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Palisades seats four new school board members


With two members of last year’s Palisades School Board not seeking re-election, and two more resigning last spring before their terms were up, the Palisades School District seated four new members at its Dec. 5 reorganization meeting. Also at that meeting, Silvia LeBlanc and Scott Freeman were reelected as board president and vice-president.

Following readings of the certification of their Nov. 7 elections by the county, Karen Beerer and Saul Ramos were sworn in by District Magistrate Gary Gambardella to serve in the district’s Region II (Durham, Nockamixon and Riegelsville), and were followed by Betsy Nielsen and Linda Wenholm for Region III (Springfield). After running unopposed in the Region I election (Bridgeton and Tinicum), Silvia LeBlanc was sworn in for a second four-year term.

Continuing on the board in Region I are LeBlanc, Freeman, and James Hallowell; in Region II, James Ott; and in Region III, Cora Landis.

Last spring, Region III sitting members Bob Musantry and Dawn Grochowiak resigned, and were replaced by Michael Hsu and Amanda Benolken for the balance of those terms. They were selected by the board at a special meeting held July 13, following presentations by eight volunteers offering to serve in the vacancies.

During the Nov. 15 school board meeting, Hsu and Benolken were praised by their fellow board members for their interim service and were encouraged to stay active with the board, including running for seats in future elections. Also at that meeting, a representative from the Pennsylvania School Board Association honored Musantry for his 12 years of service on the board in Region III, and David Haubert and Shari VanderGast for their eight years of service in Region II.

During the public comment session of the Dec. 5 regular board meeting that followed the reorganization, three constituents expressed strong concern about large class sizes in the district. In response, LeBlanc directed Superintendent Dr. Bridget O’Connell to prepare detailed data on the subject for the board to consider.

Before November’s election, board and staff members had noted responding to declining district enrollment as a primary challenge for the new board.

At the outset of the regular meeting, O’Connell, and her assistant for educational services, Tinicum Elementary Principal Dr. Michael Donnelly noted that the district had been selected an Outstanding Visual Arts Community, for the third year in a row, by the Pennsylvania Art Education Association. The group recognizes programs for being “rigorous, inclusive, accessible, and visible.” The Palisades program includes a student show in the spring.

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