Save Our Schools President Steps Down, Still Opposes Plan

January 10, 2019
Save Our Schools President Steps Down, Still Opposes Plan

Richard A. Holodick is stepping down as president of the Save Our Schools, the group formed to oppose the consolidation of high schools in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. Holodick, 81, cited health issues and frustration as reasons to resign his position. The 1956 graduate of Meyers High School retired from a lengthy career as educator in 2001 and lives in Wilkes-Barre. “I am concluding my efforts (resigning) because this board is now willing to gamble with the health and safety of 3,000 students and the employees who will be on a contaminated site isolated from all neighborhoods; and I have failed to prevent it from happening! Be assured SOS will continue to rectify this deplorable plan,” Holodick wrote in a letter about his decision. The Wilkes-Barre Area School District plans to start building a new consolidated high school in Plains Twp. this spring. The new high school will allow the consolidation of all three district high schools — Meyers, GAR and Coughlin — sometime during the 2021-22 school year, and the sports teams at the three high schools are merging this fall. Members of Save Our Schools have criticized the construction project because of previous mining activity at the Plains Twp. site. School officials have said the site will be safe because of environmental safety measures that will prevent exposure to potentially harmful soil. “The district has gone through this with DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection),” school board President Joe Caffrey said. “I have had conversations with Dr. (Superintendent Brian) Costello and the solicitor (Raymond Wendolowski) that this project will be monitored every step of the way regarding the soil.” The district plans to borrow up to $137.3 million to fund the construction of a new high school between Maffett and North Main streets in Plains Twp. The district bought the 78-acre site from Pagnotti Enterprises for $4.2 million. Save Our Schools has backed a plan to build a new Coughlin building in Plains Twp. and renovate existing GAR and Meyers facilities. “I depart disheartened and disappointed at the apathy of the residents and city council that have said nothing to speak of. The state refuses to even answer their own formal complaint process,” Holodick said. “What is pathetic is the board has concluded all this public apathy, and the state’s avoidance, to be approval of their dysfunction.” The initial plan in 2015 was to merge Coughlin and Meyers at a new high school built at the current Coughlin site in downtown Wilkes-Barre. After the city zoning board rejected that plan, the board chose the Pagnotti site in 2017. The board added GAR to the consolidation plan last August. “I cautioned them, providing an example that the zoning approval request could fail; they ignored the caution. Had they listened they would have saved the district taxpayers $4.9 million dollars,” Holodick said. School officials have said the high school consolidation will save more than $2 million a year by eliminating more than 20 teaching jobs, and they argued building a new consolidated high school is less costly than renovating current facilities. Contact the writer: mbuffer@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

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