More public participation requested at Penn Hills School District meetings

September 23, 2018

Penn Hills School District officials want to see more of the public at their public meetings.

At a recent meeting, board members encouraged the large crowd to become regular attendees -- even when there’s no issue affecting athletics, which seems to draw the biggest audiences.

Such was the case Aug. 27 when the board addressed an issue with the high school soccer team. The team and coach were suspended for two days in mid-August while the district investigated a report of hazing. Board members said it was determined no hazing occurred.

Still, about 100 people attended the meeting. Several members of the team and their parents showed up in support of Coach Ryan Hankey. Board member Yusef Thompson Sr. encouraged all in attendance to come back to future meetings.

“A lot of faces, I have not seen you,” Thompson said. “We have meetings every month. It is online when you should show up. Do not only show up when you have a grievance. Show up and support this district.”

Board member Mike Tauro echoed Thompson’s sentiments.

“We appreciate the students as well as the citizens,” Tauro said. “If you have a situation, bring (it) to our attention. Let us deal with it. I very much appreciate the input.”

Curriculum, finance and other committee meetings usually have a handful of residents in the audience outside of administrators and elected leaders. School board voting meetings have more participants.

Thompson encouraged people to be positive when coming to meetings, and commended resident and 1949 graduate Buck Gray on his watchdog efforts.

“We may go back and forth because of some of the comments that he makes that I do not like, but you know what? This man is here at every committee meetings, every board meting,” Thompson said.

Gray, 87, is a staple at district meetings and often talks about pensions, finances and improving education.

“Ten percent of my income goes to Penn Hills School District,” he said. “I want to be sure that money is well spent. I want value for my money, and I’m a little pressed on how much they’re taking ... If the school district is performing at less than what you might say the state average (is), the younger folks don’t have the incentive to move here and raise a family.”

Gray also noted attendance gets magnified when the board is talking about sports.

“If you want to see parental involvement in an meeting, bring up an athletic problem. You can get a room filled if you question a performance of a coach,” he said.

Meeting times and agendas are available on the district’s website, phsd.k12.pa.us. Highlight the “District” tab and scroll down to “Meetings.”

Committees include athletic advisory, curriculum, finance, HR/policy and safety/buildings and grounds.

All meetings take place at Linton Middle School, 250 Aster St., unless otherwise noted.

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