Scranton School Board Should Pay For Errors

November 1, 2017

Scranton voters attended to some important business in the spring primaries by ending Scranton School Board President Bob Sheridan’s reign of error. Nov. 7 they will have an opportunity to take another such step, and they should not waste it.

Five candidates seek four seats on the board. Two incumbents, Mark McAndrew and Robert Casey, are among them.

Given the district’s meteoric descent into financial distress over the last five years, and the active role that the school board has had in it, The Times-Tribune editorial board does not endorse either incumbent while recognizing that the ballot’s math ensures that at least one will be elected.

The board endorses Republican nominee Frank Torquato, a retired music teacher from the North Pocono School District; Katie Gilmartin, a Green Ridge businesswoman who won Democratic and Republican nominations; and Barbara Dixon, a former Scranton district administrator who also has both nominations.

The Republican Party chose Torquato to replace Chris Phillips, who withdrew.

Though a former unionized teacher, Torquato made an interesting distinction. He said he would try to appeal to teachers as educators rather than through the union to find solutions to the district’s financial crisis that don’t eviscerate education.

Dixon also has contradictory interests in that three of her daughters work in the district. But as she put it, “the district has a hit a brick wall,” vowing to make decisions necessary to bring the district back to solvency.

Gilmartin is well-prepared to serve regarding district business, but comes off as being naïve about the cutthroat politics that often underlie it. She is certain to be conscientious, however, and to rely more on facts than politics.

Of the two incumbents, double nominee McAndrew is the more sympathetic case. He has pressed transparency more so than many of his colleagues, although he failed to disclose publicly that the district had paid, for a decade, the health care benefits of a South Scranton couple who do not work for the district.

Casey, a Democratic nominee, advocated a no-bid busing contract and renewal with DeNaples Transportation that has cost taxpayers $12 million more than the state reimbursement for busing. And he accepted $3,000 from a clandestine political action committee partially funded by bus contractor Louis DeNaples, which he returned after it was disclosed.

Remaking the district requires remaking the school board. With Sheridan’s dismissal and Director Cy Douaihy’s impending retirement, removing a third director Tuesday would produce a 33 percent change that is well-warranted.