Pottsville Area school board votes to furlough teacher, nurse

Christine Lee, Republican & Herald, Pottsville, Pa.
·3 min read

Mar. 11—POTTSVILLE — Two employees in the Pottsville Area School District will be laid off due to declining student enrollment.

School board members voted 7-2 on a resolution Wednesday night furloughing a teacher and a nurse, who were not identified, effective Wednesday.

Board members Ashley DeWitt and and Pat Moran voted against the measure, while board President Noble C. "Bud" Quandel Jr., Vice President Ann Blankenhorn and members Christina DiCello, Craig Shields, Linda Wytovich, Michael Cardamone and Jerome Urban voted for the resolution.

DeWitt said the furloughs are a byproduct of the furloughs approved by the board last school year, and that she would continue to oppose any employee furloughs.

She and Moran had voted at the end of last year against cutting six teachers and seven staff members as part of the district's budget process.

Wednesday's resolution states that the district has experienced a "substantial decline in class enrollments for the past several years" unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

It adds that the two employees were offered a hearing before the board, but both declined.

Acting Superintendent Jared Gerace said the employees, who he said work at "multiple" schools, could be hired back.

In a presentation last May, officials said there has been a 15% decline in student enrollment over 10 years, with the district losing 459 students.

During the meeting, Quandel pointed out the district paid $2.6 million during the current school year for charter school tuition, saying that Gillingham Charter School in the city is expanding its campus to offer additional programs.

"The district needs to offer services to students and families to retain their attendance," he said, noting the district is paying $1,258,265 to Gillingham.

8th grade prom

During the meeting, several members of the public asked the board to consider allowing an eighth grade prom this year.

D.H.H. Lengel Middle School eighth grader Aspen Robbins said in comments read by Gerace said the event could be fun and safe, adding suggestions from fellow students for it to be held.

"This dance is for us to have fun, make memories and step out of our comfort zone," she said.

Middle school parent and PTO member Carolyn Morris said in remarks, also read by Gerace, that students have had a lot of "social isolation" during the coronavirus pandemic.

She added that a prom would be safe, with chaperones, hand sanitizer and face masks, and parents to help hand out items.

"I feel we can do a dance with one grade present safely," she said.

Later on, board members approved a facility request for a farewell dance in the middle school cafeteria on May 22, contingent on COVID-19 guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention being followed.

In other business, board members:

—Approved an agreement between the district and KingSpry of Bethlehem for legal services, effective from July 1 to June 30, 2023. It costs $22,000 for each school year covered under the agreement.

—Voted to approve an after-school tutoring program that will be held at various locations throughout the district. It will be funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

—Agreed to accept a $1,500 check from Capital BlueCross for health and wellness safety measures, supporting distance learning or assisting students and their families with their social, emotional and academic needs.

Quandel began the meeting with a moment of silence to honor the late Scott Reichert, who had coached basketball and baseball in the district.

Contact the writer: clee@republicanherald.com; 570-628-6028; @Cleespot on Twitter