During the public comment segment of the Ringgold School Board meeting Wednesday, Donora resident Yancey Taylor made an impassioned plea too the board.
“I think that what goes on here is a joke,” Taylor said. “You guys sit here and argue and shout. … I think you should think more about what’s in the best interest of those kids. It’s time to wake up.”
Earlier in the meeting, new board President Mariann Bulko read a statement encouraging board members to work together during the new board term.
“Everyone may not always be happy,” Bulko said. “We must be fiscally responsible, but not at the risk to student safety. We must work together very diligently.”
Following Taylor’s statement, board member Christopher Carroll read a motion to cease efforts to repurpose old elementary school buildings in Donora and Monongahela as middle schools and authorize architects to continue plans for a new middle school building on or near the high school campus in Carroll Township.
The reauthorization motion came as a surprise for board member Charles Smith, who was upset it wasn’t discussed during the executive session prior to the meeting. He also took issue with new rules limiting each member’s comments to three minutes during the discussion phase of proceedings.
“We’ve been here since five-thirty,” Smith said. “This is the first I’ve heard of this motion. ... You’ll take me out of here in a box or in cuffs. Three minutes? Go to hell.”
The motion on pursuing a new school passed after a short executive session by a vote of five to four. Board members Christopher Carroll, Carol Flament, Maureen Ott, William Stein Jr. and Bulko voted in favor of building the new school. Gene Kennedy, Lawrence Mauro, Charles Smith and Robert Smith voted against the measure.
The meeting, which lasted from 7 p.m. until around midnight, continued to be contentious as brothers Charles and Robert Smith voiced opposition to nearly every motion on the agenda. At one point, Robert Smith briefly opposed a motion to accept resignation letters from members of the teaching staff before voting for the measure in a roll call.
A long debate revolved around a motion to authorize the Ringgold head of security to begin the process of advertising for a second safety and security position within the school district. Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Friday, armed security personnel have been at all of the school buildings in Ringgold. So far, the personnel have been current or former policemen or constables. During the debate, Robert Smith questioned whether a security company could do the same job for less money.
After a long discussion, the motion to hire a second security professional passed unanimously.