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Central Bucks School Board Republicans Resign, Alleging Unfair Treatment

Two Republican members of the Central Bucks School Board resigned abruptly last week, citing their treatment by the new Democratic majority, leaving only one Republican remaining on the board.

Central Bucks, the third largest school district in the state, flipped from Republican to Democratic last November, after a campaign by various left-of-center groups opposing policy changes made by the GOP majority. Among them, keeping political signs out of classrooms and sexually-explicit books like “Gender Queer” out of school libraries.

The two Republicans, Debra Cannon and Lisa Sciscio, say Democratic Board President Karen Smith excluded them from a Jan. 30 retreat and board communications. They also believe actions taken by the new board solicitor, David Conn, expose them to personal legal liability. They made these claims in scathing resignation letters.

Conn’s appointment to the solicitor’s post appears to be at the center of the conflict.

Conn is unapologetic about his partisan politics. His social media feed identifies him as a “progressive solicitor,” and has featured his advocacy for Democratic and leftwing politics.

Cannon wrote that the three minority school board members received an email on November 29, 2023, announcing that the majority would appoint Conn as the new solicitor before the Democratic majority was sworn in. It was the same day that Conn filed with the court that he would be representing Karen Smith, Heather Reynolds, and Dana Foley in a vote recount case, which Cannon and Sciscio allege created a conflict of interest.

Smith, Reynolds, and Foley did not abstain in the vote to appoint Conn,  nor did Conn disclose that he represented them.

Also on December 28 of last year, Conn entered his appearance for the district in a legal case where Conn’s wife is a witness in that case, another alleged conflict of interest, according to Cannon’s letter.

“I expressed my concerns about the items which the newly-installed board majority added to the agenda without public notice,” Sciscio wrote about the Dec. 4 board meeting. “These agenda items did not fall within any of the exceptions to the Sunshine Act. The appointment of Mr. Conn as solicitor to the district (without a contract in sight) was one such item.”

Smith told Cannon that she communicates with the board majority by text messages, Signal app, and phone calls, a practice that not only excludes the minority Republicans but is not transparent and, in the case of phone calls, leaves no written record.

Cannon also objected to alleged violations of the Sunshine Act that could leave the district and board open to litigation, such as changing items on agendas without proper notice.

On Jan. 30, the Democratic majority board members held a retreat without the Republican minority. That day, Cannon emailed Smith expressing concerns about a retreat without the board minority present and confirming Conn would be there. She asked whether this was an unannounced executive session.

On Feb. 6, Sciscio, Cannon and the third Republican board member, James Pepper, a lawyer, sent Conn, acting Superintendent James Scanlon and the board majority an email outlining their concerns “that Conn is placing the district, its taxpayers, and the board (as a whole and personally) in legal jeopardy.”

Conn allegedly referenced an alleged Title IX violation “in an attempted blackmail communication,” said Cannon. But Scanlon later emailed Sciscio and Cannon to say there was no Title IX complaint.

On Feb. 13, the board and Scanlon censored  Cannon and Sciscio, abruptly ending the meeting before they could finish speaking.

Scisicio said the board majority’s actions “were likely to jeopardize our qualified immunity and create a personal liability against each board director.”

“In fact, not only has this entire board been notified of imminent personal litigation related to this matter on at least three occasions that I’m aware of, stated plainly, the district, through Mr. Conn, has threatened to take personal legal action related to this matter on at least three occasions…against its own sitting school board directors, that is, at least the directors in the minority,” she said.

Sciscio added, “I have no choice but to protect myself and my family from people who operate with such impunity and seemingly act without care for their oaths of office.”

Smith responded with a statement from the board majority saying the board had not violated the Sunshine Act and there was “no evidence of a quid pro quo with Mr. Conn. A lawyer can previously have performed pro bono work for an individual before they become a client. Additionally, the district is the client here, not any individual board member.”

“These allegations are false,” Smith said. “During their tenure in the board majority, Mrs. Sciscio and Mrs. Cannon routinely withheld information from the board minority. They ignored legal warnings on their intended votes from the ACLU, Education Law Center, NAACP, American Library Association and other organizations. Their actions resulted in a federal investigation by the Office of Civil Rights and multiple lawsuits. Their actions caused these lawsuits they are now accusing us of mishandling.”

However, an investigation by the Duane Morris law firm released last year found that Smith had secretly written an email to the Department of Education complaining about the district and asking for help with policies that she disagreed with prior to the DOE opening an investigation.

Conn did not respond to a request for comment.

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Two of Three Republicans Resign From Central Bucks School Board Tuesday

When the Democratic majority was elected to the Central Bucks School Board last year, it was with the assurance that they would bring more cooperation and less division to the board.

