AT THE MERE whispered rumor that school directors might vote to close Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre, annoyed residents attended a February meeting and raised a ruckus.
A who's who of the South Wilkes-Barre neighborhood – attorneys, business leaders and others – spoke out.
At least one student spoke out.
Even Luzerne County Judge William Amesbury, an alumnus, spoke out. His comments drew some of the loudest applause.
Nine months later, in the same school district, with far greater issues than a single building at stake, will any of those people attend upcoming school board meetings and raise a peep about the utter lack of institutional reforms since the public corruption crackdown of three years ago? For that matter, will anyone?
The majority of school directors probably hope not. Based on recent actions, they seemingly prefer to operate below the radar and embrace the status quo, retaining as much as possible of the old system with which they are familiar. Five members of the nine-person board last week voted to abruptly terminate the search for a new district superintendent and instead hire the in-house candidate. They also approved a written teacher hiring policy that does not strictly forbid employing a board member's relative.
In a perfect world, this bald-faced behavior would draw speedy and sustained condemnation from all corners of a community intent on delivering top-notch educations to its children and on consistently doing the right thing.
In the Wyoming Valley, however, displaying bold leadership traditionally takes a backseat to preserving old friendships. Bad behavior becomes tolerated. Bribes happen.
We have seen the despicable pattern unfold before; without new reforms in this district and persistent vigilance, we might one day see it again.
So the question today for notable Meyers High School alumni – as well as their proud peers from the Coughlin and GAR high schools and other concerned residents – is this: What difference does it make for one beloved old building to remain standing if an entire school district's reputation lies in ruin?
• Attend Wilkes-Barre Area School Board meetings; your presence will speak volumes. Its next session is set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 in the Administration Building, 730 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre.
• Send a letter to the school board expressing displeasure with its actions. Find board members' names and the district's mailing address at http://portal.wbasd.k12.pa.us/boe/Pages/default.aspx.
• Identify residents of the school district who will make viable, reform-minded candidates in future elections, with an eye on reshaping the board majority.
• Enlist others – from lawmakers, to neighbors, to groups such as the Pennsylvania School Boards Association – to amplify calls for change.