KINGSTON — For the second meeting in a row, the Wyoming Valley West School Board spent only a few minutes voting but more than an hour listening to comments regarding the state’s mask mandate for schools and concerns about the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Some of the speakers were the same people who raised the issues at the last meeting.
One woman cited the “Physician’s Declaration” signed by thousands of physicians criticizing public policy makers for implementing “one size fits all” treatment strategies for the pandemic.”
Another woman stood at the podium with her son, noting he gets migraine headaches and is not getting the promised mask breaks in school. Other parents said mask breaks were not being provided frequently enough and that some teachers have belittled children if they complained about masks. Superintendent Dave Tosh offered to get more specific information and promised to address the concerns.
Tosh also rigorously defended district Pandemic Coordinator Anthony Dicton after some criticism.
“That man gets calls from other school districts in the area because of the way he handles things here,” Tosh said. He also also pointed out that Dicton had taken a child to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia earlier in the day yet still came to the School Board meeting to answer questions. “That guy goes out of his way to assure the health, safety and welfare of students and employees.”
While nearly all the comments were critical of the district and the state mask mandate, High School Senior Benjamin Bowen, the senior class student council liaison to the board, made the final comments, saying that high school teachers readily give mask breaks to students who ask, and that “hundreds” of students feel much safer following the state masking guidelines.
Bowen said he had been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19 and praised Dicton for contacting him the next day and providing all the information and instructions he needed following the exposure. He said he related his experiences “just to focus on the positive.”
During the voting session, the board:
• Approved an Act 93 agreement running from July 1 this year through June 30, 2026. The state law known as Act 93 covers agreements with non-union employees, particularly administrators, and covers 23 employees at Wyoming Valley West. Business Manager Louis Cardoni said that while the raises in the contract vary depending on the position, generally they are between 1% to 2% a year.
• Appointed Ryan Amos as high school assistant principal at a salary of $67,500.
• Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the support staff union to increase the starting wage for part-time cleaners to $12 per hour.
• Accepted the resignation due to retirement of Susan Hodakowski, a clerk at State Street Elementary.
• Accepted the resignations of aides Kimberly Ultsh, Jessica Policare and Mayra Lorilla, and the resignation of cleaning person Marlene Guminsky. Guminsky’s resignation was effective April 23, but in a separate vote the board voted to rehire Guminsky as a high school cleaning person at $10/hour.
• Approved the termination of three employees for “abandonment of employment,” identifying them only by employee numbers.
• Appointed Sara Zambito and Alysha Harvey as personal care aides at $10/hour; Carina Marcella as a floating nurse assistant at $100/day; Marina Regan and James Donnelly as cleaning persons at $10/hour; Victoria Pickering as autistic support aide at $10/hour and Amy Kaupp as general duty aide at $10/hour.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish