… A blog post touches a raw spot
First, I admire people who volunteer to give back to their community. That is very important, and with the pressures on school board members in many areas of the country, those people are to be admired.
However, from a thousand miles away, I heard rumors about something vital to education back in the wonderful state of Pennsylvania. They came from people with ties to my hometown of Lilly, Pa., and they included the potential closing of a school building.
I did not learn this from a conversation with a member of the Penn Cambria school board or anyone associated with the board.
In fact, I had no idea who was on the school board.
The issue that I raised, however, is legitimate: Is the school board considering closing one of its schools?
A simple question, but it touched a nerve. The board member who responded had some good reasons to defend the board, but instead he chose to make accusations that he could never prove.
I forgive his youthful exuberance — but not his naïveté.
I was accused of talking to a current board member. Oops, I did not even know who was on the school board in 2023. More below.
As I said, I have not paid any attention to them for decades. But, in reality, I am a taxpayer in the school district, albeit a minor one, and since the people I talked with expressed concern about the Lilly building being closed, it is a legitimate question.
In addition, an allegation was raised that the building had a mold problem. That is a health issue.
In truth, I have never met six of the nine board members. To clarify, I at one point in my life knew three: George Pyo, Justin Roberts, and Guy Monica. I know George since I taught him in 1978 and knew him through his years at St. Francis. I know Justin Roberts through St. Francis football in the 70s, and Guy Monica since I taught with him in the 70s.
I know that George has been on the board for many years, and I have tremendous respect for him. I actually did not know that Justin and Guy were on the board until recently when a friend mentioned about Justin being a member. That had nothing to do with this, however.
I have not personally talked with any of those three about anything related to school board issues — or anything else, and I do not personally know any of the others.
However, in point of fact, I know who Rudy McCarthy is since he played basketball for the Lilly Raiders in the 1980s when my great friend Bob Reese was coaching and I was involved with the Lilly Tournament and the Lilly Youth Organization. He was a nice player at that time and a good young man, but I do not think I have ever talked with him.
Tell the truth
False information? Here is a quote from a current board member whom I do not know:
“I know he was fed false information by a current board member who is looking to capitalize on the study to win reeelction and help his friend get on the board.”
Oops, as I said, I have never talked to any board member. The people who brought this to my attention have no ties to the board. They just have ties to Lilly and expressed concern about the rumors since closing the school would have an impact upon that community.
So, that statement made on social media is not true. I have no idea who is running for school board, nor do I care. I have no agenda and could care less what is going on with the political agendas on school boards, there or elsewhere.
So, I defy Mr. Kearney to identify the board member, because he does not exist. My purpose was to encourage people to discover the veracity of these stories — “are they talking about closing the school” and “is there mold in that building?— and to attend the open meeting.
Having an open meeting is a great idea for the democratic process. I strongly believe in democracy. I actually praised for the board for this in my initial statement.
However, if a school is to be closed, then it is legitimate discourse for all concerned. Has it been discussed at a board committee meeting?
Most important, attend the upcoming meeting.
Help the children
I do care about the education of the students in schools everywhere. I started as an educator in 1974, and I am still teaching by tutoring young people — electronically — from across the country. At the age of 76.
I have helped students with their writing and their grammar — and very important — writing essays for their entrance into college.
I even have my own website:
So, I care about children and their education.
Raised legitimate questions
First, I raised questions about the Committee of the Whole meetings. Since no minutes of the committee of the whole meeting exist on the website, taxpayers and parents cannot discover what the board discussed. Perhaps minutes have been taken, but they were not on the website.
Sometimes, information has to be kept within the board and administrators, particularly on personnel matters. That is understandable.
Apparently, the committee meetings are open to the public. This is not the Tom Kissell days, I assume, so that is good.
The meetings are also advertised, which is good. But, if minutes are not provided, does that violate the sunshine laws?
I am not certain. The purpose of the Sunshine Law was to force public entities to be above board and not do things in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms.
However, the story about mold did not come out of thin air. It is out there.
The Committee of the Whole can save a great deal of time. Whether these meetings are good for students is something else,
“Most of what we discuss will be talked about at the committee of whole.”
I looked for the minutes of the Committee of the Whole meeting on the website. I found none.
So, I read the minutes of one meeting. They were good, albeit a little sketchy at one point. For instance, this was in the minutes, “… a Penn Cambria parent, addressed the Board of Directors with issues regarding a specific coach and the reasons why his child has not participated in the extracurricular activity this year, stating that we will never know the true extent of the damage caused by the coach to the program, the sport, or the students that participated.”
I admire the parent for making his concerns known publicly and the district to providing the minutes on its website.
As a former coach, I was interested in who the coach was. The name was not provided in the minutes. I would think that this was discussed at length in the committee meeting, but the name of the coach was not included. [I found the name with a simple Google search — but do not know her or the controversy.]
I know two coaches at PC right now: Jim Ronan and Nick Felus. I remember them as young athletes and admire them as coaches. They are outstanding young men.
As far as I can determine, I know no other coaches, so this was not related to that issue.
I gave the board legitimate reasons to do this
Mr. Kearney must not have read the entire piece. I pointed out that the idea of having a public meeting about doing something about facilities is “long overdue” and a very good idea. He focused on the idea of “smelling a rat.”
Let me explain. Every journalist has to approach stories with the idea of uncovering the truth. I am not a professionally-trained journalist, never had a course in my life. I learned the old-fashioned way: From some gritty old-timers and some intelligent young people.
However, they must approach this with the idea that maybe, just maybe, the whole story is not being told publicly.
That is “smelling a rat.” The story about mold is an example of that. Is there actually mold in that building? I may doubt that, but if so, it is a health hazard.
That was the rat. Whether or not the board discussed that in a meeting is not clear.
Nevertheless, what I gave the board in my original post was a pat on the back.
I explained how the numbers of students had declined over the past four decades and that closing schools should be an option.
I even asked if the middle school and high school could be combined.
So, in effect, I gave this board some praise for having the nerve to do this. It a move in the right direction.
As for the laying off of teachers or support personnel, one of the advantages of closing buildings is to cut expenses. Can the personnel be transferred to another school without laying off personnel? I hope so.
Can the board say beforehand that no one will be laid off? Not really.
Those are questions that should be answered, but to say that no one will be laid off — not “firing” — is premature.
I admire Mr. Kearney and those on the board. Their role is vital to the success of the young people in the schools and to the process that is so vital to our communities.
However, what I learned as a public servant, a journalist, a community leader, an educator, a coach, and a blogger is that you cannot have thin skin. Most of those who have been on the board for a while know this. It is part of the journey.
I thank Mr. Kearney for responding. I look to conversing with him at some point.
[In the interest of honest disclosure, I have exchanged some messages on LinkedIn with George Pyo over the last few years. Most of those wished him a happy birthday. Another had to do with my father and a third about Lilly. As I said, I have great respect for him. However, I have not talked to him personally for perhaps 25 years.]