Board faces tense public comments in March action meeting

In a virtual format after a canceled worksession earlier in the month, the North Penn School Board March Action meeting consisted of tense public comments from the community with responses from the Board.

Prior to the Audience of Citizens, the Board recognized all of the participants of the Black History Oratorical Competition in February. Penndale Assistant Principal Dr. Marjorie Diègue read out the names of all the students and the winners of the competition were congratulated for their accomplishments.

“I was so impressed with the students, they were excellent and I look forward to getting to see them again on April 23 at the International Spring Festival,” Board President Tina Stoll expressed. 

In the Audience of Citizens, some community members continued to challenge the Board over the masks and vaccines while others were voicing their opposition to the lifting of the mandate. 

Some people brought up a recent Knight Crier article about Board Vice President Christain Fusco and how he has dealt with his mental health during his time as a school board director. This article brought to light the hardships, emotions, and even threats that Board members face across the country. While those who spoke about it held the student writer in high regard, the content of the article made some people question whether Fusco is qualified to do his job, which he made clear later on that mental health is not something to shy away from.

I think in the conversations tonight there were a lot of mentions about concerns for our own children and their mental health and emotional wellbeing. What Mr. Fusco did in that interview was raise awareness.”

— Board director Juliane Ramić

“Having those courageous conversations about emotional well-being and modeling self-awareness is so powerful for our students,” Board director Juliane Ramic said. “I think in the conversations tonight there were a lot of mentions about concerns for our own children and their mental health and emotional wellbeing. What Mr. Fusco did in that interview was raise awareness.”

“For those who suggest that I should step down because of my willingness to talk about my experience, I assure you that I’m working through these issues, that I’m well, I’m healthy, and I’m not going anywhere, so you don’t have to worry about me,” Fusco said at the end of the meeting. 

Another community member brought up the “privilege walk” that occurred in an elementary school in May of 2021, demanding the Board respond to his accusation that the Board lied to the community. 

“We have absolutely no evidence that kids were lining up by the color of their skin and made to apologize,” Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich said in response to that statement that particular community member made. 

We are not trying to make any student feel bad about who they are. We are doing the exact opposite of that.”

— Board Vice President Christian Fusco

“We are not trying to make any student feel bad about who they are. We are doing the exact opposite of that,” Fusco said after the second Audience of Citizens where the same community member raised the question again. “We want this district to be inclusive to the groups of students in particular who historically have not felt particularly included in this district.”

Aside from the whirlwind of public comments, the business of the action meeting was limited. In the Superintendent’s report, there were updates on the Knapp Elementary construction, voting for repairs for the North Penn Natatorium pool heater, and the approval of the Memorandum of Agreement with the North Penn Education Association (NPEA), which pertains to the adjustment of the curriculum rate of pay for certified professionals, specifically school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, and Wilson-trained teachers.

The next school board meeting will be a work session on April 12, 2022, at 7 pm.