But that hope was shattered Tuesday night when two of three Republicans on the board—Lisa Sciscio and Debra Cannon–resigned.

The move came after the majority ended the meeting rather than allow Sciscio to speak.

“I was trying to approach the situation in a more charitable manner toward my colleagues,” said Sciscio. “So, there is one particular issue I have grave concerns about. And I asked for more information about this issue because I’m concerned not just myself but every member of  this board with not being given information.”

She pointed to a request she’d made to the new solicitor, David Conn.

“What I have learned since then is pretty mind-blowing,” Sciscio said. “As we heard tonight, also in public comment, one of the problems that reflects Mr. Conn as the solicitor of this district. On Jan. 28, I requested information on a legal matter, the separation agreement of (former superintendent) Dr. Lucabaugh. I abstained from last month’s vote, allowing Mr. Conn to take any legal action necessary regarding Dr. Lucabaugh, and boy, I’m glad I did. For merely asking for information and documentation on the matter…For my request, I was accused by Mr. Conn of colluding with the attorney representing Dr. Lucabaugh.”

Lucabaugh resigned after the November election brought a Democrat majority to the Central Bucks School Board. The previous, Republican-controlled board had faced a backlash over policies, including allowing parents to question whether certain books were age-appropriate. The board also instructed teachers and staff not to use alternative names and gender identities for students who requested it unless they had parental permission. Other issues included not allowing political displays, whether Trump signs or LGBTQ flags, in common areas of the schools.

“That certainly didn’t dissuade me from seeking this information,” said Sciscio. “Because I’m already used to our solicitor making egregiously false accusations against me and some other members of the board, especially in the press.

“Perhaps to elaborate on what this has been like is to simply share my emails,” she said. She started to read an email to Conn asking him to prepare a confidential memorandum about Lucabaugh’s resignation for board members.

“Instead, you use Karen (Smith) as your mouthpiece to claim that you require authorization from the board,” she said, quoting her email to Conn. “As a school board solicitor, you know that’s a flat-out lie.” She demanded all documentation in writing because of the “disparaging and inappropriate comments you’ve made about certain board members, including me, to the press.”

She added that perhaps Conn had not seen the email from Lucabaugh outlining alleged harassment from Smith.

Smith broke in to say Sciscio’s remarks were not appropriate.

“It’s come to my attention that on Nov. 29, you entered your appearance in a Bucks County election legal matter on behalf of Karen Smith, Heather Reynolds, and Dana Foley personally. Quite the coincidence that Karen notified me, Jim (Pepper) and Debra (Cannon) via email before anyone was sworn in that the ‘transitional board’ decided to hire you as a solicitor…Don’t you think it would have been appropriate to put the board and the public on notice of this conflict of interest? Don’t you think this could be construed as a quid pro quo? Don’t you think it would be prudent to advise your firm of their potential liability?”

She said the board majority was settling “personal political scores” before they voted to end the meeting.

Smith, the board president, Conn, and acting Superintendent James Scanlon did not respond to requests for comments. Sciscio and Cannon also did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

“This is just so heartbreaking,” said Michaela Schultz, responding on social media.

Also on social media, Dave Vessichelli said, “Democrats fixed the map so they will have control of the CB school board forever. Sad, but it will only get worse. If I have young kids, I would definitely get them out of the district.”

And Mike Jeffreys said, “Not that it matters what I think, but I’m 100 percent convinced the only way to see real change and accountability is through school choice.”

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Judge Rules First Amendment Trumps State Law in Central Bucks School District Case

A federal judge ruled in favor of Central Bucks School District Board member Jim Pepper, finding he had a First Amendment right to talk about a professional misconduct complaint that he filed against an educator without fear of prosecution by the Bucks County District Attorney.

In the case, John Doe v. DA Jennifer Schorn, Judge Karen Spencer Marston ruled a state law that prohibits people from disclosing that they filed a professional misconduct complaint with the state Department of Education is unconstitutional in Pepper’s case.

Pepper, a lawyer, had filed a complaint against a Central Bucks employee whom the Department of Education dismissed about a month later without an investigation. He wanted to talk about how the state DOE dismissed the case without finding out the facts and to criticize the DOE for its response.

However, he could have been charged with a misdemeanor under the law, and the Bucks County District Attorney, then Matt Weintraub, refused to “disavow” prosecution, according to the ruling.

Attorney Aaron Martin, who represents Pepper, said, “The effect of the injunction is to bar the Bucks County district attorney from prosecuting my client for disclosing his complaint to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. It also bars prosecution for my client’s disclosure of the Department’s response. The department stated it would not act on his complaint.

