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Teachers, Taxpayers Blast Scranton School Board

SCRANTON -- It was a heated Scranton School Board meeting Monday night, the first since the state auditor general blasted the district for severe financial mismanagement.

The board approved layoffs to deal with big deficits.

The Scranton School Board approved a contract Monday night with maintenance and clerical workers that includes 23 layoffs.

Parents, teachers, and taxpayers went to the meeting fearing there are many more cuts to come.

"Some of you guys are going to wear handcuffs!" one taxpayer yelled.

"There's been nobody charged with anything here. This school district will not allow personal attacks," said board president Bob Sheridan.

It was the Scranton School Board under attack. A lot of angry comments and accusations were fired their way from the podium at the meeting. It's the first since the state auditor general's report called the district's debt situation the worst in the state -- $25 million in the hole.

"I would like to say I would like to see anyone walk a mile in our shoes," Sheridan said to a chorus of boos.

School board member attempts to defend themselves didn't go over well with this crowd.

"A lot of this stuff was done 16 years ago, before this board or prior boards were here," Sheridan said.

And on the night of this first meeting since that report on the debt disaster here came some of the first actions to deal with it a contract including layoffs for 23 clerical and maintenance workers and 10 more over the next three years, saving about $1 million.

Teachers dominated the time at the podium, fearing further cuts.

"My fear is that furloughs, layoffs, and eliminations of programs will be the rule of the day and to mend the sinking ship that me and my colleagues didn't put holes in," said third-grade teacher Patrick Festa.

"Until the recent discovery and publication of the real truth of the financial deficit in the Scranton School District, the blame was always been blamed on the contracts of teachers," said high school district Steven Bartnicki.

While teachers place blame on the board for the district's financial problems, the outgoing board president, Bob Sheridan, says that the wrong approach.

"Please don't stand there and blame us for what's going on. What's happened 16 years ago has happened, now we have to sit down and look forward to 2018 and work together, not fighting each other."

Sheridan says it's possible teachers will be laid off. Those decisions will come in the budget-writing process which begins later this month.

Many in the room now wondering and worrying how else this board will deal with that debt.

"My taxes have gone up $800 in five years. This is all about money and saving money. It's not about laying people off. It's about firing the administration," said one taxpayer as the audience applauded.

Also on the board's plate, the teachers have been working without a contract and could strike this school year.

The board also accepted the resignation of Director Jim Timlin. It hopes to fill that vacancy at its work session on the November 27.

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8 comments

  • Bud Ruehle

    At this public meeting, third-grade teacher Patrick Festa stood at the microphone (in his red teacher’s union T-shirt and representing the teaching profession) and uttered the words, “mend the sinking ship that me and my colleagues didn’t put holes in.” “. . . me and my colleagues . . ”? What kind of English is that? And incredibly, it wasn’t a slip of the tongue because he was reading from a script. He gets paid $80,000 a year to stand in front of the third grade class he is “educating” and says things like, “. . . me and my colleagues”? Can we assume that the high school and the teacher’s college he graduated from taught him to say, “. . . me and my colleagues”? That wouldn’t be surprising.
    This man shouldn’t be teaching school. He should be flipping burgers or working at some other occupation where literacy is not a prerequisite and is more commensurate with his abilities.
    Public schools today are, in general, a travesty. They should be eliminated so a market system can give our kids real opportunities to learn basic skills.

  • Robert

    Well I pretty much agree with everything commented upon but see no solution. The fox is watching the hen house, stupidity is not a crime, accountability/responsibility don’t exist and common sense is disappears as soon as the statement, “it’s a complicated issue.” is introduced into the counterintuitive explanations of selfish buffoons with enough funding to bully their way into the media. Part of the solution is to dissolve the power and political might government workers fund threw their unions.

  • JohnKimball

    The big problem here is really a simple one. The current level of taxation is not sufficient to pay out pensions and health benefits for teachers and administrators who work for maybe 30 years and go on to collect for another 30. Either this system has to be reformed, or taxes have to be raised significantly. It’s a simple math problem. Until politics gets involved.

    • El~Ma

      I understand your thoughts on this and it would be a reasonable expectation if an audit hadn’t found a hugely significant deficit in the District budget. And, nobody can account for this deficit. Where did those funds go? Then, there’s the whole teacher’s union debacle where someone earning nearly 75K per year honestly believes that someone like me whose annual salary is LESS than 20K shouldn’t have to contribute to their own health insurance costs. I pay nearly $400 per month for my health insurance and teachers went on strike because they felt that paying $80 per month for their health insurance “wasn’t fair.”

      It’s about money. Where it comes from, where it goes, who is sending it to whatever black hole it finds itself in, and nobody being held accountable. The auditor was outraged, Tomlin quits, and layoffs for the hardest working cogs in the machinery are somehow acceptable? Call in a Federal investigation and hold each Board Member’s feet to the proverbial fire.

      • El~Ma

        LOL!!! I meant to convey that someone who earns nearly 75K annually expects me to pay for their health insurance. The teachers went on strike because they felt that paying $80 per month out of their own salary “wasn’t fair.”

        😀

  • El~Ma

    Follow. The. Money. There should be a forensic technological investigation of all funding for the Scranton District.

    The auditor was so outraged that it was headline news. With Timlin’s sudden resignation explained as a waste of his time and effort, some people have a lot of ‘splaining to do. I would think that it’s time to call in the Feds to do an entire District shakedown to see what falls out of the woodwork.

  • warningfakenews

    There doesn’t seem to be much of a limit on how many houses can be foreclosed on those unable to pay their high taxes for this stuff. People would be shocked to see how little is done in the way of teaching in the course of an average school kid’s day, as well.