Dover OKs Buckingham's resignation


With little fanfare, Dover Area School District board member William Buckingham's resignation was approved and made effective last night, putting to rest residents' concerns over whether voters would decide who would fill his seat.

Because Buckingham resigned before Sept. 8, the board of elections will put his seat on the ballot, and each party can submit a candidate for election this fall.

Now almost the entire board, eight of nine seats, is up for election this November.

Superintendent Richard Nilsen read Buckingham's resignation, which detailed the deteriorating condition of the former board member's back and knees, and a struggle with an addiction to painkillers taken "to alleviate the excruciating pain."

"I know too well that my condition has affected my demeanor," Buckingham wrote. "I regret these incidents and apologize for
whatever personal harm I may have caused."

Board members offered no comments; they simply unanimously voted to accept the resignation.

Little comment from others: Asked by a reporter after the meeting what Buckingham contributed to the board and whether he would be missed, board president Sheila Harkins replied, "We thank him for his services." She declined further comment.

Board member Alan Bonsell repeated an earlier statement, saying that Buckingham "was a good guy at heart" who had the best interests of students in mind.

He declined to speak on the record about the apologies made in Buckingham's resignation letter, just saying that "the man's been through" numerous surgeries and problems over the past few years.

Buckingham was one of six board members who voted in October to make a statement about intelligent design part of the district's high school biology curriculum.

Buckingham had been one of the board's most publicly outspoken proponents of intelligent design, a theory that attributes the origins of life to a higher being, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

The school board's decision to have a statement on intelligent design read in ninth-grade biology classes sparked a federal lawsuit, filed in December by 11 parents.

Bonsell said Buckingham will come back to Pennsylvania for the trial "if they need him."

The bench trial starts next month.

Opponents happy: Some residents said they were glad Buckingham's resignation had been made final.

"It was the correct thing to do," said Bernadette Reinking, a candidate with Dover CARES (Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies), a group opposing the current board. "The voters, you know, they have that right and it shouldn't be taken away by one person."

If Buckingham had resigned after the September deadline, the board could have appointed someone to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in 2007, instead of the voters deciding.

"It's about time," said Terry Emig, also a Dover CARES candidate. "He's no longer a citizen of Dover. Why should it linger on?"

Buckingham announced about three weeks ago that he intended to resign and move to North Carolina for health reasons but never publicly announced when he planned to move or resign.

His former house in Dover is occupied by new residents. He was not present at last night's meeting and could not be reached for comment.

No names yet: Dover CARES members said they will likely propose a candidate to fill Buckingham's seat, but no candidates have been named.

The current board will appoint an interim board member, who will fill the vacant seat until after the election.

Board secretary Karen Holtzapple said no applications have been received for Buckingham's position. The board will advertise for applications and will hold a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, to interview candidates for the temporary position, she said.

In the past year, the school board has appointed members to five empty seats because of resignations. Those five members have all said they are in favor of intelligent design.

-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5434 or