Southern Tioga board votes to review alternate consolidation plan

MANSFIELD – In a last ditch effort to push through a different plan for the Southern Tioga School District school consolidation, board member Frank Kollar proposed the board consider an alternate plan of having only one high school for the district.

The board just last week held a public hearing to close a school – North Penn High School in Blossburg, but near the end of the meeting, Kollar, who was voted off the board Nov. 5, motioned to “study” a scenario presented by board member Dan Berguson back when the board was reviewing its options after finding out it would not receive state reimbursement for the renovation project it had planned for North Penn.

“Dan presented an outline for the future of the district. We have not completed the review of that approach. We know the superintendent’s approach for a north-south option. Since we have not reviewed his (Dan’s) approach, I ask the board to review his presentation and bring back a recommendation to the new board,” Kollar said, and made it in the form of a motion.

Kollar said in a nutshell the idea was to “have kindergarten through eighth grade in Blossburg and Mansfield and a kindergarten through sixth grade school in Liberty, with nine through 12 at Mansfield, and also utilize facilities for vocational education,” he said.

“All must be considered before taxpayers get any increase in taxes. We have spent over three years on this and it’s time to move on,” he added.

Board member Sue Jaquish, serving at her last board meeting, countered saying, “we did talk about every option available, and we discussed a nine-12 in Mansfield but in reality we could only look at a centralized school in a centralized location and it would be a K-12,” she said.

“We have discussed a number of these options and we are running in circles putting this all on the table again. We are moving forward. This will put us back even further,” she added.

Superintendent Keith Yarger, recently rehired by the board for another three years, said he felt that the closing of North Penn High School would be enough for the time being.

“I just don’t think we can do that (have a centralized high school) at this time. I feel that right now the closure of North Penn would be sufficient for this year. If the board would like to look at doing other things, I would say have a specialist come in and get everyone’s input, and move forward in that fashion. I think that would be the best course of action to take,” he said.

But when it came time for a vote, it was 5 to 3, with Kollar, Stephen Hall, also at his last board meeting, Ivan Erway, Kyle Lefheloc and John Martin voting in favor of the motion and Jaquish, Barb Shull, also at her last meeting, and Sally Knipe voting against.

New board members Sean Bartlett, John Ritter, Steve Guilliaume and Jim Kreger all spoke out against the vote during the citizen’s recognition portion of the meeting.

Guilliaume, of Liberty Township, said “you just tied the hands of the organization you bring in to be your experts. If you are going to hire experts, let them come in and say what is the best option. A lot of people who live in Liberty do not trust the board or the administration and they need to be brought back to the table,” he said.