“The court declared the law unconstitutional as applied to my client,” said Martin. “It did not declare the law unconstitutional in all respects, nor did it declare the law unconstitutional as applied to other people.”

Despite the judge’s affirmation of his First Amendment rights, Pepper declined to discuss the case or the ruling.

Pepper faced “a credible threat of prosecution,” the judge held in her Jan. 10 opinion. However, her injunction protects Pepper from prosecution should he decide to discuss his complaint.

Schorn, who succeeded Weintraub later and successfully ran for a seat on the Superior Court bench, declined to comment.

Martin added, “The injunction is not binding against other prosecutors.  However, the court’s well-reasoned opinion will likely cause other prosecutors not to file charges against other citizens for disclosing similar information.”

Central Bucks, the third-largest school district in the state, has been riven by culture wars in recent years. It has been the subject of an ACLU complaint and a federal Department of Education investigation.  Although a prestigious law firm investigated and found the district had not discriminated against LGPTQ students, that issue and a policy to require age-appropriate books in the school libraries drove controversy and propelled a new Democratic majority to take over in the 2023 elections.

Parent Jamie Walker noted the teacher’s union, along with Philadelphia and state Democrats, flooded the race with money to propel the win. Rep. Malcom Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), who is now running for state auditor general, made commercials for the Democratic slate.

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WALKER: New Central Bucks Board’s Wrongheaded Hires

At the January 11, 2024, Central Bucks board meeting, the Democrat majority representatives hired James Scanlan, Ed.D., as interim superintendent for $1,713.15 a day. That equates to almost $35,000.00 a month or a yearly salary of over $400,000 a year. Plus, he’s reimbursed for travel, tolls, parking, and any out-of-pocket expenses while doing his job. No financial cap was put on these expenses.

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit, led by Mark Hoffman, created this contract and charged our district $363.15 per day for Dr. Scanlon. These numbers are unprecedented. The local media spent months criticizing Dr. Abe Lucabaugh’s $315,000 a year salary as a permanent superintendent, which was significantly less money.

Assistant Superintendent Chuck Malone Ed.D. agreed to serve and was approved as Interim Superintendent at the November 2023 board meeting for an additional $6,500.00 a month until a new superintendent is found. This is the practice used for all previous interim superintendents.

Never has a board hired an out-of-district interim superintendent. I have not seen any criticism about this outrageous expenditure in the media. Unfortunately, this highlights the bias of local media. When the Republicans were in the majority, their criticism was nonstop. And these sky-high salaries show how misinformed the current board majority is.

The next poor hire was David Conn, who was board solicitor from Sweet Stevens Katz & Williams. Mr. Conn is married to a member of our community who is part of the ACLU investigation.

A few months ago, all judges in Bucks County voluntarily recused themselves from ruling on the district’s new voting maps because one judge’s wife works for our district. Clearly, with that mindset, hiring Mr. Conn is a conflict of interest.  The Democratic majority,  led by Karen Smith, didn’t think so. They have a specific agenda to follow.

Mr. Conn gave an incorrect, unsolicited legal opinion in July 2021 to keep children masked in school. This “legal advice” was proven incorrect by the Supreme Court when the justices found the mask mandate illegal. This poor advice shows his poor judgment.

On a personal note, Mr. Conn put in right to know requests about me and another mother in the district. The other mother and I are not politicians or looking to be employed by Central Bucks, so it was an extraordinary thing to do.

I emailed the board to let them know my concerns. Unfortunately, Democrats didn’t seem to care about my worries, which was expected. I hope he doesn’t request information about my children, who are all Central Bucks students. I do not trust him. I have no idea what he will do. It’s not a great feeling.

We moved here for the schools, like so many other people.

In the last election, Philadelphia Democrats flooded the Bucks County Democrats’ PACs with money to pay for commercials for school board candidates.

They endorsed and supported anyone for this election if they had a “D” next to their name. Republican school board candidates don’t have a shot with the current system.  It’s not a level playing field.  I just hope the district stays a top educational institution, but looking at who influences the Democrats, I don’t have much hope.

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WALKER: The Central Bucks Community Should Be Concerned

On Dec. 13. the new Democrat-controlled Central Bucks School board had its first policy meeting, and if you are a resident here, you should be very concerned.

During the election, I helped run a PAC to elect candidates to protect girls sports and spaces because they are under attack by the Democratic Party.  In June 2023, state Sen. Steve Santarsiero  (head of the Bucks County Democratic Party) made a speech stating that he supports “The Fairness Act,” which sounds good from the title but in reality what it does is allow biological males to play in female sports and use their locker rooms.   This act is also supported by Governor Josh Shapiro.

