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Amid pressure, Souderton school board agrees to broadcast committee meetings


After repeated requests from the public, the Souderton Area School Board has agreed to record and rebroadcast committee meetings in addition to action meetings and keep meeting videos online for one year, rather than 30 days.

The board on Feb. 22 approved changes to Policy 006.2, Broadcasting Board Meetings, to include committee meetings. While members of the public were happy to see the board broadcast all the public meetings, nine residents from several district communities continued to request the live-streaming of meetings; the archiving of meeting recordings indefinitely; and the attachment of referenced documents in the board meeting’s agenda.

Former board member Victor Verbeke agreed with the board’s changes. He further requested; “I would ask that a committee of parents, taxpayers, and maybe some students be put together to look at this policy and discuss live-streaming for the betterment of the community.”

Additionally, he asked the board to hold what he called “a get-to-know-the-board” meeting at the library. District Superintendent Frank T. Gallagher responded that a superintendent forum already exists for that purpose and asked Verbeke if they could discuss the matter offline.

The Feb. 22 meeting also saw a new controversy emerge during public comment surrounding statements residents attributed to Gallagher and school board member William Brong that related to charter schools.

Several speakers alleged false statements were made by Brong during a Feb. 14 committee meeting that related to the enrollment lottery at Souderton Charter School Collaborative.

Jenny Marion, president of the SCSC Board of Trustees, said she reviewed a video of the Feb. 14 meeting, and reported that Brong said;

“It behooves SCSC to take more children with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) to make more money to fill their banks. We’re looking at their lottery who gets picked to come in, you see their numbers increase in simple IEPs, getting twice the amount of money to educate that child.”

Gallagher then, reportedly, responded, “They do. They do.”

Marion said that “…to operate a charter school lottery under these pretenses would be unlawful and unethical and to suggest that this is how SCSC operates is misleading and patently false.”

She later stated Souderton Assistant Superintendent Christopher Hey was provided a description of the lottery process on Jan. 24, weeks before the Feb. 14 meeting.

“For the record, we are not permitted to ask if a student has an IEP prior to their enrollment,” Marion said.

Following her remarks, several speakers complained about the alleged false statements, pointing out that it is illegal for charter schools to cherry-pick students, this is why a lottery was implemented.

Brong had not responded to requests for a comment about the allegations.

Gallagher has admitted he misunderstood the process. He reportedly spoke to Marion the following day, apologized, and asked her to pass it along to everyone at the charter school.

In other business, the board watched a video highlighting the Calming Center at Vernfield Elementary School in Telford, an adult-supervised room for students to go to calm down with targeted tools and activities. It is available to students when they feel anxious, stressed or overwhelmed.

Eleventh grade student representative Emelia Messina, reported on several school activities, including the Polar Plunge. Gallagher reported later that, 81 students participated in the event at Citizens Bank Park that raised $10,000 for the Special Olympics.

Gallagher also welcomed Joe O’Hara as SASD’s new Coordinator of Community Education.

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