An online petition accusing a Stroudsburg Area School District board member of making inappropriate comments in a voicemail is making waves across the county.
The Change.org petition, "Resignation of Dr. Judith Magann, Stroudsburg School Board Director, due to racist remarks," which appeared on the page about a week ago, seeks to force Magann to resign her post, or for the school board to remove her due to accusations of unseemly statements made in a voicemail to a parent.
Jennifer Olson, founder and board president for the private Summit School of the Poconos and the parent who received the call from Magann, shared a copy of the voicemail with Pocono Record.
A transcript of the voicemail is featured on the petition.
Throughout the transcript, it is suggested that Magann derided the district on several points, including the lack of quality of education, and the prioritization of "diversity equity" at SASD.
“It's Judy Magann. Um, I think you have an illusion about Stroudsburg that doesn't exist [unintelligible] is at an all time low, our superintendent hires the cheapest teachers. He cuts programs. It's all about diversity equity, which white privilege is not, uh, something that there's, you know, doing anything but screaming in your faces and the programs are not available for academically challenging kids," the transcript reads.
The transcript continues with Magann suggesting the parent look into enrolling their student at other schools, including Moravian and Blair.
As of Friday afternoon, 179 individuals have signed the petition.
The Pocono Record has not been able to locate the originator of the petition, an individual allegedly named Brian Joe, for comment. It is important to note that anyone can start a petition on the Change.org website, and that these petitions are not enforceable.
The voicemail that prompted the petition
Olson said that she received the voicemail from Magann following a series of interactions between the two on social media in late September.
Olson said that she did not listen to the voicemail for several weeks, and proceeded to share it with the SASD board on Nov. 15, "because I felt that it was something they needed to know about."
"It's concerning that a fiduciary on a board would leave a voicemail like that for someone about the institution that they're supposed to be representing," Olson said. "Judy MaGann is an acquaintance, she's not a friend. It's not like we were close friends, and she was leaving a very personal message."
However, Olson also noted that she did not start the petition against Magann, and was unaware of it until she saw it over the weekend.
Notably, the petition predominantly focuses upon the perceived "racist remarks" above all, though it does make note of the overall state of SASD.
Several individuals have made comments on the petition suggesting that Magann's behavior was damaging to the district, including those like Linda Greenwood, who stated "It is a disgrace that someone who is responsible for the education of our children, is not supportive of an equitable education for all of our children."
Magann is serving her 15th year on the Stroudsburg School Board after being re-elected for the fourth time in the recent November elections. It is not a compensated position.
Magann responded that she became aware of the petition on Sunday, January 9, and noted "It is a position that results in decisions that affect taxpayers, students and staff as well as parents," and "There is no decision that appeases all of these groups. "
"I have lived in Stroudsburg my entire life and have belonged to a family that greatly values public education," said Magann.
Magann questioned the implications that petition signers have placed on her message, adding that online campaigns such as these are not a reliable source of information, and that the platform is not a legitimate way of addressing an issue with an elected official such as herself.
"We are talking about a Facebook petition run and controlled by an individual person. Facebook allows for people to hide in anonymity, saying anything they like using real or fictional names," Magann said. "The names assigned to any petition whether it is for or against me or Alex Reincke is not valid in that the same 10 people can sign multiple times."
In March of 2021, a similar petition on Change.org garnered near 500 signatures calling for the removal of Reincke, a Stroudsburg School Board member, and accused him of publishing social media posts that were "extremely divisive and prejudiced political views." He was later re-elected back on the board in November of 2021.
"If we run government or elections by Facebook petitions, God help us," Magann said. "Social media is a sensational media and if used incorrectly is damaging. It may be the most troublesome issue facing our political future. Misuse and abuse is affecting the health and well being of each and every community."
Christa Caceres, president of Monroe County Chapter NAACP #2275, signed the petition herself, stating that while she was not "aware of everything that was in (Magann's) mind and heart," the message itself did warrant action.
"Seeing that Miss Magann is a former president and longtime school board member of the Stroudsburg district, it is highly concerning that she would hold this position given her responsibility to center the well being of every child in her district. And her words, even the ones that aren't connected to race, are concerning. You should always want to support your teaching staff, you should always want to support everyone that's involved in educating our children. And her disparaging comments across the board were highly concerning," Caceres said.
Caceres also highlighted the dismantling and restructuring of the district's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee — which Caceres characterized as lacking in "a full commitment to centering every child" — and another petition regarding racism and inequality within SASD as indicators that these matters must be a major focal point of the board.
"This is not Moravian. This is not Blair. This is a melting pot of ideas, cultures, viewpoints from all over. And that's what America is supposed to be about. And if you don't want to represent that, then go serve on the board of Moravian or Blair," Caceres said.
SASD board member Merlyn Clarke defended Magann, suggesting Olson shared the voicemail over personal or professional issues, resulting in the "bogus petition."
"First of all, what they are quoting, is a private message left on a person's phone, so what business does anybody have even doing anything with that? Now, the person that Judy called is a prominent person in this community, who obviously shared her phone message with people who are bearing a grudge, and are out to get Judy for whatever reason. So that's the setting. And people need to realize that a private conversation has been used to smear a dedicated public servant, longtime resident and professional person. Who would do that, I don't know," Clarke said.
Clarke added that this instance fell in line with "a perfect case of cancel culture, or people who are out to snare and otherwise forced people to resign from that positions by smearing (them)," and "there's an epidemic of this kind of thing going on, promoted by the equity movement."
— Maria Francis is a reporter at the Pocono Record covering education, business and local news in Monroe County. Reach her at email@example.com.
— Brian Myszkowski covers the COVID-19 pandemic in northeast Pennsylvania and is Senior Reporter at the Pocono Record. Reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Change.org petition seeks removal of Stroudsburg board member