Wyoming Valley West Will Now Take Donation, Offer Apology

PLYMOUTH, Pa. -- A school district in Luzerne County that threatened parents over unpaid lunch money will soon have those debts wiped clean thanks to a donation from a Philadelphia businessman.

It's a major turnaround for Wyoming Valley West School district officials.

The letter sent out two weeks ago ignited anger and brought national attention to the Wyoming Valley West School District in Luzerne County.

Parents who owed lunch money to the district were threatened with being taken to dependency court and, "the result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care."

"They owe us an apology," said day care worker Janice Petlock of Larksville.

Petlock is likely to see that apology. Newswatch 16 has learned school district officials are drafting a letter of apology to the parents and to the public.

"I think it was the right thing to do," said Barry Tenenbaum of Shavertown. "It was pretty awful sending that letter for that particular purpose."

"I think they should apologize to everybody. I think they made us all look real bad," said Shelley Cousin of Plymouth.

When kids head back to Wyoming Valley West High School in Plymouth, not a single parent will owe a lunch debt that prompted the threatening letters in the first place.

Philadelphia businessman Todd Carmichael offered to pay off the $22,000 in lunch money owed to the district.

At first, the Wyoming Valley West School Board president rejected the donation.

"I was angry. I was upset, and I just said, 'Guys, don't give up.' Maybe it's just emotion, but that was it. They won't take our calls. They won't take anything," Carmichael said.

But Wednesday morning, district leaders reversed course and agreed to accept it.

"I think they should have taken the guy's money when he first offered. Why they didn't, I don't know. It is just plain ridiculous," Cousin said.

"That's generous," Petlock said. "I think that was acceptable."

"I think they should accept it and it was a nice donation as well," Tenenbaum added.

The district will also take donations from others who said they were willing to pay some or all of the debt.

That money is earmarked for the district's educational foundation.

3 comments

  • smarsh3702

    All involved with this debacle need to resign. A movement needs to be started to force their resignation and have a special election to elect competent officials who care about the kids and are more in tune with reality.

  • Interested American

    Add another school district to the “run like crap” list. Bunch of idiots. I still think this district should be criminally investigated. There is something just under the surface it seems and it almost came to light but the district slammed the top down by accepting the money – money they should have accepted the first time offered.

    Reasonable questions:
    1. Why was it considered acceptable to threaten child foster care to families with debt?
    2. Why was the district solicitor so eager to defend the letter that children should be taken off families over money?
    3. Why was the initial offer to play off the lunch debt rejected and all calls ignored?
    4. Which directors agreed with the letter and which were upset that it was sent out?
    5. (general question) Why don’t the board of directors start a group to include other school boards to try and force the state to give them more money?

    These questions are important to the people in this school district’s area. People need to know the kind of people who are running their child’s education and they need to know who to kick out next school board election.

    NOTE: The cost of litigation and to cover costs to have a child in foster care far exceeds any debt that a family would owe to the school over lunch. This being a fact, it astounds me they threatened to do this in the first place. They would spend more money than the family owed in order to ruin the family by taking children and placing them to foster care. I won’t even get into the horrors that happen in some foster care homes (well documented if you take the time to look it up).

    This should not end with this! Voters need to get to the bottom of what went on and eject people from the board via voting them off the board next election.

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