With the assistance of the Berks County Court of Common Pleas, the Boyertown Area School District intends to alter how its school board is composed.
Fearing the loss of representation on the school board, some townships and boroughs within the school district are dead set against it. Bally Borough and Earl Township are among them.
On July 2 Ruth Baker, a resident of Earl Township, came before Bally Borough Council with a request that Bally adopt a resolution Earl Township previously enacted.
In December Boyertown Area School District petitioned the Berks County Court of Common Pleas to permit three of the nine school board members to be elected as “at large” candidates.
In addition, the school district requested the court shift the 1st precinct of Douglass Township, located in Montgomery County, into the presently all Berks County Region 1 voting district. Currently, there is one all-Berks County region, one all-Montgomery County region and one region divided between Montgomery and Berks counties.
Baker filed a petition to intervene. The Berks County Court of Common Pleas denied the school district’s request simply because it was filed too closely to the time when candidates for election to the school board must file their petitions. The school district has indicated it intends to re-file its petition.
Currently, the school district is composed of three voting regions, each of whom elects three representatives to the school board from their voting districts. Boyertown School District has approximately 46,133 residents. It educates children from both Berks County and Montgomery County. Some of the voting regions are located in wealthier, more populous areas of Montgomery County.
For example, New Hanover Township, located in Montgomery County, has 10,939 residents (2010 census). Bally Borough has a population of 1,090, and Bechtelsville has 942 residents. Both are located in Berks County.
Baker explained to the borough council that if the school district plan is approved municipalities such as Bally would lose representation on the school board because “at large” school board members would come from more populated, wealthier regions of the school district, such as New Hanover Township and Upper Frederick Township.
Baker said, “In Montgomery County the political parties endorse candidates in the primary elections. In Berks County there are no endorsements in the primaries.”
An endorsement by a political party is a great advantage to a candidate running for political office. The endorsement means the candidate has been “vetted” by the political party and its committee people.
In northern Montgomery County, the Republican Party, through its Area I GOP, is a strong political force and always fields its endorsed candidates for elective office. Baker used the Upper Perkiomen School District as an example. Most of Upper Perkiomen School District is located in Montgomery County with the exception of Hereford Township, located in Berks County. There are nine school board members, all of whom are elected as “at large” candidates. None of the school board members are from Hereford Township. Six of the school board members are from Upper Hanover Township, the largest and wealthiest municipality in the school district.
Bally Borough Council quickly grasped the ramifications for its municipality if the school district petition is granted by the Berks County Court of Common Pleas. It is likely the three “at large” school board members would be from the more populated Montgomery County area of the school district. Coupled with the three members from the wealthier, more populated areas, the more rural sections of the school district would lose representation.
Council President Glenn Mutter exclaimed, “They want to take over our vote.”
Borough council unanimously agreed to pass a resolution adopted by Earl Township that opposes any change in the composition of the school board. Additionally, it opposes the realignment or expansion of Region I of Boyertown Area School District beyond Berks County to include portions of Montgomery County.