Board: Be mindful of speaking publicly about contract talks

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A member of the Punxsutawney Area School Board asked questions about contract negotiations with the Punxsutawney Area Education Association Monday, but was eventually reminded about violating possible confidentiality agreements.

Monday, board member Jack White asked about ongoing negotiations with the PAEA regarding the salary structure. Board President Gary Conrad said he would permit White to speak, but noted the possible confidentiality issues.

Solicitor David Young also noted the agreement, saying that while he was unsure if a written confidentiality agreement between the board and the PAEA exists, it might be best if White considered that possibility when discussing negotiations during the board’s public meeting.

“I think you’d be side-stepping an agreement between the district and the union,” he said.

Conrad said no such written agreement exists, although the board and the union has an informal agreement to keep negotiation topics within the confines of those meetings, and not yet in public.

After the meeting, Conrad said White discussing the salary schedule was pre-mature, because none of it has been agreed upon just yet, and no numbers are concrete.

He did say, however, that he was optimistic about the negotiations between the board and the PAEA.

“We’re down to an item or two,” Conrad said. “We are very close. The atmosphere is very different than in the past.”

He said when the time comes, both the district and the union would come forward publicly to detail the new contract.

In other business:
• Janice Means, grandmother of former PAHS student Karah Hollis, spoke during the public comment portion of the board’s agenda and said she was “concerned, disturbed and angry” regarding some board action as of late.

Referring to a Dec. 10 article in The Spirit regarding a drug arrest at the high school, Means said district officials need to “remove the rose-colored glasses” and wake up to drug problems in the school.

“To say, ‘We’re working on it,’ doesn’t cut it,” said Means, adding that she also supported drug testing for staff and faculty, and unannounced searches by Sheriff Carl Gotwald Sr. and the county’s K-9 unit, Bret.
“Our school needs a good house-cleaning,” she said.

Means also said schools began a dissent into disorder when “prayer and discipline were removed from the classroom,” and she also questioned the board’s use of Roberts’ Rules of Order, which, she said, state that a president may vote only in order to break a tie vote.

She also accused the board of discrimination against her granddaughter, for allegedly prohibiting her participation in band because she is enrolled in a cyber-school program, and that Means said would like to see the board’s meetings televised again.

• Roberta Dinsmore discussed concerns brought to her regarding the rates for water aerobics and the PAMS pool.

She said participants in the program — before the rates were increased — saw between 20 and 25 women taking part in aerobics twice a week. That was when the rate was still $15 per month, or $4 per visit.

But with the new rates — $35 per month, $6 per visit — attendance has dropped to 10 or fewer participants attending once a week, Dinsmore said.
She said the citizens weren’t advocating setting the original rate structure, but perhaps reducing the current rates a bit, perhaps between $20 and $25 per month, and $5 per visit.

Conrad said the board’s Building & Grounds Committee would explore the request.