During the Democratic run boards’ first policy meeting they decided to halt policy 321.  This policy keeps politics out of classrooms.  So now a teacher is free to hang up a Palestinian flag or a Trump flag.  This is terrifying given the amount of antisemitism that is in our area.  Universities all over the country are being reprimanded for antisemitism and our new board just invited it into classrooms.  As a Jewish person I find this appalling and it speaks to their lack of awareness of our current political climate regarding antisemitism.

Secondly. the new board wants biological boys to play in girl sports but they tabled that policy because too many residents were upset. They want to wait for further clarification from the PIAA.  The PIAA doesn’t set these types of rules.  They allow for each school district to set a policy.  This is exactly what they did with masks during COVID.  If any of the new school board representatives were paying attention they would understand how the PIAA operates.   This is exactly why our previous board created a policy to protect girls sports.

Girls all over Pennsylvania are in a lot of trouble if the new board allows biological males to play in female sports and use their locker rooms because we are basically the largest suburban district and other school districts will model us.  This isn’t going away either.  Parents with biological girls need to make sure their girls are protected and looking back to Board President Karen Smith’s previous votes I have no faith this board will help girls.  The Pennsylvania Democrats funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into the new candidates campaign and these elected candidates have an agenda to follow.

The board also halted policies 109.1 and 109.2 which ensure children only have access to age appropriate material.  So now it’s a free for all.  Any type of book will be allowed to enter the libraries in school.  Parents this is your chance to donate whatever you would like!

Lastly, the board will vote on allowing student representatives to have a say on the board.  So if you ever wanted your 7 year old to help create board policies for a school district with a $360 million budget this is your chance!  Stay tuned for details.   Central Bucks residents these representatives were highly endorsed by Sen. Steve Santarsiero.  Gov. Josh Shapiro attended their victory party.  They are a reflection of their beliefs.  Remember that going forward.

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GIORDANO: Central Bucks School Board Election a Setback for Parents’ Rights

Democrats won big across the Delaware Valley in last Tuesday’s election. It was clear that abortion rights and, to some degree, possible challenges to the 2024 presidential election carried the day. After the election, Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, reportedly said Dobbs and democracy won the 2023 election, and those issues will carry Democrats to victory in 2024.

Dobbs is a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overruled Roe v. Wade and sent abortion rights battles back to the states. Democracy is a reference to President Donald Trump and the challenges he raised about the 2020 election results.

But I don’t think that Dobbs or democracy gave us the Democrats’ victory in the Central Bucks School Board elections. I think the unrelenting and false attacks by The Philadelphia Inquirer and WHYY demonized people like school board President Dana Hunter and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Abraham M. Lucabaugh.

The theme of both news outlets was that Lucabaugh, Hunter, and other Republican board members were on wholesale book-banning campaigns and were callous or biased toward students who were gay or transgender.

In my view, this coverage was so intense because the district is one of the biggest, wealthiest, and most educated in the entire state. It also had a fairly conservative board elected after bitter battles about masking and school closures during the COVID crisis.

I think the election of that conservative school board was a message that citizens in Central Bucks thought the previous COVID policies were too restrictive. And the demotion of Dr. David Damsker, Bucks public health chief, at the behest of the Wolf administration and carried out by the Bucks County commissioners also created a backlash.

Damsker had gained a large following across the state as he advocated loosening masking restrictions and early return of students to school even if they had previously had a fever.

The next firestorm for that board involved whether parents should be notified if their child wanted to be identified by pronouns that didn’t match their sex at birth. The superintendent said there would be discussions around each individual case, but the indication was that parents would be told.

How is this hateful to kids? It is the essence of parental rights that you be told about your child when, for whatever reason, they ask that their pronoun be changed. Do the newly elected school board members think parents should not be notified because they might get angry and abuse their child? Do they really believe collaborating with the child and lying to parents is a good policy? Somehow, with their allies in the media, the new board members were able to make a civil rights matter for kids as young as 7 or 8.

The media already mentioned, along with the Bucks County Courier Times, also conjured up the notion that Hunter and the others were on massive book-banning crusades. I interviewed Hunter and others extensively, and it was clear they crafted policies that restricted only very sexually graphic materials.

These were the books that you’ve seen parents stopped from reading passages from at school board meetings because they were so graphic. Any legitimate school district should not be making books like “Lawn Boy” or “Gender Queer” available to students.

So, what happens next? I like the thoughts of defeated school candidate Dr. Stephen Mass, who was interviewed by the DVJournal.

