Singing From Their Shelves

December 9, 2018 GMT

’Tis the season when mischievous kids risk being ratted out by elfin informants who “report” naughtiness to authorities at the North Pole. Parents employ these inanimate spies to send a stern message — If you don’t want Santa to know, don’t do it. Don’t say it. Don’t even think it. Introduced in a 2005 children’s book, “The Elf on the Shelf” quickly became a Christmas tradition for the ages. “Scout” elves “hide” in homes and fly back nightly to Christmas HQ to report crimes against the spirit of the holiday. Think Orwell meets Dickens at a script reading for a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. ORWELL: “The Christmas party seeks power entirely for its own sake!” DICKENS: “Marley’s ghost still haunts the holiday!” HALLMARK HEROINE: “Even with that limp, Tiny Tim grew up to be a hunk! Together, we’ll save my failing book store/bakery/curio shop!” Fa-la-la-la-la. The concept of informant elves works because children instinctively understand the stakes — bad behavior has consequences. Recent developments in state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s corruption investigation of the Scranton School District suggest many hidden elves are singing from their shelves. As yet another yule log is kindled, the district remains a Lionel train circling a burning tree. On Wednesday, state investigators raided South Scranton Intermediate School, seizing IT department evidence. It was at least the second time in about two weeks that state law enforcement descended on the turf of local education. Someone wrote to Shapiro Claus, or sang before the grand jury. Here’s hoping it was a chorus. Meanwhile, the school board is singing the same old tune. Last week’s “reorganization” meeting was evidence some directors won’t change their ways until confronted by elves with subpoena power. Bob Lesh, identified in a grand jury report as “BL,” shouted his nominations over other directors. “BL”’s nominees won. The alleged leadership won’t change. Barb Dixon will remain president for another year. Robert Casey will stay vice president, which suggests the train will keep circling the burning tree well into the new year. Dan Sansky, the school district’s former “fleet manager,” ends this year employed by the County of Lackawanna Transit System (COLTS). Sansky was arrested in September on seven felony charges, including criminal conspiracy and theft by deception. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18, seven days before Christmas. On Thursday, Lesh played Santa at a COLTS Christmas party, entertaining children poised to inherit an empty stocking of a school district Sansky stands accused of looting. If any elves were watching, they flew back to Harrisburg, not the North Pole. CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, can’t wait for the Hallmark movie based on the Scranton School District. Contact the writer: kellysworld@timesshamrock.com, @cjkink on Twitter. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly.