Saying they’d like to bridge the deep political and cultural divides that have plagued the Pennridge School District over the last few years, the newly seated school board elected Democrat Ron Wurz as president and Republican Christine Batycki as vice president at Monday night’s reorganization meeting.
“It’s clear we must be a board that focuses on the entire community,” Wurz said in remarks after the five new Democrat directors were sworn in. “It is important now more than ever to include all viewpoints in our decision-making. We don’t want to make the mistake of only listening to our supporters.”
Wurz said the board will begin reviewing policies covering issues that affect LGBTQ+ students, including library resources, teacher advocacy, bathroom usage, and sports participation, that were passed by the previous board “to ensure the needs of all students are met.”
He also pledged improved communications among board members and between the board and the community to ensure all voices are heard and diverse viewpoints are considered.
The votes to appoint Wurz and Batycki both passed by a 6-3 margin, with Republicans Jordan Blomgren, Ricki Chaikin, and Bob Cormack voting against them. Blomgren said she voted against Wurz because “our values are not aligning” but would have compromised in exchange for Chaikin being elected vice president. Chaikin said her no vote was based on what she said was Wurz’ “short fuse” and his tendency to “get emotional, which is not the best scenario for trying to keep peace.” Cormack did not offer a reason for his vote.
Chaikin said she is hopeful “we have more functional board than last year.” New board member Leah Foster-Rash said appointing Republican Batycki as vice president “is the beginning of us working to together for the community.”
Wurz listed several priorities for the board, including:
●Working with the faculty and administration to introduce a “revised and unbiased” Social Studies and Readling/Language Arts curriculum;
●Restoring the minimum of four Social Studies credits for graduation;
●Creating a Curriculum Review Team of board members to study how higher-ranked school districts structure their curriculum;
●Developing a multi-year plan to review curriculum district-wide;
●Targeting areas where students are underperforming to bring up test scores and rankings;
●Reviewing current policies with legal counsel to determine the risk of legal action “and to make sure they support all of our children.”
●Reinstating surveys that focus on student’s overall health and using the results to target areas that will impact students the most;
●Working with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit to search for new legal counsel in the areas of litigation, negotiations and special education.
●Reviewing and prioritizing facilities improvements, including a new auditorium at South Middle School and the viability of adding air conditioning to the district’s seven elementary schools; and
●Improving transparency with the community by providing regular feedback, website improvements, and returning emails in timely manner.
“Our goal in all of these decisions is what is best for Pennridge,” Wurz said. “There is a lot more we want to do. It will take time and concerted effort to achieve our goals. We will work collaboratively to return Pennridge to a well-respected and sought-out institution.”