It is time for the CASD board to do the right thing

Appointment of new board member Saturday will have consequences

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
UTMikeColLogoOn Saturday, the Coatesville Area School District Board of Education will make a decision that will likely shape the manner in which the school district runs for years.

At noon, the board will convene to vote on a replacement for the late Paul Johnson, after failing to do so, Tuesday night. Four members – Diane Brownfield, Stu Deets, Kim Mammel, and Deborah Thompson – all voted for Robert Beckershoff, the Republican who finished second to Deborah Thompson in the November balloting for the Region 1 seat.

Four members – Neil Campbell, Jim Fox, Laurie Knecht, and Rick Ritter – abstained  and voted for no one, but the implication seems to exist that the four favor the return of Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor — who finished last in the Region 1 voting, garnering just over 11% of the vote.

During the meeting, Taylor was accused of hiring relatives to work for the school district, including a niece, Adrienne Shaw — who is a convicted felon. Shaw, who does have a 2003 felony theft conviction, does not show up in the master list of district employees provided to The Times after a Right To Know request last fall, so that accusation could not be verified.

Whether those allegations are true or not, Taylor’s responses to the texting scandal involving former Superintendent of Schools Richard Como at a number of public meetings were more than enough to give the public pause. Those facts — and not some dark media conspiracy, as has been claimed — were why Taylor did so poorly at the polls.

When 89% of the voters say no, it’s not just a mandate, it’s a demand.

As an aside, the lack of transparency in this process is alarming. When other school districts have a board vacancy, a public interview process occurs for potential replacements, an open discussion of their opinions and qualifications. We see no evidence of this taking place.

The general consensus appears to be that Beckershoff, as the second-highest vote getter, should get the appointment. It is difficult to argue with that logic — although a case could possibly be made for any number of new faces. The only clearly wrong choice would be to appoint Taylor.

Aside from the ruinous political consequences — not just for future board elections, but for the looming State Representative race in the 74th District — it will be just one more punch in the gut to a community that deserves better.

Without all of the current controversy, Coatesville would be a school district facing serious challenges, whether it be the current high tax rate, the looming impact of the Keystone Exams, facility issues, and, not least, the search for a new, permanent superintendent. It is time for the district to move beyond scandal, but putting Taylor back on the board would stop that cold.

I hope your voice is heard Saturday, that democracy isn’t subverted (or written off as little more than “mob rule”).

Let’s hope that, for once, the greater good of the community and the school district is the primary concern of those who vote Saturday. A vote for Taylor by five board members would make it clear that the cancer attributed to Como and his cronies runs much, much deeper.

You deserve better. The kids deserve better. The teachers and staff deserve better. And the greater Coatesville community deserves better than to again be held up as a laughingstock, as corrupt and inept.

“Coatesville Pride” needs to mean something again.

Demand it.

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  1. guest says:

    With respect every part of the continuing saga was broken in a Times story
    Mike Mcgann & Ms.Brady-Shea deserve our thanks for their superb journalism.

    The other paper reads the Times and prints a follow along a day or two later when they have located their pencils.

    The Times reporting has been 100% accurate while the other paper has printed inaccuracies or stories where you could not understand what happened.

    The there were the DLN create a story days where there was nothing to report but CASD on the front page sold more copies

    Thank you to the Times for your coverage.

  2. Chuck Kramer says:

    Well so much for them doing the right thing… I keep wondering how the senior members of the board seem to choose to completely disreguard what the voting public has to say. It also seems that there is a severe lack of discussion on items in the public forum. All the discussions seem to be happeing behind closed doors, which is a direct violation of Sunshine Law. I think the good reporters at the Coatesville Times and Daily Local should dig into this a bit more…

  3. Hold them Accountable says:

    One additional point. Republicans wishing to contest Neil Campbell for State Committee (100 valid signatures – get double that as his lawyers will try to keep you off the May ballot) need to get their materials from Harrisburg
    Challengers to Knecht & Campbell for precinct GOP committee get 15 signatures no filing fee can get materials from Chester County Voter Services 610-344-6410
    The political dominance of Campbell as Area GOP Boss & precinct committee & Knecht as precinct GOP committeewoman will continue to suppress reform and negate competetion in GOP primaries for School Board in 2015 and other important offices. It’s a rigged game when they are on the GOP committee. End the bossism. Defeat these two in this years primary.

