Isaac Tripp reorganzing PTA after entire board resigns

Feb. 26—Isaac Tripp Elementary School will reorganize its parent-teacher association after its entire board resigned this month.

Marie Merkel, Pennsylvania PTA president, announced the resignations during a PTA meeting also attended by several Scranton school directors.

Merkel, who lives in West Scranton and oversees PTAs statewide, has claimed the members had been in "distress and turmoil" over activities and events planned this school year.

"This is not healthy for the volunteers or the families of our children," Merkel, who plans to run for a seat on the Scranton School Board, wrote in a letter to school directors. "It is of great concern that this PTA, the largest in the city of Scranton, is suffering due to lack of commitment to the mission of PTA from the administration. As state president, I am hoping that you understand that I have witnessed the struggles these volunteers are enduring while trying to carry out the mission of PTA."

Principal Shannon Rucker, who has a binder full of correspondence with the PTA this school year, said issues with the officers seemed to begin when she announced plans for more inclusive in-school events. The school, with an increasingly diverse population, held a fall festival instead of a Halloween parade, and a winter wonderland celebration instead of a Christmas-themed event. The PTA then held a Trail of Treats and a Night with Santa outside of the regular school day.

Rucker denies being uncooperative. While the PTA has criticized her publicly for not being a member, Rucker — who became principal in 2021 — said she regularly attends PTA meetings and was unaware she needed to fill out the official membership form until alerted this school year. She is now an official member.

Alleged issues also caught the ire of Danielle Chesek, a Scranton school director whose son attends Tripp. Chesek had served as chair of the PTA's Reflections committee, which organizes an annual arts contest.

In an email to her fellow school directors this month, Chesek quotes human rights activist Ginetta Sagan: "Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor."

Chesek criticized fellow directors for not taking action on complaints brought forward by the PTA. Chesek cited several issues, including scheduling issues and potential security fees for the Reflections ceremony and being met with "opposition and negativity" in the short time she served on the nominating committee this month to find new PTA officers.

"The board and district are well aware of issues that took place, yet nothing was done. No accountability, no investigation, no resolution," she wrote to directors. "Your silence speaks volumes."

Former PTA President Rita Harris declined comment.

Since the board's resignation, Rucker has sent PTA membership forms home to parents in both English and Spanish. About 20 parents have joined, and several are interested in becoming officers, she said.

"Parent engagement is the most important thing. We need parents and guardians more than ever," Rucker said. "We're trying to reach as many parents as possible."

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