EDITORIAL: Charter threat doesn't 'sit well'

The York Dispatch
  • Teachers packed the board meeting to raise concerns about the district’s apparent inability to deal with disruptive students.

Surprise! A full-charter conversion of York City schools is still on the table a little more than a year after that tumultuous chapter in the district’s history was apparently settled.

York City School Board member Margie Orr. Bill Kalina photo

That is, if one believes board President Margie Orr’s comment at last week’s school board meeting was an actual revelation and not simply an empty threat tossed out in response to a perceived slight.

For the record, we think it’s the latter — an off-the-cuff, counterproductive remark made during a heated discussion.

Teachers and supporters packed Wednesday’s school board meeting — others had to stand in the hallway when the meeting room reached capacity — to raise concerns about the district’s apparent inability to deal with disruptive students.

Board president to teachers: Charters still an option

Many of the teachers wore all black, as they had done in their classrooms earlier in the day, in a sign of solidarity.

Orr said the choice of color concerned her and said it was probably not the best decision for the teachers to show up dressed in all black to their classrooms filled with young children.

"I don't know what their intentions are," Orr said. "And it does not sit well with me."

The teachers’ intentions seem clear to us.

They were frustrated that a few students are disrupting the learning process for everyone, that the disciplinary process in place now is ineffective and that the district isn’t doing more to fix the problem.

And they weren’t just venting; they brought ideas to address the issue. Some suggested suspension rooms in each school, staffed with at least one professional to work with repeat offenders.

Superintendent Eric Holmes acknowledged the district's disciplinary model is 25 years old and needs to be updated, but cited a lack of funds.

"It doesn't work. It needs to go, and it will," Holmes said.

That’s when Orr chimed in that no resolution can be reached without working together — as if the teachers somehow were not cooperating with the board — and threw out the threat of a full-charter conversion for the district.

"The board can do it. We have the authority to charter the entire district," she said. "We're either going to try to work this out together or, I mean, for anybody who feels that they can't, well, there is another option for them also."

Orr’s remarks seem nothing more than an intimidation tactic.

For one thing, the teachers are raising legitimate concerns about a problem that should be a top priority for the district. We see no indication they’re unwilling to work with the administration and school board; quite the contrary, in fact.

Plus, like most locals, Orr and the other school board members fought that full-charter conversion tooth and nail, prompting the former state-appointed recovery officer to seek a court-ordered receivership of the district.

Thanks to the election of Gov. Tom Wolf, who also opposed the charter plan, the district just barely maintained local control.

We’re beginning to wonder if Orr is up to the task.

She and the rest of the board should be concentrating on leading the district forward, not resurrecting uncertainty when teachers’ reasonable concerns don’t “sit well” with her.