Monday, July 21, 2014

Seven apply to fill vacant WBA schools seat

Whoever gets the position will have a short tenure but could play a pivotal role.

May 08. 2013 12:18AM

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WILKES-BARRE — Seven men have applied to fill the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board seat made vacant when the board voted to oust absentee member Robert Corcoran. The board has set a special meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday to choose from the applicants.

Whoever gets the job will have a short tenure — finishing Corcoran’s term, which expires this December — but could play a pivotal role. The board frequently has been split on pivotal votes in recent months, with Corcoran being the decisive swing vote.

The list includes several people well known to long-time board watchers and one candidate who is running for a four-year board seat in this month’s primary.

Richard Holodick, a former teacher and administrator who has become a frequent district critic, applied. Holodick, of Wilkes-Barre, has attempted to get on the board in the past.

The Rev. Shawn Walker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wilkes-Barre, also applied. Walker has spoken out at school board meetings over the years, urging greater diversity in the teaching staff to better reflect the shifting student demographics. More recently, he helped co-found the Building Bridges initiative, a community effort to identify and resolve problems and reduce violence, spawned after the shooting death of 14-year-old Tyler Winstead.

James O’Meara, a candidate on this month’s ballot for four available school board seats, also applied. Board President John Quinn has said he would prefer not to appoint someone running for a seat.

The other applicants are Patrick Conway, Edward Chronowski, Barry Kresge Sr. and Alfred Smith, all of Plains Township.

Corcoran became a lightning rod of controversy when he opted to accept a job in Germany but wanted to remain on the board and participate in meetings via an Internet connection.

Three board members objected rigorously the first time he did so, noting that prior to the meeting Corcoran had admitted he no longer has a physical residence in the district. The three members refused to participate in the meeting.

Solicitor Ray Wendolowski determined the board could not legally remove Corcoran itself, and that it would have to be done through a complicated process involving the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office. Board member Christine Katsock promised to push for his removal and the district attorney’s office agreed to begin the process, but Corcoran opted to simply stop attending meetings.

Under state law, the board could remove him after he missed two consecutive meetings. It voted him off at a special meeting April 22. The board then advertised for candidates to apply by May 3 to fill the seat.

With the board at an even number and frequently divided in recent months, it is theoretically possible that no candidate could win a majority of votes at Thursday’s meeting. If the board can’t agree on a replacement, the matter would fall to a county judge.

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