October 10, 2012 16:13 by Heidi
This isn't an SOS statement, it's my personal statement - I'm just not sure where else to put it. Here's Cheryl Clarke's article about last night's meeting.
Even though I'm encouraging everyone to not speak about the school closure/building project issues, I continue to encourage you to attend the next few meetings: Monday, Nov. 5, Tuesday, Nov. 12, Monday, Dec. 3, all at North Penn at 6:30 p.m. There are plenty of other issues to watch: the Adequate Yearly Progress report came out last meeting - how are the board and administration going to respond? the board is considering a new bullying policy - is it adequate? Is the new outsourced cafeteria management system working? Being involved helps the board represent us better.
My name is Heidi Jones, PO Box 126, Blossburg. I’m commenting tonight as an attorney, not as an advocate – to provide some context for the law by which the school board members are making a decision about closing a school.
Under Pennsylvania law and regulation, when a school district considers a building closure, they must hold a public hearing hearing under Title 24, Article 7, Section 780 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, and provide 30 days for written comments. Then, the board must wait an additional 60 days to vote. The district held the public hearing on September fourth and then residents were able to submit written comments by mail or email until October fourth. The district wants to hear from all of us and is using this special process to ensure that all our comments and opinions about these decisions are properly recorded and submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education as part of the official record.
Pennsylvania Department of Education requires that copies or transcripts of all the public comments at the public hearing or in writing during the 30-day period be submitted with the District’s request to close a school to ensure that citizens were given opportunity to speak. However, the regular citizen recognition period during board meetings does not qualify as part of that official record for the school closure process.
Today is October 9th. The cooling off period started on well, should have started on, October 5th and should continue until the board votes on these issues at its December 3rd meeting.
So, that’s the law.
I want to encourage everyone to abide by the law and respect the cooling-off period because it has an important purpose: it allows us all to contemplate this huge decision calmly and rationally, with the careful deliberation it deserves. We’ve all begged the board to see the decision from our own perspectives, we’ve raised lots of excellent questions, and we’ve provided all kinds of relevant information. The board has been incredibly receptive to our questions, feelings and thoughts, and they have conducted this process in an open, inclusive and above-board manner, far beyond the requirements of the law.
But now it’s time to wait. It’s time to take a step back and let the board do its job, what we’ve elected them to do – to represent us, our communities, and our kids and make the best decision possible given the finite limits on knowledge and time. We can’t know what the future will hold – for population, for state funding, for whatever – but we can trust that this board has done its job thoroughly and conscientiously. I encourage everyone to respect the process by waiting patiently for its conclusion and choosing to respect the cooling off period.
Cooling-off periods are common in decisions with legal weight – for example, if you’re trying to get a divorce in Pennsylvania, you have to wait 90 days. If you’re refinancing your home mortgage, you have a three-day right of rescission after you sign the loan papers. For school closings, the law allows us this time to reflect and to lower the emotional energy. By continuing in this heightened emotional atmosphere, we are doing harm to our communities - both within and between our communities – that will be very hard to repair as we complete this process and make solid plans for how to implement the decisions that the board will make.
I’m not only asking us, our communities to respect the cooling-off period, I’m also asking the board tonight to consider closing comments on the school closure and building project issues. The cooling off period serves an important purpose and I think it should be respected.