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Ringgold stays hot as election nears

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Thursday, May 16, 2013, 1:11 a.m.

Shortly after the start of the Ringgold School Board meeting, director Chuck Smith pulled out a sign that he posted next to his spot at the table.

The sign read simply: “Vote.”

It was a prelude to a lengthy board meeting in which many of the directors took turns campaigning to keep their posts.

The primary election is less than a week away, and seven of the directors are seeking re-election.

Before the meeting began, board President Mariann Bulko noted that the session would be the last meeting before the election and asked the members to respect each other.

“I certainly hope this meeting does not turn into a three-ring circus or a free for all,” Bulko said.

Her request was mostly ignored.

The battle lines were drawn one last time over how to house middle school students in the future.

The board is proceeding with plans to construct a new middle school on the Carroll Township campus where the high school is located.

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

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

Board members Larry Mauro, and Chuck and Bob Smith took turns reading from a 2010 editorial in which Pottstown School Board member Thomas Hylton advocated for then Gov.-elect Tom Corbett to eliminate PlanCON.

PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction Workbook, is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for state reimbursement.

The PlanCon forms are designed to document a local school district's planning process, provide justification for a project to the public, ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations, and establish the level of state participation in the cost of a project.

Because Mauro initially took the stand usually reserved for residents who address the board, Bulko gave the directors chances to speak as residents, not board members.

Board member Maureen Ott said the renovation of MEC and DEC would be relatively equal to the cost of constructing a new building, but with $450,00 in additional annual costs to maintain two buildings over one.

Chuck Smith repeatedly interrupted Ott, saying he had the right to do so under board policy because Ott was misrepresenting the truth.

When the discord involving Chuck Smith and Ott continued, Bulko called for a five-minute recess to restore order.

No tax hike

The board found some universal ground, approving a $39,477,474 preliminary budget that holds the line on real estate taxes.

The board voted 8-1 on the tentative budget, which mirrored the spending plan laid out for the board May 1 by Business Manager Randy Skrinjorich during a finance committee meeting.

Director Larry Mauro cast the lone dissenting vote, saying board members were not given enough of a role in developing and scrutinizing the spending plan.

“I really can't believe we're going to fund everything we're going to fund without more money,” Mauro said.

Homa gone

The board accepted the resignation of High School Principal Dwayne A. Homa amid a shroud of secrecy.

Homa had been on suspension with pay during an internal investigation that Bulko and Superintendent Dr. Karen Polkabla previously acknowledged.

Homa's resignation, and an agreement between the former principal and the district, were approved, 7-2, with directors Bob Smith and Carol Flament voting no.

Both said they were under a gag order from the district not to discuss anything concerning the personnel matter.

Polkabla referred questions to Solicitor Tim Berggren, who declined to comment.

In other personnel matters, the board reappointed Ron McMichael as athletic director.

Several coaches and sports boosters spoke on behalf of McMichael, citing his professionalism and the stability he has brought to Ringgold athletics.

Transportation director James Kester was retained.

New district employees will be required to undergo drug testing under a new policy approved by the board.

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

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