He said, “The only winners in Tuesday’s elections are the private schools, who will see their enrollment skyrocket in the next few years when parents see what policies are coming into our district.” I think Mass has a good crystal ball.

Democrats Flip Central Bucks School Board Winning All Five Seats

The Democrats won all five seats on the Central Bucks School Board Tuesday, sending a message that voters were unhappy with the GOP-controlled board’s direction. Reforms such as allowing challenges of patently pornographic books in school libraries and keeping political banners and other items out of classrooms, unless those were part of the curriculum, will likely be swept aside.

Democrats Heather Reynolds, Dana Foley, Rick Haring, Susan Gibson, and incumbent Karen Smith won handily.

“I am so very happy and relieved to have won reelection and to share this victory with all my running mates. But this isn’t just a victory for me or my fellow candidates,” Smith said. “This is a victory for our students, our teachers, our support staff, and our community. With this vote, we showed that love is stronger than hate and compassion is stronger than fear. And voters made clear they will not be divided or distracted from working together — all of us — to solve the real issues our students face.

Aarati Martino, who lost to Haring, thanked her supporters.

“I learned a lot and have not a single regret for running,” said Martino. “And congratulations to my opponents for winning the board race. Good luck!”

Martino told DVJournal, “We lost because not enough voters saw the danger in the policies that our opponents will propose and effect.

“We conservatives have this Cassandra-like curse of seeing the longer term and unintended consequences of actions that intend to help people but usually make things much worse. I predict our district will not be as effective in educating our children and preparing them for the future as they were for this past generation. It will take time for these policies to degrade the system because the district internally has been run extraordinarily well with many amazing people in charge, not to mention the superb teachers and staff on the front lines. And the press will not be transparent on this matter, so parents will have no idea that things could (have) been so much better. In fact, now that their endorsed candidates are in charge, at least now, the media will give us a reprieve from the constant negative media barrage!

“It is sad because I know for a fact many people voted against us because of unhappiness with their families, with their children, with their lives. These new progressive policies will do nothing to improve their situation and will likely worsen it. And I feel bad for them because I do believe our slate could have led the way in showing a much better way for nurturing and educating our children together,” she said.

Her husband, Paul Martino, also shared his thoughts on Facebook.  =Paul Martino founded a political action committee, Back to School PA PAC, in 2021 and successfully backed school board candidates across the state, with 60 percent of those candidates winning.

“The first big message here is that Pennsylvania is a blue state and has been since 2020,” he said. “We stuck our finger in the dike in 2021, but the water has fully crested now. We lost pretty much everywhere last night, from row offices to the state Supreme Court. And, of course, in many school board races, including CBSD and Pennridge.

“This bodes poorly for the 2024 nominee for president here in the previously purple state of Pennsylvania, despite the recent polling. I think the current polling methods don’t reflect the now baked D advantage that the voting changes of Act 77 (mail-in ballots) brought.”

Paul Martino added that the pending redistricting decision by a judge will make it unlikely for Republicans to win seats on CBSB in the future.

“That’s terrible news if you want to keep the prestige of the district, as the Ds have made their priorities clear:…going back to advocacy in the classroom, DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives, more social-emotional learning, etc. None of this makes education outcomes better but promotes their social agenda. The kids are the real losers here.”

Dr. Steven Mass, Smith’s opponent, said, “The only winners in Tuesday’s elections are the private schools, who will have their enrollment skyrocket in the next few years when parents see what policies are coming into our district.”

Smith said, “Now that the election is behind us, I am eager to start working on some of the priorities I shared with voters during the campaign. Restoring civility to our meetings, beginning to revise these policies that have divided us over the last couple of years, working to bring additional mental health supports for our students, and ensuring we are providing a safe and inclusive environment for all our students and staff.”

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Two Central Bucks Candidates Answer Questions

Ten candidates are running for five seats on the Central Bucks School board, including two incumbents, Board President Dana Hunter and Karen Smith.

The candidates are running in slates of five, with the Republicans led by Hunter and the Democrats led by Smith.

The district is the fourth largest in Pennsylvania, with nearly 18,000 students and 3,000 employees. The current Republican majority board has been besieged by outside organizations, such as the ACLU, after it passed policies to allow parents to challenge inappropriate sexually explicit books in school libraries and to keep political message signs out of classrooms, from gay pride flags to Trump banners.

DVJournal asked all 10 candidates to answer five questions. Only two responded. Their responses are below.

