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The Times Leader’s reporter showed a lack of reportorial sensitivity and fairness in his recent coverage of a special meeting of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board. I was present and was the only member of the public to speak. The reporter failed to give my presence even token consideration even though I raised critical issues in my short allotted time. For the record, and for the benefit of all Wilkes-Barre Area taxpayers who are getting sick and tired of the antics of this dysfunctional cabal, I will mention them here.
For one thing, I chided board member Maryanne Toole for casting the deciding vote in the hiring of Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton’s brother as truant officer. Not only were two other candidates with superior credentials passed over, but Mr. Leighton will earn $44,000 annually, plus benefits, since his position is under the collective bargaining agreement, and he’ll be able to “step up” to $63,000 in a couple of years for what is basically a part-time position.
I also brought up the point concerning the egregious lack of transparency and the excessive reliance on so-called executive sessions in which board members retreat behind closed doors. The public is left totally in the dark as to specifics of these meetings since a necessary report read at the start of the regular meeting is purposely vague and misleading.
Finally, I tried to drive home the point of the necessity of controlling reckless spending in order to avert another tax increase next year. At present, most board members are reluctant to commit to this since it would necessitate a slight digression from the “business as usual” syndrome in which this board is so steeped. One only has to look at this year’s budget, which carries a $1.8 million deficit and does not even take into account ongoing teacher negotiations (that will inevitably result in more salary concessions by the board), to know that a significant tax increase is in the works for next fiscal year.
These are only a few of the many critical issues confronting the taxpayers of this district, yet the newspaper chose to ignore them. And not only we as taxpayers, but we as democratic citizens, are the worse for it.
for Wilkes-Barre Area School District