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Ringgold hires middle school architect

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 1:43 a.m.

One thing the Ringgold School Board agrees on – this year's elections will be a referendum on future housing for district middle school students.

That was among the few things the board agreed upon in a nearly 4 ½ hour meeting – in which the directors approved policy changes aimed at policing themselves.

The policy changes predictably were approved on a split vote– and didn't put an end to the squabbling.

Meeting Wednesday, the board voted to hire architect HHSDR to design a middle school building.

At the request of board member Chuck Smith, director William Stein agreed to remove the word “new” from his motion.

The board is proceeding with plans to construct a middle school on the Carroll Township campus that houses the high school.

It would replace the Ringgold Middle School – the former Finley Middle School building – which has been shifting for years because of a now-dormant pyrite mass beneath the surface.

The board has been split on the issue for more than a year, with the current majority favoring the new construction over a proposal to renovate the shuttered Monongahela and Donora elementary centers for use as middle schools.

Directors Chuck and Bob Smith argued for tabling the contract with HHSDR until after the May primary election.

The board also agreed to spend $5,500 to receive commercial appraisals for DEC and MEC in the hopes of selling the buildings.

“I believe the majority of the people want us to renovate MEC and DEC,” Bob Smith said. “We have elections coming up. Why do things that may change in 30 to 60 days?

“I tell the people to go to the polls and vote.”

“The people tell me, ‘Thank God you made a decision,'” Stein said. “'Thank God you're moving on.' You're right, they're going to speak during the elections.”

In the third hour of a session filled with interruptions and delays, director Maureen Ott introduced changes in the policy for conducting meetings.

Ott said she researched other school districts and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association before making the recommendation.

They include limiting directors' comments to three minutes on each subject; giving the board president the power to recognize individual directors for speaking; ending debate when the board president begins a vote; and imploring directors to read the agenda and ask the proper administrators questions for clarification before a public meeting.

A final part of the policy precludes directors from interrupting each other, but they continued to do so almost as soon as they passed the policy.

“It's 10 after 10, and we're only halfway through the meeting,” Stein said. “Someone in the audience said this could be the new reality show, and I agree.”

Chuck and Bob Smith said the meetings are long because the board is discussing important issues, such as spending millions to build a middle school.

When Ott attempted to clarify a point being made by Smith, director Larry Mauro accused her of breaking her own rule on interruptions.

Board president Mary Ann Bulko told Chuck Smith, “You accuse everyone about making it personal, and you make it personal all the time. You ramble on about nothing.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or