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Cullen: Hope for PA invited “talented clappers” to Monday’s Pennridge meeting


A private email that circulated on social media over the weekend calls for “talented clappers” to show up at Monday night’s Pennridge School Board meeting to support board members who, according to the email, were “ruthlessly demonized” for trying to “remove partisan bias.”

According to Republican board member Joan Cullen, the call came from right-leaning advocacy group Hope for PA. It coincides with Monday’s planned vote on the district’s “curriculum improvement proposal.”

Cullen said Hope for PA’s message, which went to GOP supporters, caught her by surprise. She said she was helping Hope for PA founder Ken Stracuzzi promote an event geared toward protecting women’s sports and the call for clappers came as part of an email invitation to the unrelated women’s sports event.

Cullen said she made it clear to Stracuzzi that the event “should not be tied to political issues or particular candidates.”

But when she received the email from Stracuzzi calling for a rally in support of the Pennridge board, Cullen said she was “shocked and disappointed” by what she said was a “totally one-sided” request in an email for an unrelated event.

Through its president Kim Bedillion, the Pennridge Area Republican Club denied any involvement in the request for clappers.

The board is scheduled to vote Monday night on a proposal to use the controversial 1776 Project framework in the district’s social studies and reading/language arts curricula.

Critics have been vocal in their opposition, claiming the 1776 curriculum is biased, that it presents a filtered version of American history, and that Pennridge’s proposed curriculum was developed too late for teachers to prepare for this school year properly. They also argue that consultant Jordan Adams, who was hired to help review the new curriculum, is not qualified to write curriculum.

The board has been accused of adopting policies that have led to books being banned and marginalized students being discriminated against. The district has been scrambling to fill dozens of administrative positions, including superintendent and high school principal, and teaching jobs before classes start on Monday.

Cullen said she contacted Stracuzzi immediately when she received the email “to discuss it and give background on why people are really so upset with the current board majority.”

Attributed, in part, to an unidentified “passionate friend,” the invitation from Hope for PA says, “Pennridge directors have been ruthlessly demonized by the large crowds brought out by the activists in the area. Most recently, public commenters lambasted the board for creating a curriculum that includes children learning about the blessings of living in the United States.”

It goes on to say the board’s attempt to “remove partisan bias has faced much anger from some people, and a show of support could only bolster them in their strong convictions.”

Stracuzzi could not be reached for comment. Other school board members also could not be reached Sunday.

Cullen said the claim that board members are being “ruthlessly demonized simply for wanting our children to love America is a grossly misleading characterization. The vast majority of people who've contacted us have expressed very legitimate concerns about the board majority's complete lack of transparency and the work product provided by Jordan Adams. Those concerned citizens have been of all political perspectives.”

The invitation says “you do not need to be a resident to attend and clap for sound public comments and for policies that bless and protect our children.”

While people outside the district cannot be excluded from attending a meeting, “our first priority should be to listen to our own constituents,” Cullen said. “We should place a higher importance on the input of the hundreds of Pennridge stakeholders who've contacted us over the last year.”

The opposition to the board majority's actions and conduct, Cullen said, “has been nearly universal and has not been from people on only one side of the political spectrum. That is a completely false representation.”

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