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Superintendent Bolton won’t return to Pennridge


Editor's Note: This story has been updated to incorporate information from the statement Bolton issued late Wednesday night.

Pennridge Superintendent Dr. David Bolton, who has been out on medical leave since June 9, won’t be returning to the job.

The school board on Wednesday night indicated that Bolton will have his leave extended to Oct. 31, at which time he will retire.

Late Wednesday night Bolton issued a statement through district spokesman David Thomas that referred to the decision to retire as “voluntary and irrevocable.”

“I love the Pennridge Community and am incredibly proud of the work we have accomplished,” he said in the statement. “I will miss the amazing students, supportive families and outstanding staff. It was a privilege to serve as your Superintendent for the past 5 years. I will always remain Pennridge Proud!”

Bolton has led the district since August 2018. Prior to coming to Pennridge, he served as the assistant superintendent for elementary education in the Central Bucks School District.

He’d previously been a building administrator in Central Bucks and, prior to that, a building administrator in the Pennsbury School district.

“Since coming to Pennridge, Dr. Bolton has stressed relationships, student and staff wellness, quality instruction and meaningful learning,” his bio on the district website read.

A few hours before graduation on June 7, Bolton sent an email to the community announcing he was taking a leave of absence for health reasons and expected to return in a month.

Around the same time, however, a string of emails surfaced that showed the superintendent at odds with the current school board majority over its decision to contract with curriculum consultant Vermilion Education, a five-month-old Michigan firm with ties to Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian institution that produced the 1776 Project in response to the New York Times’ 1619 Project, an initiative which, The Times says, places “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

In the emails, obtained through a Right-to-Know request and posted on social media, Bolton cited the last-minute timing, the open-ended cost ($125 per hour with no cap), the vague scope of work, the secretive process the board followed to negotiate the contract, and losing trust with the staff as reasons to hold off on considering the contract. He said neither of the assistant superintendents — Dr. Kathy Scheid and Dr. Tony Rybarczyk — who have been working closely on the curriculum updates — “believe this resource is needed and that, in contrast, It may hurt the process.”

The board awarded the contract to Vermilion and its founder Jordan Adams anyway and Bolton’s email touched off a response from board vice president Megan Banis-Clemens that called it “inappropriate and in bad faith.”

Banis-Clemens added in the email that “it actually makes me wonder what you’re worried about. It gives me the impression you have something to hide.”

The change in Bolton’s status wasn’t the only significant news out of Wednesday night’s meeting.

The board also decided to table a controversial proposal to eliminate four Curriculum Supervisor positions, which had drawn protest from parents at Tuesday night’s meeting of the school board curriculum committee.