New W-B Area Board Member Hopes To Address Future Of Meyers Building
WILKES-BARRE — The newest member of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board is a convert to the idea of consolidating the district’s three high schools and says one of his top priorities is what happens to the Meyers High School building.
The school board chose South Wilkes-Barre resident Mark Atherton to replace a seat left vacant when Dino Galella moved out of the district to live near his grandchildren. He teaches American history at Crestwood High School.
He joins a board overseeing a monumental change to education in the area.
The plan to consolidate Coughlin, GAR and Meyers high schools is a major change for a district that has had separate high schools for close to 100 years, and it has attracted intense public interest.
Atherton, a Meyers 1986 graduate, was skeptical of the consolidation plan when he first learned of it, but has come to believe that consolidation is the best way forward for the district.
“I love the idea of three city schools. I love the neighborhood schools, but between the state and the finances, I don’t think it’s sustainable down the road,” he said.
The district plans to build a new high school to merge its three existing high schools, starting in the 2021-22 school year. The school board approved the plan in August with a resolution that established a maximum cost of $137.3 million for the project.
Lingering after that project will be to answer the question of what to do with the large buildings that will remain in Wilkes-Barre.
Addressing the fate of the Meyers building is a huge question, Atherton said.
“I don’t think anyone wants that to be a Hotel Sterling,” he said.
Another priority is the campus of the proposed new high school on 78 acres in Plains Twp.
“I think it’s an important thing that it is a beautiful campus that kids can flourish in and be proud of. I’d like to help be part of that,” he said.
Atherton also is the boy’s varsity basketball coach at Crestwood.
Practices begin right after school and should not interfere with attending meetings, but he said that as a paid coach, he would have to forgo a board meeting to work at a Crestwood game if the two events occurred on the same night.
“I like to think we all have a lot on our plate. I have a big platter. I can multi-task and serve,” he said.
He also has three family members who work in the district: His wife is a developmental reading elementary teacher, his brother is a guidance counselor and his sister-in-law teaches at Kistler Elementary.
To critics who consider that a problem, Atherton points to his father’s career as an educator as inspiration for himself and others in his family. His own career and discussions with other educators are useful for understanding how the district works, and the district has more important issues to address, he said.
“It is what it is,” he said. “If people have a problem, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
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