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School board seat filled

Some members dissatisfied with process

Some members dissatisfied with process

January 13, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The Waynesboro Area School Board appointed Gregory Ochoa to a board vacancy on Tuesday, but not without opposition from some board members unhappy with the selection process.

"I didn't care for the way it was handled," board member Edward Wilson said.

Chief among his issues were the interviews being conducted by only three board members and those members not immediately presenting their reasons for picking Ochoa.

Board President K. Marilyn Smith reiterated that board policy calls for potential appointees to be interviewed by members from their region, as well as the board president. School board members are elected by regions - the Borough of Waynesboro, Washington Township and the North End.

Former board member Stanley Barkdoll, who resigned Dec. 9, represented Washington Township, meaning his replacement would be interviewed by fellow township residents Smith and Pat Heefner. Because Smith also serves as board president, she asked vice president Chris Devers to serve as the third person conducting interviews.

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Those interviews were conducted publicly and attended by several other board members. However, the discussion of candidates' merits was done in an executive session open to all board members but closed to the public.

On Tuesday, Heefner made a motion to appoint Ochoa, later saying he knows the value of various initiatives because he has a background in education and is the father of three school-aged children.

Her motion prompted Wilson to share his dissatisfaction, followed by Firmadge Crutchfield, who said Ochoa's qualifications should be brought forth publicly. The pair expanded their concerns to a general sense of misinformation they perceive.

"We are a part of this board and it's pretty sad when we have to read in the newspaper how we'll participate" in interviews, Wilson said.

"We don't know what's going on because this board likes to hide things," Crutchfield said.

Smith presented the format of interviews at the meeting in which Barkdoll resigned. She also reiterated the process to each candidate during two nights of interviews.

Several times, Wilson referenced the last vacancy appointment in which he and Crutchfield interviewed for a North End seat, saying those interviews were conducted by the board as a whole. However, board member Leland Lemley reminded him that the 2007 interviews were initially conducted in private and then held again after media criticism regarding a possible violation of Pennsylvania's Open Meetings Law.

Lemley suggested amending board policy regarding appointments if dissatisfaction exists.

Ochoa was ultimately appointed on a 5-3 vote, with Lemley, Crutchfield and Wilson voting "no" and saying they preferred someone with more budgetary experience. Smith, Heefner, Devers, Mindy Rouzer and John Fitz voted in favor of Ochoa, who has a doctorate in educational leadership.

Ochoa will be sworn in next Tuesday.

Nine people applied for the position vacated by Barkdoll. The term expires at the end of this year, so Ochoa would have to go through the upcoming election process to serve beyond December.

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