The questions: 1) Would you use the Act 1 exceptions to raise taxes? Why or why not? 2) Many students have experienced learning loss. What are some solutions you would bring? 3) Mental health is another crisis. How would you address this in the CBSD? 4) There is a multi-million-dollar lawsuit pending over teachers’ pay. Should that be settled? 5) How do you see the role of the school board director regarding the teachers’ union?

Dr. Stephen Mass, a surgeon running against Smith in Region 1, submitted these answers:

1) With inflation and rising mortgage rates, the average taxpayer can ill afford a tax hike—especially seniors on fixed incomes. An Act I exception (raising the taxes for specific costs without voter approval) is an absolute last resort. As a board member, I would need to do the due diligence and have a transparent conversation should any potential need arise.

2)  It will take years to reverse the learning loss from the lockdowns. We start by focusing on a rigorous math, writing, and reading foundation at elementary levels and more individualization in the curriculum at all levels. Where we see large learning losses, we need to expand on in-house tutoring programs, including peer tutoring

De. Stephen Mass

3) We can be better about individualizing the curriculum so kids are happier with their academic path. We can promote after-school sports and clubs to give kids a sense of community. And we need evening programs involving parents regarding mental health-related topics such as sleep, exercise, nutrition, screen time, bullying, and more.

4) An attorney representing the Pennsylvania School Board Association presented on Sept. 12. He was clear that we should not settle due to the shocking $119 million and lack of merit. I agree and think the union should also answer. I refused an opportunity to meet with the lawyer for the lead plaintiff, the spouse of a candidate, a concerning conflict of interest.

5)  The union’s goal is to extract for its members, while the board’s mission is to sustain excellent schools while protecting the taxpayer. A board member should, therefore, not accept money or seek endorsements from the union. It’s concerning my opponent sought this endorsement.

Glen Schloeffel is a former school board member with a bachelor’s in marketing and retired from the U.S. Navy Reserves. He is running in Region 3 and gave these replies:

1) If the highly disputed Cartee-Haring lawsuits are settled, taxes will have to go up significantly, and an Act 1 exception will likely be the only way the school district, vis a vis our taxpayers, can pay for it, in addition to eliminating jobs, education, and sports programs. During my previous term on the school board, we never raised taxes, and it will be my mission to not raise taxes if elected in November.

Glen Schloeffel

2) I will task the administration to develop a plan within 45 days to address the learning loss due to COVID-19. We have some of the best educators and administrators in the state who have dedicated their careers to the education of our children. They are the teaching experts, and we should rely on them for the solutions.

3)  Central Bucks Pupil Services has worked hard to create and implement a comprehensive support system that has become a model for the state.   This model encompasses a wide range of services and resources, all aimed at nurturing and safeguarding the mental well-being of our children. We also have a team of counselors and support staff assigned to each middle and high school in the district. The CBSD also closely collaborates with NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance), and we are seeing terrific benefits and results from this collaborative relationship that is helping our kids. `I will always advocate for ways that we can draw on additional resources that address ongoing student mental health concerns.

4) My understanding is the school district has committed no wrongdoing in the pay dispute, and the board was advised to not settle under any circumstances by Michael Levin, Chief Defense Counsel for CBSD, who publicly stated at the September board meeting that “No unlawful discrimination has occurred” in our district. Mr. Levin has served as legal counsel to the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) and is considered an expert who has written state education and school board policy. If the school board majority changes (from Republican to Democratic) in November, the lawsuit will be settled, and the spouse of a school board candidate will benefit handsomely, while taxes for the rest of us will be raised over $3,500 on average to pay their $120 million settlement demand. Ed Mazurek, the attorney for Rick and Becky Cartee-Haring, contacted the Republican school board candidates and said that he has already briefed Democrat school board candidates Dana Foley, Heather Reynolds, Karen Smith, and Susan Gibson on the case and offered to do the same for the Republican candidates. This is a tremendous conflict of interest that would bias these candidates should they be elected to the board, especially since Rick Haring is their running mate. I, as well as the other Republican candidates, declined the offer to be briefed on the case because of the inappropriate conflict of interest and bias that meeting with the Harings’ attorney creates for potential school board members. It is extremely unethical that the Democrat school board candidates have already been briefed on the case by the Harings’ attorney since they have all said they believe the case should be settled and that they’ll vote to give the Harings a settlement. This should greatly concern every taxpayer and voter.

5) The school board and the teachers’ union should stand shoulder to shoulder to ensure our children get the best education possible to prepare them for life. Beyond that, the CBEA represents the teachers, and the school board represents the community and taxpayers. We must balance their concerns and priorities, especially in these very trying financial and economic times.

In addition to Mass, Hunter, and Schloeffel, the Republican candidates are Aarati Martino and Tony Arjona. The Democrats are Smith, Heather Reynolds, Dana Foley, Rick Haring, and Susan Gibson.

