West York district board keeps outspoken Herman as VP

West York Area school board on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Top row, left to right: Douglas Hoover, Donald Carl, Todd Gettys, Lynn Kohler. Bottom row, left to right: Courtney Dennis, Jeanne Herman, Suzanne Smith, Brandy Shope.

West York Area school board members on Tuesday voted to keep outspoken board member Jeanne Herman as vice president despite an effort to oust her because of her recent criticism of other board members.

Given a string of decisions that caused consternation among board members and Herman's criticism of board actions, several school board members came out against her maintaining the post. But, ultimately, she kept her leadership post by a 5-4 vote.

Board member Donald Carl, newly elected members Brandy Shope and Courtney Dennis, board member Suzanne Smith and Herman herself voted in favor of re-appointing Herman to the vice president position during the board's reorganization meeting Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Members Todd Gettys, Douglas Hoover, Lynn Kohler and George Margetas cast votes for Kohler to take over that leadership post.

Several board members criticized Herman for what they said was her penchant for eroding trust between members.

"I think the board should look to someone who is backing what we're doing. If there's not trust between the officers of this board and the superintendent and the administration, we're going to repeat some of the meetings that we've repeated in the past," Gettys said.

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Herman has criticized other members several times recently. At a meeting in November, she accused fellow board members of violating the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, the state's open meeting law, when they expressed support for a board candidate outside of a public meeting.

Hoover said the role of vice presidents should be to argue positions passionately in executive committees with members and administration, not "grandstand" in meetings because they want their positions heard.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, could not say one way or the other if members who gave support for a board candidate outside of public meetings were in violation of the law, but she said the board should have been more transparent.

West York Area school board members at a reorganization meeting and work session Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. Left to right, Superintendent Todd Davies, board President Suzanne Smith, Assistant Superintendent Erin Holman, board Vice President Jeanne Herman.

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Gettys and Margetas said if Herman remained vice president, members could likely be put in similar situations.

"The officers of this board, I think it's important for them to be cheerleaders of what we have going on — the administration, programs ... I know when I first got on the board, I thought my role was the watchdog," Gettys said.

While Carl and Margetas disagreed with that statement, Margetas echoed others who said they felt leadership of the board would best be served with someone more middle-of-the-road.

Herman was nominated Tuesday for board president first but lost in a 5-4 vote to Smith.

"I think you have some unique qualities that can bring more consensus to the board," Hoover said of Smith, calling her a "middle player" and noting her conciliatory nature.

Margetas agreed, saying she would be helpful in "bridging the gap" between board members.

Smith was the last to vote for Herman as vice president, noting that she felt she could do no wrong with either board member in the position.

Carl defended Herman, noting that disagreement did not necessarily mean disloyalty.

"I'm a big fan of critical thinking, and Ms. Herman does that," he said. "She doesn't allow others to think for her and she is not a rubber stamp."