School board adjourns after member of the public compares teachers to gestapo

Milford. Matthew Contreras asked a number of questions about Covid policy before accusing teachers of bad behavior.

| 29 Nov 2021 | 01:17

Matthew Contreras had a lot to say at the Nov. 18 Delaware Valley school board meeting before one of his remarks brought it to an abrupt end.

Contreras started out by thanking outgoing board member Rosemary Walsh for her service, even though they “didn’t agree on many many things.” The “radical elements of her party did not embrace her right away,” he said, “so this said something good about you as well.”

He then added, “The time for congratulations is over, and it’s back to governance and hard work.”

He asked about the district’s Covid testing policy. Chris Lordi, director of administrative services, said there is no mandatory testing in the district. School board president Jack Fisher said the board does not plan to start mandatory testing.

Contreras asked about vaccine policy. Lordi said the district does not have a vaccine policy, nor does it plan to hold a vaccine clinic this year.

Superintendent John Bell said DV facilities are available after hours if Pike County wants to hold clinics for senior citizens or other community members. Fisher said that, for the time being, the board is keeping DV facilities open to the public during off-hours.

Contreras asked if that was Fisher’s answer or the board’s answer. Fisher said it was the board’s answer. Contreras asked if he would call a vote. Fisher said he would not.

Board member Dawn Bukaj said the school buildings are available for use by community groups. “The school will not be doing any kind of vaccine clinic,” she said. “I just wanted to make that clear.”

Contreras asked about the district’s policy on antibody testing. After checking with Bell Fisher said the district doesn’t have an antibody testing policy. Contreras then wanted to know if the district accepted antibodies as a way to show immunity.

Lordi said, “The state is not accepting a positive antibody test as of Oct. 1.”

School board solicitor Ashley Zimmerman said this wasn’t a law but guidance.

School board member Felicia Sheehan said she is passionate about the topic of antibody testing. “I would like to explore that,” she said. Fisher said he would add it to the December meeting agenda.

Then Contreras lowered the boom.

“What is the administration doing as far as disciplining teachers for gestapo-like mask enforcement?” he asked.

He referred to “anecdotal accounts” and “a video surfacing” of bad teacher behavior, including “teachers in the hall with signs berating children, inciting other children to join the beratement. I’ve asked this question from the podium several times and I’ve not received a sufficient answer. I’d like to know what we’re doing about that.”

School board member Brian Carso objected. “The tone of the question is offensive,” he said. “It is offensive.”

Fisher said, “None of our teachers act like the gestapo. It brings on too much emotional baggage to talk to a teacher that way and say what they are doing is Nazi-like. None of our teachers, none of our staff, is Nazi-like. If you’d like to rephrase, perhaps we could answer that question in a better way.”

Contreras said he’s not “by any stretch suggesting that the majority of the teachers in our district are performing these acts. However, I have asked from this podium and as other other parents have asked what the board and this administration is doing about these things to the children. I’d like an answer from this board or the administration.”

Fisher tried to respond, but Contreras said he wanted to hear from other board members.

“I’m presiding over this meeting, and I will answer,” Fisher said. “Not one of our staff or our teachers acts in a Nazi-like fashion, and it is offensive for you to say that, and we will not answer that question. So you can move on to your next question.”

Contreras said, “I will not move on to my next question. I would like an answer from the administration on what their...”

Fisher asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting. He got one.

Contreras said if the high school auditorium, with its ample space for social distancing, was the regular school board meeting place, more people would attend.

He suggested upgrading its audio-visual equipment so that members of the public and the school board can hear each other better.

Editor’s note: The original version of this article misspelled the last name of Matthew Contreras. The Courier regrets the error.

Students’ report. Delaware Valley students Juliana Llaurado and Viktoria Sioreti covered the highlights: The Jazz Band’s performed at the opening of new ShopRite in Matamoras. The new podcast club begins in December. Odyssey of the Mind is preparing for its end-of-winter competition. The second edition of the newspaper came out on Nov. 19. The newspaper is updated daily at Senior baby pictures are due Dec. 1. The girls soccer team won the District II soccer championship. Winter sports started Nov. 19. The homeroom donating the most food items to area food pantries will be awarded a first period breakfast.
Homeless students. School board member Pam Lutfy asked about the district’s policy regarding homeless students. Dr. Peggy Schaffer said, since Pike County does not have a homeless shelter, the original educational home of the student determines which district is responsible for transportation. Services in other communities, including Strasburg in Lancaster County and domestic violence housing services in Wayne County, help DV students with housing. Lutfy said she hopes the county commissioners will look into housing for homeless students in Pike.
Multipurpose room. Superintendent Bell reported that construction on the multipurpose room will start on March 15 and be completed by the end of July 2022.
Student expulsions. An executive session was held to discuss student issues and litigation. The board readmitted two students effective Nov. 4 and expelled four students for 45 days.
Tenure granted. The board approved giving tenure to special education teacher April Clark.
Face masks. Superintendent Bell said Dec. 4 brings masking back to local control “unless there’s future chess moves between politicians and judiciary.” A Pennsylvania judge on Nov. 17 said the order requiring masks inside K-12 schools and child care facilities to contain the coronavirus must expire Dec. 4, but the governor may appeal.
Appreciation for Judge Mariani. Jack Fisher thanked Judget Robert D. Mariani of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, who decided that DV could continue its parent-only mask waiver. “His opinion is excellent,” he said. Fisher noted that the court’s opinion includes the requirement that students requesting mask exemptions be given the option of a face shields. “Thanks to Judge Mariani for his excellent work.”
Appreciation for Rosemary Walsh. Rosemary Walsh said she wishes the best of luck to the new board members as they seek a balance in making decisions to make DV even stronger. Dawn Bukaj thanked Walsh for the knowledge she learned from her during some of their “awesome” conservations, which she said were important because she is not an educator. “For the things that we did not agree on, I think there was a lot more that we did agree on. So thank you for your service,” Bukaj said.
Upcoming meetings. Pam Lutfy announced a curriculum meeting from 5 to 5:45 p.m on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the district office. Jack Fisher said a regular board meeting would follow at the district office. Fisher said in January, February, and March, the board hopes to visit individual school campuses to hold board meetings and “hopefully we’ll be out of the mask mandate and get back to a normal board meeting.”