Central Bucks Teachers’ Union President ‘Disheartened and Disappointed’ by Dem Candidates’ New Signs

(This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.)

Update: After publishing this story late Sunday evening, Broad + Liberty was made aware on Monday morning of a social media post appearing to show an internal email indicating Central Bucks Education Association President Joe Kirsche resigned on Sunday. Broad + Liberty offers this as context with the understanding that it has not been able to authenticate the email.

Five candidates for board seats in the Central Bucks School District are crying foul over new campaign signs saying their opposition was endorsed by “teachers and staff” of two unions in the district, especially given that the leader of one of those unions said in an email he didn’t approve the signs and was disappointed in them.

The sign says “teachers and staff” of the Central Bucks Education Association and the Central Bucks Education Support Professionals Association “endorse” candidates Karen Smith, Heather Reynolds, Dana Foley, Rick Haring, and Susan Gibson.

Although school board elections in Pennsylvania are ostensibly bipartisan, that group of five Democrats is hoping to overturn the Republican majority of the current board, which was elected in 2021 in the wake of frustrations about how the district was managed during the pandemic.

The five Republicans say that, while it’s true the CBEA union has voted to support the five Democratic candidates, the sign is a historic breach of norms, and they’ve published an email from CBEA President Joe Kirsche which they say proves it.

“In response to the recent signage posted amongst our voting community, I want to be perfectly clear with both of you. CBEA did not know the signs were being printed and posted. I did not endorse the signs beforehand,” Kirsche wrote to CBSD Board president Dana Hunter, who is up for re-election, and CBSD Superintendent Abraham “Abe” Lucabaugh.

“In fact, had I been approached to support the signs posted, I would not have approved them with the current verbiage as the signs are not inclusive of the opinions of all my CBEA members,” Kirsche continued. “I am disheartened and disappointed that it appears as though the teacher’s union has become an additional pawn.”

Hunter provided a forwarded copy of that email to Broad + Liberty for authenticity, and the political action committee supporting the five Republicans says in a Facebook post that it was authorized by Kirsche to release his email.

Kirsche did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Emailed requests for comment to all five Democrat candidates were not returned. Broad + Liberty also reached out to those campaigns through their Facebook pages. Broad + Liberty further attempted to reach out to the Haring and Gibson campaigns through the phone numbers listed on their Facebook pages, but those calls went to voicemail.

“I deeply value and appreciate all our teachers and support staff and all they do every day to support our students. I believe the unions play an important role in representing their members in the district and value the working partnership between the board, unions, and administration,” Hunter said in a statement.

“While I respect the endorsement process, Republican candidates did not seek union endorsements because we believe that our district functions best when our school board represents the entire community and not the interests of one specific group,” Hunter continued. “The unsanctioned verbiage on the signs paid for and created by the Democrat School Board candidates is yet another example of actions that divide our community and take focus away from educating our children. I have a wonderful working relationship with CBEA President Joe Kirsche. I think he is a great leader and admire the position he has taken on this matter.”

Current board member Leigh Vlasblom, a member of the conservative contingent who is not up for re-election this year, shared on social media an email from the CBEA from 2019 in which the CBEA official was asking candidates if they wanted to be considered for “recommendation.”

The email notes that the CBEA would not be considering making endorsements in two regions, and both of those regions had incumbent board members that year.

To Vlasblom and Hunter, the email shows that the CBEA in years past aimed to stay out of races with incumbent members — regardless of party or ideology — because the CBEA wanted to build a working relationship with all sitting board members.



Another problem is that the sign puts the union names in small, faint print, such that the distinction that the endorsement came from the unions is meaningless. Given that the CBEA does not represent all teachers in the district, the sign will nevertheless appear to some as though each and every teacher and staffer in the district is in support of those candidates, something Kirsche positively refuted in his email.

Candidate Aarti Martino echoed the same ideas as Hunter.

“From that email, you can see that the president of the CBEA (Central Bucks Education Association, the local public school union) was working well with Mrs. Hunter and Dr. Lucabaugh and making good progress. He did not want the signs,” Martino said.

“I wish more people understood that we are not the ones causing division in our district. It is a select few activists who are turning neighbor against neighbor. And they are taking advantage of this chaos to settle a $119M lawsuit that hasn’t even gone through discovery yet and that will bankrupt our schools and our taxpayers.”

Martino is referring to an ongoing suit in which hundreds of female teachers, current and former, allege the district has paid its female teachers less than its male counterparts. A settlement of $119 million was recently floated.

