Residents question school board about historical documentation, contract talks

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A local business owner asked the Punxsutawney Area School Board Monday about a supposed reason why teachers in the district have not yet agreed upon a contract, while the school board president said the board is aware of all issues.

Speaking during the public comment portion of the board’s agenda, Tim and Cindy Chambers, owners of CRW Home Centers, expressed concern about how historical documents are referenced in textbooks and other materials — if the original documentation is edited to omit terms such as “In God We Trust,” for example.

They said they believe historical documentation in the curriculum should remain “correct,” as it was written, and Cindy Chambers also said she hoped the sex education curriculum contained “good and wise” information to students.

Tim Chambers reiterated his wife’s comments, saying, “The concern in our nation is about moving away from God and country ... our desire is to know, for our kids, that this is how our country was founded.”

He also discussed conversations pertaining to contract negotiations between the board and the Punxsutawney Area Education Association

“It’s a topic at our sales counter,” Chambers said.

He said if the board was unaware of the issue, he would reveal it, but at the same time asked if the board meeting was the proper forum to express it.

Board President Gary Conrad asked Chambers to elaborate, and he replied that conversation as to why there is no contract yet for the PAEA is because its members are “reluctant” about a provision calling for random drug testing and searches by police K-9 units in the schools.

“I don’t understand,” Chambers said. “Why should that be a problem? I do believe the community is suffering by drug abuse among the youth, but drug-sniffing dogs in the halls and parking lots? I would highly suggest there should be (that practice).”

Although it is not the board’s practice to respond during public comment, Conrad said the board has been negotiating with the PAEA, and “All board members are briefed on what’s happening.” He also said the board and the PAEA have been working well together.

Also during public comment, Janice Means spoke in support of Karah Hollis, a former PAHS student who opted for cyber-school and has not been permitted to take part in the PAHS band. Means said Hollis’ decision to better herself has been met with rejection and discrimination.

She said at some point, another student will make the decision to also enroll in cyber-school, and she asked if that student will be met with the same action by the district.

District officials have argued that policy prohibits Hollis from partaking in band because since it is graded, it is considered an extra-curricular activity.

“What’s more important: Policies or children?” Means said. “I hope when you leave tonight, you can honestly say, ‘I did the right thing.’”
Later in the meeting, the board approved a first reading of recommended changes or additions to district policies, including Policy 140.1 — Extra-curricular Participation by Charter/Cyber Charter Students.

Board member Jack White asked about the first reading of the revision, which Conrad said was discussed at the Oct. 26 meeting.

Any change to the policy is not particular to Hollis’ situation, and Wolfe said it “was not something I was instructed to change in the policy.” Conrad added, “I received no direction on how to change the policy from this board.”

Under new business on the board’s agenda toward the end of the meeting, White made a motion “for her to be in the band,” but Conrad rejected the motion, saying the board had discussed the issue over the past two meetings, and a change to the policy would require two readings, just after the board accepted the first reading that night.