POTTSTOWN PA – Lower Pottsgrove resident John Rossi, who has long been a commenter on Pottsgrove School District activities and its Board of Directors’ decisions from the chairs of the meeting audience, on Tuesday night (May 13, 2014) was elected by directors to move from the public seats to their board table.
Rossi was named to succeed departing director Kelley Crist, who officially tendered her resignation due to health and employment reasons. She had served five months as a Pottsgrove board member, and received the thanks of her colleagues for her participation. Board members voted 5-2, with one abstension, for Rossi, whose nomination was the subject of substantial discussion.
In what some observers considered a surprise move, director Patti Grimm suggested Rossi’s candidacy without having the board open the selection process – as it has several times in years past – to the public. No public or private interviews of Rossi or other potential nominees, and there were at least two, were requested or accepted.
Grimm’s nomination of Rossi was accompanied by a touch of irony. When she was asked to join the board in October 2009 to fill a vacancy, she had expected to do so without competition. At the last minute, on the night of the board’s vote, another candidate also interested in the position surfaced and asked the board to be considered. It agreed, awkwardly, but ended by choosing Grimm nonetheless.
That unexpected arrival was David Faulkner, who himself was later appointed as a director to fill yet another vacancy. Both Grimm and Faulkner went on to win full terms as board members in public elections.
Those favoring Rossi included Grimm, Faulkner, Diane Cherico, Ted Coffelt and Dee Gallion. Rick Rabinowitz and Matt Alexander opposed the appointment, largely because of the failure to publicly call for other nominees; and board President Justin Valentine abstained. Two others district residents, Al Leach and former school board election candidate Don Clancy, openly expressed interest in the position.
Valentine, when later asked, declined to explain why he abstained from voting.
Rossi has been a vocal proponent of plans to renovate Pottsgrove High School. He also has, at various times during board meetings, expressed opinions on the district budget, property taxes, student behavior at athletic events, and busing policies. He previously was interviewed by the board to fill the vacant seat now held by Gallion.
Board conversations over the appointment, and whether it should be tabled and interviews conducted, continued for about 30 minutes. In its meeting follow-up “Board Notes” newsletter distributed by e-mail, the district administration’s summary of the occasionally acusatory and contentious debate was simply that it constituted “much discussion about procedure.”
Editor’s Note: The Post did not attend this meeting. This story was constructed relying on documents from the district, social media reports, comments from those who were in attendance, and The Post’s archives.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ May 13 meeting):
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