WBASD Calls For Resignation; Board Member Refuses

July 10, 2018

WILKES-BARRE — Amid a growing backlash Tuesday, a Wilkes-Barre Area School Board member who posted a crass social media comment about a student sex case dug in and vowed he would not resign from his position.

Outrage began growing after the Wilkes-Barre Area Save Our Schools page posted a screen shot Monday of board member Ned Evans’ comment about an article on a 27-year-old Arizona teacher who was charged in March with having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old student.

The article that was shared features a crude headline referring to the teacher performing oral sex on the boy.

“Probably broke her teeth on it. Lol,” Evans wrote.

Throughout the day Tuesday, outrage over the comment grew, reaching as crescendo as Superintendent Brian Costello and the school board called for Evans to resign.

“On behalf of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, I apologize for the insensitive and inappropriate comment made by board member Ned Evans,” Costello said Tuesday afternoon. “Since his comment does not meet the high standards all board members should uphold, the remaining members of the Board of Education and I have asked Ned Evans for his resignation.”

On Tuesday morning, Evans told The Citizens’ Voice he was considering whether to resign, but later in the day he said he had spoken with friends and family members who assured him he should stay on the board.

“What they told me is (about) the good I do for the school and kids,” Evans said. “I’m not resigning. Under no conditions.”

Evans described his comment as a “joke” that doesn’t express his true feelings, and said he was sorry for posting it.

“I wasn’t trying to convey anything. It was a stupid, idiotic, insincere comment that I made, and I apologize for it. I have no excuses. I apologize for it,” Evans said. “It just was a stupid back-room-with-the-boys comment and I should never have made it. I should have realized my position in the district.”

However, his apologies appear to have done little to quell the outrage over the comments by a man in a position of authority in a district that has itself experienced high-profile student sex scandals. Some were calling for his resignation or removal.

“In a district rocked with teacher/student sex scandals I have to ask myself what in the hell is this man thinking?” Wilkes-Barre resident Ryan Verdekal wrote Monday night.

Wilkes-Barre Councilwoman Beth Gilbert also posted to social media Tuesday that Evans, whom she considered a friend, should face consequences.

“I am PERSONALLY outraged and disgusted by the continuous misogynistic comments by this man,” Gilbert wrote. “The Wilkes-Barre Area School District deserves better than this. Our city deserves better than this. THIS is not what should be coming out of the mouth of a school director. We need to hold our elected officials to higher standards than this. The taxpayers of this district deserve to be represented in a dignified manner. ‘Locker room talk’ should NEVER be an acceptable excuse.”

While Evans accepted the blame for making the comment, he pointed to the Save Our Schools group — which is opposed to the school board’s plans to consolidate the city high schools — for publicizing it and ramping up the outrage. Evans claimed the group is seeking to get him off the board in favor of someone who is sympathetic to their cause.

“I set myself up,” Evans said. “With that being their intention, I certainly did. It was just stupid.”

If Evans continues resisting calls for his resignation, the school board could have little recourse until voters hit the polls three years from now.

District solicitor Ray Wendolowski said the school code allows for removal of a board member only in limited circumstances, such as missing consecutive meetings without explanation. The board cannot remove Evans for making such a comment, he said.

“They can’t force the issue,” Wendolowski said.

Evans, a retired teacher and principal for the district, first won his seat on the board during the November 2013 election. He was among the board members who voted in 2015 for the initial plan to merge the high schools in a new facility built on the Coughlin site in downtown Wilkes-Barre — a plan that was later abandoned.

The board has since moved ahead with plans to build a consolidated high school on 80 acres in Plains Twp.

Evans was re-elected last fall after espousing the consolidation and vowing to provide “students the best education at a price our taxpayers can afford.”