The Central Bucks School Board voted 5-3 to elect Robert Farley as a new board member to hold the line with a full board until December, and unanimously voted to elect Lorraine Sciuto-Ballasy as vice president, in the face of a divided community.
“I’m honored,” said Farley, who just recently retired. He said that it is his goal to become more involved in his community, saying “I’ve taken in a lot of information tonight and I’m ready to uphold my sworn oath.”
The appointment will be a short-lived, four months, as that position and four others on the board are up for election on Nov. 2. Those elected will take their seat in January, leaving Farley a short time as the representative of District 9.
The district publicly posted five submitted candidates to fill the position until December, including Farley. Those submitted were Theodore TJ Kosin, Andrew Miller, Svetlana Shubinsky and Jennifer True. All candidates were required to live in Warwick Township, where the previous member, John Gamble, resided.
A notable candidate who withdrew from the temporary appointment was Diana Leygerman, she is running for the district’s school board seat in the coming November elections. Leygerman is facing off against Republican opponent Jim Pepper for the four-year appointment.
Before the meeting began, Jodi Schwartz, the board member representing District 7, publicly apologized to the board and the community after her social media posts airing her own frustrations with the board’s interior conflicts were made public. She said the posts were in poor taste and she wants her last few months to end on a better note.
However, the public’s reaction at the meeting skewed negative. They focused primarily on the divisive Health and Safety plan, and a few clapped when the board denied a motion to pass an updated version of the plan to a 5 to 3 vote with one abstaining. The update would change language in the plan to clarify that the district is an educational institution and not a medical one.
Superintendent Abram Lucabaugh reiterated that the district will follow the Bucks County Health Department, saying, “If the Health Department says so, we do so.”
Robert Bozek, a critical care nurse from Doylestown, questioned the district on this during public comment.
“You put out an exemption and honestly, it makes me feel sorry for folks on both sides,” he said. “I feel as though you’re passing the buck [of liability].”
Bozek was speaking in regards to Central Bucks releasing an exception to the required masking order. The exception slip from CBSD needs only a parent’s signature to show that the child has a medical condition or a disability that exempts that student from wearing a facial covering during school. This is a controversial departure from other mask exemptions that require a signature from a medical professional. The Bucks County Courier Times reported that over 1,000 masking exceptions had been submitted to the Central Bucks School District since the order’s release.
Several speakers during the night made comments about their disappointment and anger towards the school board in recent months, examples like lack of accountability over bullying of students in the district and some being unable to contact board members. A few aired grievances against medical professionals and inability to get in touch with the head of the Bucks County Department of Health, Dr. David Damsker.
One speaker played a voicemail of a doctor saying he would not sign their exemption form, but that their young child may be able to adapt to masking through positive reinforcement and open communication. Another stated that the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia was “corrupt,” alluding to a supposed conspiracy between CHOP and the Center for Disease Control manipulating COVID-19 data.
Beyond that, Dr. Lucabaugh, recognized Assistant Principals Kathryn Deibert of Bridge Valley Elementary School and Dr. Sinead Doherty of Butler Elementary School. He said they recently were brought on staff, and he was overjoyed to recognize them and their excellent reputations, wishing them well.
The board voted to approve 11 new bus and van drivers for Plumstead Christian school. It was considered welcome news, after a countywide reporting of bus driver shortages for Bucks. The Morning Call reported that Pennsylvania has an estimated 1,000 unfilled bus driver jobs in school districts across the state.
Warrington Township has received approval for an easement for a pedestrian connection to Easton Road. The township informed the board that it would build additional sidewalks along Lower Barness Road, including Titus Elementary School.
The next meeting for the board is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12, at the Central Bucks Education Services Center in Doylestown.