Jun. 10—KINGSTON — In a virtual meeting so marred by sound problems nearly every caller complained about inaudible stretches, the Wyoming Valley West School Board on Wednesday appointed a replacement for the late Gary Richards and approved a six-year bus contract one member said was "not beneficial to our taxpayers."
In fact the member questioning the bus contract, Charles Kamus, said at the end of the meeting that he believed the meeting violated the state's sunshine/open meetings laws because nine members of the public who called in said they couldn't hear many of the statements during the meeting.
The appointment of Janet Cussatt to fill Richards' seat came only weeks after the board held a special morning meeting that grew heated when Kamus questioned why Richard's seat hadn't been filled after he missed meetings for six months.
At the time, President Joe Mazur said the board had not received any information on those absences, but Kamus said Richards had died, and moved to appoint Cussatt to finish his term. Cussatt ran unopposed in the primary for Richards' Region 3 school board seat. The vote to appoint her Wednesday was unanimous, and she was sworn in immediately, but when it came time to vote she abstained citing her lack of knowledge regarding the agenda items.
Kamus has also previously criticized the bus contract, contending there was no effort to seek competitive bids. On Wednesday he pointed out there was no clause in the contract regarding possible termination, and voiced concerns about escalating prices in the contract each year.
During the public comment section, Forty Fort Mayor Andy Tuzinski — who filed a complaint in Luzerne County Court contending the last meeting was illegal because the sound had been turned off for several minutes — made a similar allegation this meeting.
Tuzinski said that because the bus contract was not on the agenda posted for public viewing on the district website, "and substantial amounts of discussion regarding it were not able to be heard," that any vote should "be shelved and not acted on because the public was not allowed to participate and listen to all the nuances and details of the contract."
Along with appointing Cussatt and approving the bus contract, the board approved a resolution that appeared to be the same as the one approved at the controversial May 27 special meeting, adopting a "proposed final budget" for the 2021-2 fiscal year in t he amount of $85 million. As was the case previously, the resolution had no additional information on the proposed budget and no one offered details.
And the board authorized the issuance of "one or more series of its general obligation bonds for the purposes of funding projects" that include refunding outstanding debt from 2011 and 2020, energy efficiency improvements, purchase of capital equipment, and improvements to existing facilities.
Superintendent Dave Tosh announced near the start of the meeting that the dress code committee had reviewed the use of a provisional code implemented during the pandemic and recommended maintaining the provisional code for the coming school year.
And while Tuzinski and longtime district educator David Bond had made specific criticisms of Mazur during the public comment session, other callers complained about the mandate that elementary students wear masks, and one complained about the lack of monitoring of vaping in school rest rooms. Tosh said the district is looking into ways to monitor vaping in restrooms for the coming school year.