New directors join Blue Ridge board

BY STACI WILSON

Three new school directors in the Blue Ridge district officially began their terms, Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Christopher Lewis, Region 2 (Great Bend-Hallstead boroughs); Frederick “Dean” Lewis Jr., Region 3 (Great Bend Twp. and Jackson Twp.); and Patrick MacConnell, Region 3B (Great Bend Twp.) took their seat at the board’s reorganization meeting.

In addition to the three new members, three other school directors retained their seats in the November election and returned to the board: Christina Whitney, Region 1A (New Milford Borough); Shane Rumage, Region 2A (Great Bend Borough); and Michael Detweiler, Region 3A (Jackson Twp.).

Nothing changed in the board leadership. Laurie Brown-Bonner retained her position as president in a 7-2 vote. Board members Michael Detweiler, Harold Empett, Patrick MacConnell, Shane Rumage, Christina Whitney and Bonner cast votes in the affirmative; while Chris Lewis and Dean Lewis voted no.

Newcomer Chris Lewis also received a nomination to the post of president but the motion died for lack of a second.

Cosmello and Rumage received nominations to the position of vice-president. Cosmello retained the position in a 5-4 vote. Cosmello cast the deciding vote.

The board set its meeting schedule with business meetings and workshops beginning at 7 p.m., a change from the previous 7:30 p.m. start time.

Business meetings are slated to be held on the first Monday of the month; and workshops on the fourth Monday of the month, except for the May 27 workshop and the Dec. 2 reorganization meeting which are both scheduled for Tuesday evenings.

However, the schedule adopted by the board listed the year of the meetings as 2013, not 2014.

Superintendent Robert McTiernan said that the incorrect date was a typographical error and that all meeting dates should read 2014.

Bonner recommended new board members attend Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) training. She also suggested holding a “board retreat” at the school with the district’s solicitor.

Whitney said she felt the board would be better served by bringing in a representative from PSBA rather than the lawyer.

Superintendent Robert McTiernan will work to find a facilitator for the retreat, tentatively scheduled to be held Saturday, Jan. 11.

Bonner also asked the new and returning board members to share reasons they ran for the board and goals for the coming year.

Dean Lewis said he was “sports-oriented” and wanted to see the district maintain the sports that Blue Ridge has at this time.

Chris Lewis said he wanted to give back to the community, furthering education in a positive direction, as well as making fiscally positive commitments.

MacConnell said he wanted to simply “diagnose the facts and render an honest opinion.”

Appointed to fill a vacancy and newly elected to fill the remainder of a two-year term, Detweiler said he believed people come to the board with certain expectations and motives but realize quickly the full perspective of the board’s work.

Moving forward, he said he would like to “keep to the big picture of providing a good, sound, healthy environment for student education in a fiscally responsible way.”

Rumage said that in the years that he has been on the board, he has seen a “seismic shift” in the recognition Blue Ridge has received that has shown what the teachers in the district can do.

Whitney admitted she considered not running for another term. “It’s a tough job that takes a lot of time,” she said. But, she said she was committed to the district. She added that she planned to remain committed to career development and preparation.

“We’ve worked hard to get where we are today,” Cosmello said. She added that she would like the board to stay on course in a fiscally responsible manner. She also said she would also like the district to retain its commitment to sports.

Bonner said her commitment was to the students and that she wanted to do “what is right for the kids and the taxpayers.”

As the longest serving Blue Ridge school director, Empett said he has seen a lot of board members come and go since he was elected in 2000.

“We all have agendas,” Empett said, “but it all comes down to the bottom line – education.”