Retired Warren County School District educator Pam Nasman speaks to the school board on June 12, 2023. Photo by Cody Elms.

Public Voices Opposition to School Reconfiguration

June 14, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – Many community members have been outspoken over the last four-plus months about their feelings regarding Warren County School District student reconfiguration.

More shared their thoughts before and after the WCSD Board of Directors’ unanimous vote Monday night to implement an option that will send Sheffield 9 – 12 students to Warren Area High School for three core classes next year.

A group of Sheffield students held a protest outside Central Office on Friday to let the district know they want to remain in their home school full-time.

“We’re protesting to keep all four schools, high schools, in the county open,” Peyton Bailey said. “We feel it is ridiculous that it is the last day of school and we still don’t know what our education is going to look like next year.”

Sheffield Senior Class (2024) Vice President Paris Foster brought her concerns to Monday’s board meeting.

“I haven’t spoken yet because it hasn’t hit me until tonight that people I’ve been in the same building with for many years could all be moving to a new school,” Foster said. “I think that you guys should not shut our school down because it’s going to change this whole community, no matter what. You all were voted on the school board for a reason. The community trusted you guys at one point and I hope we can trust you tonight.”

Wendy MacQueen, one of two Republicans on the ballot for a seat in Region III, asked the board to “step back” and refrain from making any decisions.

“It’s okay to step back from an unhealthy situation, which is what this is,” MacQueen said. “Step back. Let’s give the dust a chance to settle. Yes, we’ve been talking about this for years. I’ve been told that, and I understand that. But just because we have been, does not mean that we must blindly push through with a decision because it’s our due diligence before exiting the board come the winter.

“Take one more year. Reach out to teachers for what resources they need to address student behavior issues in schools. Set a new disciplinary system and enforce it. Let the new board come in, embrace them, help them grow, and build a healthy district together. Don’t make this worse by pushing on and complicating our broken schools. We need to fix them before we can move on.”

Another potential new board member in Region II, Tammi Holden, echoed the sentiment that a decision isn’t ready to be made yet.

“I’m not convinced that they’re even ready to make a decision,” Holden told Your Daily Local in an interview after the meeting. “Because you know what there’s a pretty good chance that the incoming board is going to take a really hard look at this. It’s basically kind of like what they did to Tidioute a few years ago. Let’s send them all down there. And then they went, ‘Oh, no, we’re not doing this.’ And everything went topsy turvy. So I don’t think it’s going to be not implemented. I would hope that they would take a step back, though.”

Not all who opposed the options on the table did so for the same rationale.

Dr. Darrell Jaskolka raised concerns that the options would lead to inequity among schools and questioned the motivation for some of the options.

“It seems to me that the importance of buildings and the appeasement of stakeholders takes precedence over the equity and quality of education, as should be provided to all students in Warren County School District,” Jaskolka said. “Another concern with Option One (the hybrid option) is that it denies the students from Youngsville and Eisenhower the same academic opportunities of taking AP or honors courses that now will be available to Sheffield students. How is this providing equal educational opportunities for all students in the Warren County School District? The third option of a Youngsville K-12 center may appease the members of the community, but it does nothing to enhance the quality of education. Nor does it expand curriculum offerings for students in Youngsville High School. This option only creates an additional cost to the taxpayers.”

Jaskolka also asked the board to refrain from choosing one of the three options before them and to instead reconsider an option that has been suggested many times over the last 30 years.

“What I’m asking the Board of Education to consider is delaying the final decision on reconfiguration and to reconsider the two high school option,” Jaskolka said. “The two high school option will allow for more diverse course offerings for all students. Expose more students to a variety of clubs and organizations. Make our athletic, band, and choir programs more competitive and allow the district to efficiently use professional staff and paraprofessionals.

“We cannot continue to hold on to the good old days mentality because quite frankly, these days no longer exist. In 1985, we had nearly 10,000 students in our school system with five high schools. Today we have approximately 3,200 students, but we still have four high schools. Maintaining all these learning centers is fiscally irresponsible, and impedes us from providing an equitable and quality education for all students in Warren County School District. Please do not acquiesce to the pressure on public appeasement and focus on doing what is necessary to prepare our students for the future and provide them with the skills necessary to be successful. The three options in front of you today do not do that.”

Another former WCSD educator urged the board not to fear change.

“We cannot keep living in the past,” Pam Nasman said. “And we can’t keep living in the present. Because the world is changing every single day. And our purpose as educators, as parents, and as community, we are to educate our young people so that they are productive members of society. Not to stand still, but to grow. And sometimes that means change. And sometimes that means they have to go to a different building. And sometimes that means the community is going to have to change. We owe it to our children to grow for the future. To give them the best education they can get to have equal opportunities. You are not going to do that if you keep thinking that buildings are the solution.”

*Cody Elms contributed to this report

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Subscribe to our newsletter

White Cane Coffee presents Coffee & a Conversation

Don't Miss