School Board action meeting returns to normalcy

The+North+Penn+School+Board+at+the+most+recent+action+meeting+in+November.

Franky Walsh

The North Penn School Board at the most recent action meeting in November.

During the first North Penn School Board meeting since Election Day, where all 4 incumbents, Tina Stoll, Jonathan Kassa, Christian Fusco, and Al Roesch, were re-elected, the audience in person was uncharacteristically sparse. 

With no more than 10 public comments throughout the night, the meeting progressed quickly compared to previous meetings that would run for over 2 hours due to numerous public comments. 

Some of those who were in the audience were concerned with the recent strike down of the state-wide mask mandate and some people requested that the board take another look at optional masks in schools. 

“I am here to urge you to update the north penn mask policy and make masks optional,” parent Erin Blanc said to the Board during the first Audience of Citizens stating that because vaccines for children over 5 are approved, the Board should take another look.

I am here to urge you to update the North Penn mask policy and make masks optional”

— Parent Erin Blanc

While many parents share the same desires, according to the district’s Health and Safety Plan that was decided earlier in the year, the district is still in High, meaning that masks are mandatory until the case numbers go down. 

Children as young as 5 years old are now able to receive the vaccine which may or may not have an influence on the Health and Safety plan’s guidelines in the future, but the Board has not yet discussed it. 

During Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich’s report, the Board approved the 2022-2023 Program of Studies that adds new classes to the curriculum and changes levels for certain classes including the addition of Anatomy II, Guitar Lab, and CHIP(Community Hosted Internship Program). 

Chief Financial Officer Steve Skrocki was asked about the Montgomery Mall bankruptcy and how it would affect their real estate tax assessment appeal filed by the owners of the mall back in 2018. 

“The bankruptcy complicated matters with respect to our settlement discussion with the property owner… [it] led us to try to reach a resolution prior to this case going to court,” Skrocki said after a question from Board director Cathy Wesley. 

The board is now responsible for coming up with the money to refund the owners of the mall 2.7 million dollars. However, the board has been setting money aside since the appeal was filed in 2018. They currently have 1.6 million set aside specifically for this appeal and only need 1.1 million dollars this year and will come from the district’s fund balance. 

“With Covid, our spending was mitigated for the year, so the end result was we were able to add to our fund balance by 3.6 million dollars and that is very timely considering the Montgomery mall appeal knowing that were going to have to come up with an additional 1.1 million dollars from our fund balance to cover that settlement,” Skrocki explained. 

As chair of Safe Schools, Board director Jonathan Kassa brought up a recent bill passed buy the state house that lowered the age to 18 for concealed permitless carry of guns. 

“[This] law, where its been passed in other states, has been shown to increase weapons offenses and suicides in those ages 18 to 21. It lowers the age of carrying and getting a gun from age 21 to age 18 and what that means is, there is no training, there is no getting a permit or a review. It means that someone who was once a student here could walk out, go to a store, get a weapon, and show up years later unannounced,” Kassa said. 

He encouraged the community to reach out to their state legislators to make their opinions known about this controversial bill. 

Concluding the meeting, Board Director Dr. Wanda Lewis-Campbell congratulated her fellow board members for being successfully reelected for 4 more years on the North Penn School Board.

We want to thank you for your example of leadership many times under fire, for our candidates that ran, that won, you were threatened with not being voted back in.”

— Board Director Dr. Wanda Lewis Campbell

“We want to thank you for your example of leadership many times under fire, for our candidates that ran, that won, you were threatened with not being voted back in. You had name-calling, insults, disrespect, rudeness, and even spit at and you handled it all with gentleness, with dignity, with respect… with kindness, even when people aren’t kind to you,” Campbell said on behalf of the rest of the board.

The next North Penn School Board meeting will be on December 6 and will be held at 6:30 as it is the Board Reorganization. Currently, the meeting will be held at the ESC, but is subject to change locations if the expected community show out is large.