Protests and singing shut down school board meeting; Dems blame majority
The four new Democratic members of the nine-member Chester-Upland School Board blasted their Republican colleagues after the abrupt adjournment of last week’s school board meeting.
That was the second time the meeting was adjourned before its planned conclusion since the new members were seated at the beginning of the month. The adjournment happened prior to the second public comment period.
The meeting started about 15 minutes late with tensions reportedly running high over several matters, including the Democrats’ claim that they weren’t told about plans for a press conference held earlier that day to request millions in advanced funding help from the governor.
“The total board was not informed about the news conference,” said new member Charlie L. Warren, II at a impromptu news conference afterwards. “I found out because a reporter called me and asked about (it). We are trying to be true to (the community’s) vote and trying to serve the young folk of Chester-Upland to the best of our ability. We are not willing to do it the way it has been done. We expect to have dialogue with people.”
A press conference was held last Thursday morning at which a letter addressed to Gov. Tom Corbett was read by individual board members, requesting an advance of $17.5 million of basic education subsidy and $1.2 million of special education subsidy.
The district, struggling with cash flow problems, may not be able to meet payroll in January.
“If the district is unable to pay staff, our educational program could be completely disrupted,” read the letter. “Without a guarantee of compensation, bus drivers may not come to work to safely transport our students to and from school and teachers and their aides may not come to work to provide daily classroom instruction. Students would then be subjected to the possibility of not graduating on time. It is projected that $18.7 million would provide us with the funding we need to ensure we meet payroll for the remainder of this fiscal year.”
A secretary in Corbett’s office verified the letter was received, but would not comment further.
After the first public comment section of that evening’s school board meeting ended, Warren asked to address the community. He was told by Board President Wanda Mann that he could, but only after the agenda items were voted upon.
Warren, the other three Democrats on the board and the majority of the audience took issue with an elected board member not being permitted to speak. Then, several in the audience started singing and humming We Shall Overcome, a protest song that became the anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s.
During the singing, the five Republican board members voted not to permit…