Northeastern school board fills open seat with former teacher, WITF employee

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Northeastern's school board chose a former teacher and current WITF employee to fill the seat left open after Jamie Lagana's recent resignation.

The board members said they chose Debra Riek because of her educational background.  

“We do run a school district, so I think that the professionalism, the history and the experience would add value overall to us,” said board member Tyler Kramlick, because someone with Riek's background was missing from the current board.

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Riek is the education director for the public radio station WITF. Previously, she was a teacher in Baltimore City, worked in early education and was an adjunct professor. 

A healthy school district is responsive, Riek said, in laying out her goals to prioritize the needs of children and reach curriculum goals.

“You’re never going to make everybody happy at the onset with anything,” she said, adding that she values how responsive the administration has been.

Riek shared an memory in which Superintendent Stacey Sidle fixed her daughter's outfit before posing for a photo at the daughter's graduation from Northeastern High School in 2020.

“For me, it was like a metaphor for what we should be doing,” Riek said. “We’re taking care of our official capacity, we’re doing the right things for kids academically; but we’re also … making sure they’re straightened out, they feel good about themselves.” 

In all, the board had five candidates to choose from. Board President Mike Redding said it was a difficult choice because all of them did their homework.

“As I reflect on the evening, school boards have become the platform for national state politics and we’re not a lawmaking body,” Redding said.

The board itself has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months, following allegations of bullying that emerged out of a Diversity Day event and the board's  reconsideration of how it broadcasts meetings online.

He said anyone willing to step up and say they will listen, too, is impressive. 

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Riek said she wants to make sure all concerns are heard because not everyone is able to come to the board meetings.

When the district is facing the decision to make cuts, Riek said she wants to find out the long-term impact of the decisions and hear from other districts that faced similar problems to learn from them.  

The board will not meet again in July unless new information arises from the construction of the high school.  

— Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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