Notes From School Board Meeting, Aug 16, 2021

The WSSD held its usual scheduled meeting last night. The agenda is available on Board Docs and the video is available on Youtube. The first few minutes seem to have been cut off due to technical issues, but only 6 board members were present.

Board Announcements

The board announced that due to substantial transmission of Covid in the district, masking was required at the meeting. With case numbers continuing to increase it is expected that the district will continue to meet the threshold for universal masking when school starts.

David Grande read Chapin Cimino’s resignation letter due to her upcoming move out of the district. Information about filling this vacancy will be posted to the website.

Superintendent Report

The superintendent is preparing for the start of school. New teacher induction is beginning soon and then teachers will arrive ahead of the start of school on September 9th.

The high school secure entrance is progressing, but delayed due to materials shortage. Most of the work should be complete by August 25th.

The last day to enroll in the district’s virtual school option is August 18th.

Parents and guardians are asked to complete the annual authorizations and permission forms on the parent portal.

The director of instruction has created a technology handbook, but it wasn’t clear what it was for.

The district is working on improving distancing during lunches. They have identified outdoor areas at all schools that can be used for lunch space and will set up tents to allow students to eat lunch outside when the weather allows. Each school will also have additional lunch aids to watch over the expanded spaces.

District sports are working on a plan to comply with the district’s health and safety plan. Most fall sports are outdoors, so only volleyball requires careful planning because it is indoors.

The superintendent stressed that Covid continues to change rapidly and the situation has changed greatly from 2 weeks ago. He expects universal masking will continue into October. He is talking with the unions about increasing vaccinations among the teachers and staff, and weekly testing for those not vaccinated.

In response to the report, Kelly Wachtman asked if K-6 teachers will be required to mask even if the district falls below the threshold for universal masking. The superintendent said they would, but the solicitor pointed out that would require a change to the district’s health and safety plan. But the board took no action to make that change.

Regular business

The board approved the minutes, personnel, curriculum, finance and other business without much comment. It was noted that Mary Martin is returning to the district and they have hired a new lead nurse. Communication with parents and fiscal responsibility were highlighted as focus for the new personnel. The district approved continuing its program with the DCIU for Covid testing.

Board Appointment

The board heard from two candidates for the Region 1 board seat vacated by Marylin Huff, both of whom are running for a 4 year term in November. The board appointed Kevin Henry, who won both the Democratic and Republican primary in May, to the seat by a vote of 5-1. Jennifer Lentz explained why she cast her vote in defiance of democratic norms to replace the departing Democrat, long-time board member Marylin Huff, with a Republican instead of with Kevin Henry, who both parties voters selected in the primary.

Once Chapin Cimino is replaced, due to this year’s high turnover, the majority of the board (5 members) will be appointed, not elected members so the democratic legitimacy of the board is a concern.

Public Comments

Public comments were overwhelmingly supportive of the board this time, largely regarding the masking policy. Public comments included remarks by County Council member Christine Reuther (who lives in Nether Providence), who stated she hopes the board continues its fact-based approach. Some of the commenters were doctors with direct experience with children with Covid.

Closing Remarks

The superintendent closed the meeting with a lengthy statement calling for a civility policy for the district. He says that the disrespect and hostility from the community that he and the board are facing is unprecedented in his experience. He alluded to threats that the board has received and said he was not hired to be bullied. He pointed out that children are watching and learning from the community’s behavior. His speech felt rather like the whole community had been sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior. I’m embedding his speech here.

Categories: Government, WSSD