Laurels & Lances: John Platt, Highlands, Flags Over Murrysville, Plum school director
Laurel: To John Platt. Despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, Platt ran in last Sunday's Pittsburgh Marathon — and finished. Platt, of Moon Township, has been afflicted with MS for seven years.
For years, he listened to his doctors, took his meds and walked with a cane. He called himself “the good patient.”
But in 2013, a friend in her 50s died and that spurred Platt to act. He got on a treadmill and walked a mile; the next day, a mile and one step, and kept increasing his distance ever so slightly.
“MS is chronic and progressive, so I became chronically progressive,” he said in a pre-race interview.
He ran with his MS treatment team as part of a Marathon relay team.
“The only time I feel like I'm free of MS is when I'm running,” he said.
According to Pittsburgh Marathon results, he finished in 5:38, maintaining a 10- to 12-minute mile pace throughout.
“I didn't set out to do anything. I just wanted to show my daughters that we can be better than whatever adversity life throws at us.”
Lance: To Highlands School District officials. There was a rumor rampant around town that the Fawn Primary Center was going to close next school year.
The superintendent blamed a school board member for leaking the information, from a “brainstorming session” that was held behind closed doors because, he said, it was “directly tied to personnel.”
“That's not meant for public discussion,” Superintendent Michael Bjalobok said. “There were lots of options flying around. Nothing has been put out there.”
That's the problem, in our view — and that of the media law attorney for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
When there's a quorum of the board, it must follow the state's Sunshine Act.
“The personnel executive session does not allow broad discussions about policy or personnel generally; it only permits private discussions about specific personnel,” media attorney Melissa Melewsky said. “The fact that a policy or issue might impact personnel does not give rise to a personnel executive session.”
The board could have done itself — and the public — a service by brainstorming in public. That's exactly why school boards, including Highlands, and other governmental agencies have meetings specifically to discuss issues ahead of any action.
Laurel: To the Flags Over Murrysville project. The volunteer effort allows for 340 American flags to line Route 22 in Murrysville for 2.5 miles. And it occurs about 10 times a year.
You'll next see it in a few days for Tuesday's primary elections, and they'll be up again for Memorial Day weekend.
Individuals and businesses sponsor flags for $25 apiece, with the money benefitting veterans' charities and to administer American Legion programs in schools.
It's all headed by Bob McKenna, who is looking for volunteers to continue a tradition that started in the early 1990s.
Lance: To Plum School Director Scott Kolar. Kolar voted on a $12,000 contract with a security assessment company he is associated with. It's a strange arrangement: Kolar is listed on Bay Area Risk Management's website as one of its nine “associates.” Its founder says Kolar is not paid, but she hopes he eventually will be.
Kolar didn't disclose his connection to the company before the school board voted to hire the California-based firm. Kolar said “the board didn't have to be informed” because there is no conflict of interest. Plum's superintendent and solicitor support Kolar's position.
But the head of the state Ethics Commission said, speaking in general terms, that because someone isn't being compensated does not necessarily eliminate a conflict of interest.
Even if Kolar didn't cross the line, we think he should had let the rest of the school board know of his connection with the company before they voted.
Interestingly, Kolar, himself, is certified to do the assessment but can't because hiring him would be a clear conflict.
And state police conduct such assessments for free, but Plum officials didn't want to wait until he would be available in the fall.