Board Votes to Change School Start Times Next Year
School board members in Quakertown reached a decision at the April 24 meeting to permanently hire interim superintendent Dr. Bill Harner, with a 5-3 vote.
Harner has been with the school district since January following Dr. Lisa Andrejko's medical leave of absence. Andrejko's full retirement is set for July.
Harner will begin his three- to five-year term July 1. Details of the agreement will be worked out between the district solicitor and Harner, before school board members vote on the agreement May 8.
Before the vote, tempers flared among board members.
Joyce King spoke first regarding her decision to vote against hiring Harner: "This board does not always follow the best practices in making decisions. The proper channels were not followed in actively searching for a permanent superintendent. Therefore, I will be voting no."
Board member Bob Smith added, "As a school board we have been graded with an 'F' on this whole process. Time will tell if Harner is the right choice."
However, board member Dwight Anderson said, "There is no better way to tell how a person works than to watch him in action."
School board member Stephen Ripper questioned the board about its comments, asking, "What is more important: an individual's integrity or the process to follow (in finding someone with integrity)?"
Individual school board member votes came in with Charles Shermer, Gary Landes, Dwight Anderson, Stephen Ripper and board President Paul Stepanoff supporting Harner's appointment. Smith, King and Anna Cattie were in opposition, and Fern Strunk was absent from the meeting.
Former school official Dr. Robert Leight took to the podium for comment, stating, "A school board should be made up of a team. This school board is dysfunctional and polarized. While the wounds of this process will heal, the scars remain."
In other business, board members voted in favor of switching school start times at the high school and middle schools. The change will reportedly save the district approximately $300,000 in the 2014-15 school year.
Beginning next year, high school will start at 7:10 a.m., the two middle schools will start at 8 a.m. and the six elementary schools will start 9:15 a.m. Officials said the switch will improve student safety, increase the academic time for technical school students and lead to financial savings.
In a written statement sent to parents of the district, Harner said, "There is one looming negative with flipping start times, besides the inconvenience of change. Research says that if we flip start times we are going in the opposite direction of when high school students should begin school each day. I have read the research and lived through my two children going to high school. However, we also know that an actively engaged high school student is busy in the afternoon, or it is preferred to have them home first in the afternoon for when their siblings come home from elementary and middle schools. We wanted you to know that this was considered."
The next scheduled school board meeting is set for Thursday, May 8, at 7 p.m.