Atherton Chosen To Join W-B Area Board
WILKES-BARRE — Mark Atherton, a Wilkes-Barre resident and district alumnus as well as Crestwood teacher and basketball coach, will be the newest member of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board.
At a meeting Tuesday, six board members chose Atherton to fill a seat left vacant when Dino Galella resigned in October after he moved out of the district to live near his grandchildren.
Fifteen people applied to fill the seat, including several applicants who have criticized the plan to consolidate the district’s three high schools.
Atherton is a South Wilkes-Barre resident who began teaching social studies in Crestwood Middle School in 1995. He has taught American history in Crestwood High School since 2017. He is also the Crestwood varsity boy’s basketball coach and has been with the program since 1994.
His term will run through the next year and is up for election in November 2019.
Denise Thomas nominated Atherton for the position. She was joined by James Geiger, John R. Quinn, Dr. James F. Susek, the Rev. Shawn Walker and board President Joseph A. Caffrey in the vote to appoint him.
Ned J. Evans voted for Christine Katsock, a former board member, and Melissa Patla voted for Richard Holodick, president of the Save Our Schools group, which opposes the high school consolidation plan.
“He’s committed to the district. He cares about the district,” said Caffrey of Atherton. “He’s intelligent. He’s willing to listen and learn. I think that he’s going to be someone who will be a school director for Wilkes-Barre Area, the whole district, the students and taxpayers of the whole district.”
A voicemail left with Atherton after the meeting was not immediately returned. He will be sworn in at the board’s reorganization meeting on Dec. 4.
Holodick said the work demonstrated by Save Our Schools members during the past three years — attending board meetings, conducting research and presenting their findings — should have given SOS applicants more consideration.
Atherton, he said, “is a hell of a nice guy. A wonderful basketball coach. I’ve never seen him at a board meeting.”
Holodick also questioned why the application process for this position — part of the oversight of a project that will cost million of dollars — did not include sit-down interviews or written criteria board members could use to grade applicants.
In fact, state law doesn’t provide much guidance for the process of picking someone to fill the remaining term of an outgoing board member, said solicitor Ray Wendolowski. Other than living in the district, not having been convicted of certain crimes and some potential conflicts of interest, the law says very little about the selection process. In this case, Wilkes-Barre Area board members received each applicant’s resume and had about two weeks to consider the different candidates.
“It’s left to the discretion of board members, who they think can work in their team,” Wendolowski said.
Other applicants for the rest of the term were: Brian Brown, Joseph P. Busch, Beth Anne Harris, Robert Holden, Holodick, Katsock, Jessica McClay, Carl Naessig, former Coughlin principal Patrick Patte, Mary Susan Pomanek-Elias, Dr. Mark Schiowitz, Lisa Sliker, John Suchoski and David Wilson.
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