    In fairness many other GOP committee and Democrat members are great and can be helpful. Enlisting them to express your outrage ensures greater attention paid as the committeepeople in both parties have more sway. They can be your allies and good representatives

  4. Roger J. Brown says:

    I attended the meeting on January 18 at which time the CASB convened to elect a board member to replace the late Paul Johnson.

    After having heard the plea from one resident who appealed to the CASB to honor the wishes of voters in the last election, I anticipated that the board would elect Robert Beckershoff. I was wrong.

    Certain members of the board should review Robert’s Rules of Order in order to avoid the embarrassment of having to consult with the solicitor over a basic procedure.

  5. truepatriot says:

    It seems to me that the current block of RINOS(republicans in name only) on the school board need to go. Namely Campbell, Ritter, and Knecht.Its time real republicans stand up. These are your party leaders. Shameful. If they dare to put La Tonya Taylor back in the seat over Robert Beckershoff(a fellow republican) we need to stand up and remove them from the party.

  6. For a better CASD says:

    Excellent Editorial, well said, in particular your last sentence two sentences that “Coatesville Pride needs to mean something again.
    Demand it.” The CASB needs to fully understand, that they represent the interests of the parents, teachers, tax-payers, and more importantly, students, NOT their own political ambitions, not political territory, or the ability to maintain the status quo, which again, has been lost on many on the CASB, in particular President Neil Campbell and his ringing endorsement of the current Solicitor. CASD continues to have some of the lowest scores in the state in terms of the Keystone Exams, but imposes upon local tax-payers, some of the highest property taxes in PA. Frankly, it is the surrounding townships of Valley, Caln, Thorndale, and East Fallowfield, all very hard working communities that are the tax base for this particular school district, and at some point, the CASB’s continued failure to adhere to the majority and interests of the voters will have long and significant consequences, to the extent, many in these areas will clearly NOT feel the tax burden, and contribution is being reciprocated and shared throughout the school district. Again, well said Mr. McGann and for the sake of the CASD, please continue with the comprehensive and very important reporting!


    It is sad to know that we are still having this conversation. Tonya who?

  8. Hold them accountable says:

    Republican voters who are fed up with Neil Campbell’s actions have two opportunities in this spring’s primary. Campbell is an incumbent Republican State Committee member. If he seeks reelection his name will appear on the Republican ballot this spring. The State Committee region may bear some similarity to the CASD area. Will he be opposed? Unknown at this point but interested challengers must be a Male for committeeman seat need more than 100 valid registered Republican signatures gathered between February 8th & March 11th from the State Committee district and a filing fee of $100 on nomination petitions due in Harrisburg Deadline March 11th. Additionally Republican voters in West Brandywine West which votes at the West Brandywine Township Building will likely see Campbell running for precinct committeeman. Challengers (must be a Male for committeeman) need more than 10 (recommend 15) valid registered Republican signatures gathered between February 8th & March 11th from that precinct on a petition due in Chesco voter services deadline March 11th. There is no filing fee. To vote for these offices Democrats & Independents would need to change their registration and given a likely hot congressional democratic primary that would be foolish. Campbell’s incumbency as a precinct committeeman enables his election as area GOP boss by the other committee. As Area boss Campbell is able to exercise extra influence over county Republican endorsements, West Brandywine & Caln GOP endorsements and most important School Board GOP endorsements for the 2015 elections. Let your voice be heard.
    Information on running for office and petition forms are available from Chester County Voter Services 610-344-6410. Lastly voters in East Fallowfield West voting at the South Brandywine Middle School should be aware that Laurie Knecht will likely run for reelection as precinct committeewoman. Same requirements for committeewoman (must be Female) recommend 15 registered Republican signatures no filing fee deadline March 11th. Challengers should obtain a list of registered voters from Voter Services to ensure that the signatures they obtain are valid. Multiple Organizations can help and provide guidance.
    or if you tend tea party I sure don’t –
    These obscure offices have tremendous power over
    School Board elections and it is clear that the incumbents mentioned have tarnished the Republican party’s brand. There may be similar opportunities on the Democrat side vis a vis Democrat SB incumbents but I do not believe precinct committee is up this year on the D side.

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