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Parting shots from ex-Central Bucks directors; board president responds


Two, now former, Republican members of the Central Bucks School Board used their resignation letters to further their criticism of the Democratic majority members. The letters, which were unanimously accepted at a special meeting last week, accused the six members of a range of legal and ethical wrongdoing during their less than three months on the board.

Debra Cannon and Lisa Sciscio, who represented regions 7 and 4, respectively, cited violations of the Sunshine Act, and improper actions of board solicitor David Conn among the reasons for their abrupt departure. Their terms were set to expire in 2025.

The board’s third Republican member, Jim Pepper, did not attend. In a message sent to the administration, he said he had to work and “did not appreciate the meeting being held on a workday.”

“The current trajectory of this school board is not sustainable,” wrote Sciscio. “It appears we are being counseled by a solicitor with personal and political scores to settle.

“I will not remain in a situation where I am personally threatened by the very person who is entrusted to protect the district, including its school directors,” Sciscio continued. “I have no choice but to protect myself and my family from people who operate with such impunity and seemingly act without care for their oaths of office.”

Sciscio claimed the board’s actions and Conn’s complicity in them could threaten the qualified immunity of board members in future legal matters.

School board president Karen Smith disputed the allegations in a letter, which she read at the meeting.

“During their tenure on the board majority, Mrs. Sciscio and Mrs. Cannon routinely withheld information from the board minority. They ignored legal warnings on their intended votes from the ACLU, Education Law Center, NAACP, American Library Association and other organizations.

“Their actions resulted in a federal investigation by the Office for Civil Rights and multiple lawsuits,” said Smith. “Their actions caused these lawsuits they are now accusing us of mishandling.”

Both former directors, who did not attend the Feb. 23 meeting, said they were either misinformed or not informed about matters discussed in executive sessions. They also maintained Conn was guilty of “quid-pro-quo” when he represented three of the school members for free during a Republican-mounted recount of the vote following the November election. The recount did not result in any change.

Sciscio and Cannon said board members Smith, Dana Foley and Heather Reynolds should have recused themselves from the vote on Conn’s appointment as solicitor.

“There is no evidence of a quid pro quo with Mr. Conn,” Smith said. “A lawyer can previously have performed pro bono work for an individual before they became a client. Additionally, the district is the client here, not any individual board member.”

The resigning members also accused Conn of a conflict of interest regarding his marriage to Marlene Pray, founder of the Rainbow Room, a LGBTQ+ youth program in Doylestown. Pray and the center have often been part of controversies over the previous school board’s policies involving LGBTQ+ rights.

Pray was a witness for a CB teacher who is suing the district, alleging it retaliated against him for his support of a transgender student.

Regarding accusations involving executive sessions, Smith said, all board members had an opportunity to provide their availability for executive session and other meetings.

“On several occasions the board minority did not respond even when given multiple days to do so,” Smith said. “Meetings were then scheduled based on the availability of the board members who did respond.”

Cannon too, accused Conn of using his position as solicitor inappropriately.

“I believe after careful review that it has become evident that Mr. Conn is compromised by conflicts of interest and has engaged in behavior that compromises the integrity and impartiality of legal representation for Central Bucks School District,” she wrote.

She urged the district’s administration, the school board and the larger community to “initiate an independent investigation into the conduct of Mr. Conn.”

While saying there was “much in these letters I cannot legally respond to,” Smith said, “I am happy to speak with anyone who has questions or concerns, as much as I am able.

“I want to reassure our community that we take our responsibility to our students and our community extremely seriously and these allegations are false. We are looking forward to being able to focus on the work we were elected to do,” Smith said.

The school board has 30 days from Feb. 23 to fill the vacant seats. Those interested must live in the region they are applying for and submit a letter of interest and a resume by 5 p.m. March 8, said Smith. The district’s website has additional information. While the details of the selection process have not been determined, Smith said she hopes the candidates’ interviews can be made public.

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