Tension between York City School District officials and supporters of New Hope Academy Charter School escalated Wednesday at a meeting that ended with the district's board president calling for police officers to escort a well-known teacher from the podium during public comment.
Cal Weary, director of New Hope's performing arts program, was the last person in a crowded room to address the board.
But as he began to speak, board President Margie Orr said he would not be recognized because he did not fill out a form before the meeting. Weary continued, and Orr called for security.
As police approached, Orr told Weary he "should know better."
Weary, who walked away from the podium without police intervention, is the former performing arts director at the district's high school.
After the meeting, Weary said he wanted to ask the board to negotiate with New Hope — as officials from Helen Thackston Charter School did before their charter came up for renewal.
"What I would have said to them is this — we are all part of the same community. All we want is fair representation," Weary said. "We're asking for a seat at the table."
Wednesday's meeting was the latest clash between the charter school and the district, which decided in 2012 not to renew New Hope's application for a charter renewal.
A state appeals board backed that decision and has ordered New Hope to close at the end of this academic year. New Hope has asked the Commonwealth Court to keep the school open. That appeal is pending.
March: Nearly 200 New Hope supporters marched from the charter school to the board's meeting Wednesday.
Many of them had filled out forms before the meeting — at least two days in advance, according to district policy — so they could speak during the board's public comment period.
But the board's solicitor announced before the session began the board would not accept comments related to New Hope.
Solicitor Jeff Gettle also said speakers must be city residents and 18 years or older.
Gettle called the names of people who had pre-registered. But many did not step to the podium.
At the end of the meeting, someone shouted from the back of the room that many of those names were students who are under 18.
Orr statement: Before she was interrupted, New Hope parent Shannon Garcia said she was appalled by Orr's statement to television news crews earlier this month outside a courthouse in Harrisburg after a hearing in New Hope's appeal. About 100 New Hope supporters — mostly students — attended the afternoon hearing.
"Why waste a school day on these kids?" Orr said on March 10. "I mean, their grades are already in the toilet."
Gettle stopped Garcia, saying the board would not allow "personal attacks on board members."
After the meeting, Orr said her comments at the courthouse were taken out of context, that she was "speaking on the school as a whole."
As for the decision to ban New Hope comments at Wednesday's meeting, Orr said the case is in the court's hands and that New Hope supporters have had other opportunities to express their thoughts.
Orr said the board did not allow children to comment because the board is "accountable to our taxpayers."
"Why aren't we hearing from the parents? What in the world do they have against the School District of the City of York?" Orr said. "I would love for them to answer that question for me. I'm not getting this."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.