For Crestwood, Pride Has Turned Into Embarrassment

December 3, 2018 GMT

In his recent statement on Crestwood School District’s failure to possess the required clearances for its bus drivers, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale contended, “Because they didn’t do their job, students and the parents of that district are now thrown into chaos because of their lack of due diligence.” Also noteworthy is his observation that “It is extremely rare that a school district has zero information (on file about its bus drivers) ....” Mr. DePasquale is not mistaken; the situation in which we, the Crestwood community, find ourselves is indeed “extremely rare.” At the helm of our ship is Joseph Gorham, a superintendent who repeatedly demonstrates a rare degree of ineptitude that, at best, has inconvenienced Crestwood families and, at worst, has threatened the safety of our students. The time has finally come for the Crestwood Board of Education to say that enough is enough, and it appears as though they have. The bus issue is the most recent instance in a long line of failures that have adversely affected students, parents, teachers, and the community at large. Last spring, Mr. Gorham recommended teacher furloughs that would have resulted in increased class sizes and the loss of crucial programs such as STEM and Manufacturing, as well as a reduction in educational opportunities on campus, including a loss in the number of World Language courses the district is able to offer. In a time when both the need to place emphasis on STEM and Manufacturing programs and the value of being multilingual in a global economy are widely accepted realities, the fact that our educational leader recommended a reduction in such programs is not only “extremely rare,” but frankly laughable. The next public embarrassment for Crestwood came in the form of a promised pre-K program, which the district could ultimately not provide. One would assume that it would be “extremely rare” for a superintendent to ignore the advice given by a state representative on how best to obtain a state grant, and yet it would seem that Mr. Gorham did just this. State Rep. Gerald Mullery let the press know that his office encouraged Crestwood to apply for the grant using the LIU as its lead agency, and Crestwood’s failure to do so cost them the grant. As a result, around 50 pre-K students and their families were left without the education they were promised because they were unfortunate enough to live in the one district in Luzerne County that applied for the grant and did not receive it. Yet another debacle that could affect students’ educational opportunities if not resolved is the district’s failure to report the faculty’s continuing education hours. While the teachers in the Crestwood School District all completed the hours necessary to maintain their certificates, often in excess of the required amount, the school district failed — for over 365 days rather than the required 30 — to report the hours to the Department of Education. This presumably “extremely rare” failure, one repeatedly tabled or ignored by central administration, could cost more than a few employees their certifications and their jobs. The impact for students? Experienced professional teachers would be removed from classrooms, placing less experienced substitutes in their places. This also has the potential to expose the district to costly litigation, a situation that Crestwood has found itself in time and again under the current regime. Just two years ago, the Crestwood School District was widely known for its academic excellence and forward-thinking instruction. Our children, parents, and staff had a district of which they could be proud. With the introduction of Mr. Joseph Gorham to our community, that pride has turned into embarrassment. The sad fact is, when people now mention Crestwood School District, the response is something along the lines of “What a shame.” It is our hope that the school board’s decision to put Mr. Gorham on administrative leave is the first step in righting this ship, and that they will follow through with the steps necessary to return the district to its former stature. WILLIAM KANE, JANICE CIAVARELLA, MARLENE VEET AND LORI ROZITSKI are officers for the Crestwood Education Association.