SWIFTWATER — July’s Pocono Mountain School Board meeting was cruising to a quick and quiet conclusion when member Frank Pecci “with regret” announced his resignation from the board effective August 3 because he is moving out of the district.
While board president, and fellow Republican, Rusty Johnson appeared surprised by the announcement, member James Gamble immediately moved the board to appoint Marion Pyzik to fill out Pecci’s term, which expires at the end of this year. Member Ronnie Byrd seconded the motion.
Gamble is a registered Republican, Pyzik and Byrd are Democrats. Pyzik is one of four candidates for two seats up in Region 2 of the district. Pecci was elected to represent Region 2 in 2019 and did not run for re-election this time around. Incumbent member John Coyle is running and is one of four candidates on the Region 2 ballot in November. The others are Republican Bert Rinehimer, Pyzik, and Democrat William Nathan. Rinehimer secured the most votes on a single ballot, while Pyzik was the top Democratic vote-getter in the primary election. Pyzik had the most total votes, as a cross-filed candidate, but her Republican ballot votes were not enough to secure her a spot on the Republican ticket in November.
Discussion on the motion got a little testy as Gamble repeatedly objected to Johnson’s stated preferences to interview applicants for the position before making a choice. Gamble said he “just picked her out of the (non-incumbent) three candidates.” When Johnson asked the solicitor what the procedure would be if the board did not accept Pyzik, Byrd started to answer. Johnson curtly cut him off, saying “I’m not asking you, I’m asking the attorney.”
According to the solicitor, the board has thirty days after accepting the resignation to appoint someone to fill out the last few months of the term. If they fail to do so, the lawyer told Johnson, then the selection can go to the local courts to decide. The board did not accept the resignation at the July meeting.
When the vote on Gamble’s motion was finally called, Michael Stern voted with Gamble and Byrd to appoint Pyzik. Pecci and Johnson abstained, and Annabella Lastowski (who also did not run for reelection this year), Jacquelyn Leonard, and Stephen Watto all voted no. With Coyle absent, the vote tied 3-3 and the motion failed.
Leonard then moved to invite Nathan, Pyzik, and Rinehimer to interview with the board in advance of the next meeting. That motion passed. The interviews will not be conducted openly, instead, the board will meet behind closed doors and out of the public’s eye to interview the three. No provision was made for interested members of the public to apply for the interim post.
In other business, the board was informed that the superintendent, Elizabeth Robison, was appointed superintendent of MCTI for the next two school terms. Pleasant Valley was up next in the rotation, but due to the vacancy in their superintendent position, Robinson stepped up to fill the spot.
The board also formally approved the final budget for the upcoming school year, which contains no tax increase. The total budget approved is $226,800,000, which reflects a savings of nearly half a million dollars from the original 2021-22 budget as a result of retirements and resignations.
The superintendent announced that the district business office had, for the seventh year in a row, received a certificate of excellence from the Association of School Business Officials. She said the award was based on the business office meeting the “highest standards in financial reporting and transparency.”
While the board approved a health plan for 2021-22 which made in-school masking optional for everyone, that was before the CDC changed its guidance. The board will need to decide at the August meeting if it will follow the CDC guidance.
The next meeting of the Pocono Mountain Board of School Directors is scheduled for August 18, 2021. Meetings are currently conducted online only, check the school website for more information at www.pmsd.org.
This article was updated to correct the registration of James Gamble. He is a registered Republican, not a Democrat. We apologize for the error.