Board Meeting Recap Jan 24
In case you missed it, here's a recap of last night's board meeting:
Minute 10: Speaker is grateful to Dr. Sokolowski for his years of service, is confident in Dr. Reynold's ability to lead in Dr. Sokolowski's absence, and states that she supports the board's plan to conduct a search for a new superintendent. (See this post for more information.) However, she expresses concern for the timeline for hiring a new superintendent, questioning whether one could be hired sooner. She notes that in the last 18 months, 6 senior level administrator positions have *changed hands. She states that the district needs stable and strong leadership, and states that a full year** for a substitute superintendent is too long.
Minute 13:12 Speaker asks for clarification on ESY (Extended School Year) in terms of scheduling so that ESY signup coincides with other types of summer camp timelines.
Minute 16: Speaker questioned Dr. Sokolowski's appointment in 2021 (no national search was conducted), and thanked the board for conducting a national search this time around. Speaker asked for parents to be included in the search process and ended with concerns about the Health & Safety plan that is currently in place and asked the board to consider vacating the H&S plan in light of Dr. Sokolowski's departure.
Minute 17:45 7:16 Speaker thanks the board and leadership and unexpected news of Dr. Sokolowski's departure, and voices her support for finding a new superintendent **ASAP through a nationwide search, citing continuity and minimizing disruptions.
*This is a topic that should be examined closely. Why are so many administrators leaving our district?
** It is the opinion of this author that the intent behind these comments is more about school board elections than about length of employment contract or continuity of employment. School board elections will take place in November 2023, with newly elected board members taking office in December 2023. Right now the board is heavily Democrat (8 Democrats, 1 Republican.) These speakers are keenly aware that the board is unlikely to retain their current majority in the upcoming election, and thus are urging the board to put a new superintendent in place while there is a Democrat majority.
Minute 21:30 School board president announces that there were four Executive Sessions (board meeting that is closed to the public): Jan 9, Jan 17, Jan 22, Jan 23.
Minute 24:15 Dr. Reynolds (who will be voted as the Substitute Superintendent later in the meeting) gave her first report as Superintendent. This is the first time (that this author can recall) that a Superintendent updated the public on a court case against the district. Hopefully this signals a direction change towards transparency--we look forward to hearing updates about all the court cases that are brought against the district, as the cases usually require financial payouts to plaintiffs and thus are of interest to tax payers.
Minute 40: Personnel Recommendations. If you were thinking this is where you'd get the details about Dr. Sokolowski's departure, keep reading, the board addresses this at the end of the meeting.
1 hour, 3 minutes, 20 seconds: Director Shaw provides a legislative update and reminds us that we have a new Governor and Lt. Governor. She goes on to state that the first Executive Order of the Shapiro Administration was to remove a college degree as the requirement for most state jobs. Shaw notes this as a "shot across the bow in terms of what Governor Shapiro will be focusing on in terms of education." We are so glad that Director Shaw brought this up because we have a post scheduled on this topic for mid February. Spoiler Alert: removing college as a requirement for state jobs is the next logical step. When schools are failing, PSSA scores are in steep decline, and higher ed is struggling to address the needs of the Pandemic Generation, a college degree becomes less valuable, and therefore less necessary. (Details to follow in mid February.) Director Shaw then goes on to mention problems in Harrisburg, saying "we have a split house, it's unclear who's governing this house" and one wonders if she was referring to Harrisburg or the WCASD.
1 hour, 5 minutes, 20 seconds: Director Durnell gives an Equity report. He mentions upcoming staff training sessions on equity issues , and then mentions that the People's Light and Theater will be presenting a show on Thurgood Marshall in March. He notes that the "matinee shows are appropriate for students." (In case you missed it, the district took students on a field trip to People's Light in December and a drag queen was performing in the show. Good to know that the board believes that the Thurgood Marshall show will be "appropriate for students.")
1 hour, 9 minutes: President Tiernan reads a statement that outlines details of Dr. Sokolowski's departure and Dr. Reynold's appointment to the role of Substitute Superintendent. The statement was not included in the board documents so you will need to listen to get the full story. Some highlights include: Dr. Sokolowski submitted a medical request to be relieved of employment, and followed that up with a retirement notice. The district negotiated a "separation and release" agreement with "irrevocable retirement" through December 31, 2023. The board will appoint Dr. Reynolds with an addendum to her current contract. The board will solicit resumes from various search firm entities to find a successor for Dr. Sokolowski. At 1 hours, 12 minutes it sounds like there is a possibility that Dr. Reynolds may be named the Acting Superintendent in January 2024 but this is unclear and this author may have misinterpreted this statement. The search process for a new superintendent will begin in February 2023. Motion passes (to accept Dr. Sokolowski's retirement and Dr. Reynolds' appointment).