Octorara Suffers Another Board Resignation 

Octorara Suffers Another Board Resignation

The Octorara Board of Directors and Finance, Facilities, and Policy Committees met on Monday, July 18, 2016. Only six members attended. Anthony Falgiatore, Brian Fox, and Nelson Stoltzfus were absent.

Board Resignation

In an otherwise minimalist Summer meeting, Linda Bicking read a statement resigning her position on the Octorara Board of Directors, effective August 15, 2016. Mrs. Bicking was elected to the Board just this past November and is the second loss since that time.The first was Steven Spoto who was elected but never actually took office because of a home purchase outside the Region he ran.

Mrs. Bicking’s stated that with working full time, she decided she needed to spend more time at home with her husband. She had served on the Board in the past. So, the statement falls a bit short for me, but I still kinda get it. I know one of the reasons that Leon Lapp did not run for a second term was wanting to spend more time with family. Moreover, in my own experience, participation on the Board has caused issues with the wife, the kids, and schedules.

Nonetheless, the Board has an obligation to fill the role within 30 days of her effective resignation date. Mrs. Bicking graciously decided to make the date of her resignation August 15, 2016. This gives the Board a full 60 days to complete the process. Had she not done this, we would have had to rush to collect resumes, possibly needed a special meeting before our next regularly scheduled meeting, and generally, would have had to rush the process.While some Board Members seemed confused why this is a benefit, I believe most reasoned individuals agree the Board needs time in  order to make a deliberative, informed, and reasoned decision. We have the time, and there is no need to rush.

Throw Your Hat in the Ring

Now is your opportunity to make a difference. Linda Bicking represents Region 1 in the Octorara Area School District. Therefore, if you live within Atglen Borough, Christiana Borough, Parkesburg (North) or West Sadsbury Township, you may submit your resume to the Board for consideration.

Who is eligible? To be eligible to be elected or appointed to a Pennsylvania school board, one must be:

  • A citizen of Pennsylvania.
  • Of good moral character.
  • At least 18 years old.
  • A resident of the school district for at least one year prior to election or appointment.
  • An individual may be ineligible to run for or hold the office of school director subject to state or federal law. The following items do not constitute an exhaustive list of legal requirements related to eligibility. Other state and federal laws may determine eligibility.
    • The PA Constitution bars from elective office anyone convicted of an “infamous” crime, which the courts have interpreted to include various misdemeanors based on the nature of the crime and all felonies.
    • Section 324 of the PA School Code prohibits school directors from being employed by or doing business with, the district where they are elected or appointed, subject to certain exceptions. These prohibitions remain in effect for the duration of the term for which the school director was elected or appointed, even if the person leaves office before the term expires. The employment prohibition contains exceptions for specific positions. Also, the business prohibition contains an exception that would require an interpretation of the PA Public Official and Employee Ethics Act. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission at (800) 932-0936.
    • Section 322 of the School Code contains a list of municipal offices that are incompatible with holding the office of school director. County, borough and township codes also contain their own restrictions for holding offices concurrently.
    • The Hatch Act, a federal statute, prohibits federal employees, and some state and local government employees whose job functions “involve” federal funding, from running for partisan elective office. The Hatch Act only prohibits running for election but does not prohibit holding the office if appointed. For more information, visit the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s Web site at https://osc.gov/Pages/HatchAct.aspx.
    • The military services have regulations similar to the Hatch Act, but not always coextensive, which may prohibit both holding the office as well as running for it.

For more information, see The Pennsylvania School Boards Association: How to Run for School Board.

Appointment Process Schedule

The tentative schedule for appointing Mrs. Bicking’s replacement is as follows:

  • You may submit your resume with a cover letter to Dr. Newcome at the Administrative Building up to August 2, 2016.
  • There will be a Special Meeting on August 8th, 2016, prior to the Board;s regularly scheduled Work Session Meeting. The exact start time will depend on the number of applicants.
  • If there are multiple applicants, the Board will vote to fill the vacant position at their Regular Meeting on August 15, 2016, and the new member will be sworn in.

Transgender Policy

This week’s meeting was otherwise a little light on substance. However, the Policy Committee did discuss the Transgender Policy being worked on. First, at least one Board Member (Lisa Bowman, President) did not seem to know that Obama’s Justice Department and Department of Education is using the threat of losing federal education funds to force districts to adopt a Transgender Nondiscrimination Policy.

CNN reported, “Justice and Education Department officials have repeatedly emphasized that under their interpretation of Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.”

Moreover, the Washington Post wrote that Obama Administration officials stated, “[Title IX ensures] nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns”. Additionally, they cited several cases. In one, back in December, the Education Department threatened to withhold $6 million in federal funds from the school district of Palatine, Illinois. The district then changed their policy to allow a transgender girl to use the girls’ locker room.

So, if any Board Member has told you that the Obama Administration is not threatening to withhold federal funds if school districts do not comply, they are absolutely wrong. The Obama Administration has already created a history of legal settlements and threats of withholding funds and legal action long before they provided “guidance” to all of America’s public schools.

All that said, Dr. Newcome did reach out for legal counsel. The Board wanted to evaluate the District’s rights and what must be included in a Transgender Policy. Included in the response was a recommendation to slow our process. Based on the statement, my impression was our attorney wants to see what other Districts develop and how the Justice and Education Departments respond. That is not what was in the statement. It is me reading between the lines. Regardless, development of the Transgender Policy is on hold until we receive more information from the District’s attorney.

This is a good opportunity to once again reiterate my position. Generally speaking, I support LGBT rights. However, if the Obama Justice and Education Departments were not forcing this down our throats, I would not support this policy at Octorara. Brain Fox proposed looking at developing a policy before the mandate from the Obama Administration. So, we would be talking about this anyway. Nonetheless, I don’t believe it is the right time for this policy at Octorara. Our small, rural school district should not lead the way.

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