Martino is the wife of Paul Martino, a venture capitalist who previously supported the conservatives, who won the majority in the 2021 elections. Martino has made significant investments in the current election as well. Their children are students in the district.

The board elections in the Central Bucks School District will be closely watched not just in the county but across the commonwealth and even in the D.C. beltway.

The district has been the center of a political maelstrom ever since a conservative majority took the reins in early 2022.

In particular, the political left in the county has waged an unceasing attack on the board, alleging it is hostile to LGBT issues. Those arguments were fueled in large part by the controversy surrounding a single teacher in the district, Andrew Burgess.

In May of 2022, the district suspended Burgess. Critics of the board said his suspension was retaliation for his support for LGBT students.

In response, the board hired the law firm Duane Morris to investigate the allegations that it was biased against LGBT students. In the final report, investigators for Duane Morris alleged Burgess had withheld information about the bullying one transgender student faced to manufacture controversy against the board.

In a more recent twist on the Burgess controversy, the conservative majority on the board has alleged that the U.S. Department of Education failed to report the abuse of a student when it was contacted by those who wanted the department to investigate the district for discrimination based on sex. Essentially, the current conservative board majority is saying Burgess’s allies told the DOE about the student abuse, which then turned a blind eye, even as Burgess was allegedly keeping the district in the dark.

Bucks County is in many ways the center of political gravity in Pennsylvania this cycle. Political insiders from both sides of the aisle are looking to this year’s election results, both in Central Bucks School District and the hotly contested county commissioner races, as harbingers of what might come in the nation’s largest swing state in 2024.

The five Republican candidates for office are incumbent Board President Dana Hunter, Dr. Stephen Mass, Tony Arjona, Glenn Schloeffel, and Aartai Martino.

Angry Dem Operative Goes ‘Bobby Knight’ With Folding Chair at CBSB Meeting

Steve Sullivan, Central Bucks School Board Member Tabitha Dell’Angelo’s husband, picked up a chair and appeared to brandish it as a weapon during a tense moment at a school board meeting Tuesday evening.

Tim Daly, a speaker at the meeting, had criticized Dell’Angelo, referring to the results of his various right-to-know requests. Daly said he had proof Dell’Angelo was using her work emails at The College of New Jersey for district business and that she had reached out to the state School Boards Association to ask how to get away with leaking information.

Daly then tried to drop those papers on a chair next to Sullivan as he returned to his seat but said they accidentally flew out of his hand.

“I said, ‘Here are your wife’s emails for you to take a look at, buddy,’” Daly said.

That was when Sullivan picked up the metal folding chair and turned toward Daly but was prevented by Lela Casey, who grabbed the chair leg. Another man stopped Sullivan from walking further, and then two police officers came into the room and escorted Sullivan out.

The official video of the school board meeting does not show the incident but is focused on a list of names of the speakers.

“Oh my gosh,” someone says, and there are unintelligible voices until a board recess is announced.

Mara Witsen filmed the incident and posted it to @protectbucks on X (Twitter).

Resident Paul Martino also spoke at the meeting and witnessed the event.

“Tim Daly, in public comment, shared some harsh truths about sitting board member Tabitha Dell’Angelo. After his comments, he walked by her husband, Steve Sullivan (also campaign manager for the Democrats running in the 2023 school board election).

“There were words of some kind said, nothing too serious when Tim said something: ‘Read these, buddy.’ He threw the papers at Steve and Lela Casey, who was sitting next to him.”

Martino added, “Then he just lost it. You can see the video. He got crazed, picked up the chair, and lunged toward Tim, who walked down the aisle. The closest person to Steve was my 85-year-old dad, John Martino. Instead of backing away, John stood up immediately. Another larger and younger gentleman then escorted Steve back to his original seat.”

“There were no fists thrown,” said Martino. “I was there for the entirety, sitting next to my dad, who had the closest view of anyone.”

“They were swearing behind me while I was talking. That’s the reason I tossed (the papers) onto the chair,” said Daly. He noted the papers were flat, not rolled as reported in another publication.

“These hard-fought RTKs showed her unethical behavior,” said Daly. “I hit the nail on the head. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have responded the way he did. These people are very upset when the facts come out.” Daly said he did not swear at Sullivan, which had also been reported.

Police talked to both men afterward. Daly said he declined to file charges against Sullivan since he was not hurt.

Neither Sullivan nor Dell’Angelo responded to requests for comment. Democratic Party Chair Steve Santarsiero, also a state senator, did not respond to a request for comment. And the Democratic candidates for the school board did not answer DVJournal’s request for comment.

Dell’Angelo is not seeking reelection.

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