of the past school directors. Just like this board caught the can the previous boards kicked down the road on building a new school, with this issue there will always be lingering doubt.
The nepotism issue was clearly an area where Etle Patla failed. She could have come out swinging but didn’t. She did bring up a point about so many School District employees landing on the board.
Dr. Brian Costello was lauded as a superior Superintendent in the district. I am 100% sure he is. He did the work, got the credentials. But the fact that his late father was a long time school director and he’s married to Eddie Pashinski’s daughter still stokes that nepotism or coincidence claim for some.
That lead to my question regarding the number of people with past ties to the district on the board. I stated: "Speaking of diversity, I’d like to bring something up about diversity. Currently 6 out of the 9 board members are from the Wilkes Barre area educational system. We are on track to have 7 out of 9. That is not diversity.
Now you are all members of the political class. Your entire careers are based on that and that was your choice. You worked hard to get elected.
My question is this, when you decide for your term to end, will you reach out to citizens who have supported your salaries and pensions through the years, will you mentor someone other than a political crony or fellow district employee to take your place (maybe someone in this audience) or in a few years will we see the same old same old?"
All answered that they of course would try to encourage people to enter the electoral process. I respected their answers but I have my doubts. The reason why there are so many educators on the board is because they take the chance and run for office. These are the people who run. My issue (and it was totally misunderstood by one of the County Council candidates there) is that until I see one of them mentor or encourage someone other than their inner circle, this will be the face of our leadership.
How does it change? Well, it will take years because the political structure in Wilkes Barre is a stacked deck. When qualified candidates like Len Cornish and Kathy Grinaway can’t get a leg up because the wagons get circled, you’’ll have this structure.
You change it by doing basic things.
1. Showing up at meetings like this.
2. Registering to vote.
3. Building your own network that will make the entrenched powers that be compete vigorously.
Until then, any chance of having someone different on a school board in this area is nil. But it can be done. Years ago in the Valley West School District, John Cicero and Wilbur Troy get running until they won. But you have to GET in the game and STAY in the game. This election showcased the lack of competition and interest.
It was a good forum that more people should have attended but that’s life. Ned Evans brought up the fact that 47% of the residents in the city of Wilkes Barre pay school taxes. HALF! That just cries out for property tax reform and the State Legislature has done nothing. With the building of the new school, as people like me age out, and the taxes go higher, we’re out. Simple as that.
But in the meantime……Tuesday is Election Day and if you care enough………


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