Profile: Montoursville man successful in quest to release school’s emails
It came down to accessing information from the Montoursville Area School District that one citizen felt was worth sharing with the public.
In 2016, the district was in the midst of a high school construction project that was dividing the community and the school board.
Personal acrimony led to fingerpointing and accusations.
In the midst of it all, the district superintendent and business manager resigned their positions.
“That was the height of the Montoursville construction issue between the new board group and previous members,” Joshua
Young recalled. “We didn’t see a whole lot of information coming out. About a dozen of us were denied open records for multiple things. We knew in the past we could get some things with no problems. Their legal counsel chose to block everything.”
In April, the board voted 5 to 3 to have Karen Wright fill an open board seat.
Later that year, Young requested from the school district all emails received and all responses by Wright from and to other board members through May 25.
When efforts to obtain the emails from the district were denied, Young turned to the state’s Office of Open Records to secure them.
Wright’s appointment to the board had created controversy as a result of comments she posted on Facebook that allegedly disparaged homosexuals and Muslims.
One email exchange between Wright and board member Robert Logue revealed that he felt he’d been coerced into voting to appoint her as a school director. Logue wrote in the email that two other school directors had threatened to resign from the board if he didn’t support her appointment.
Another email from former board president Tom McNamara to Wright requested she and board members who appointed her resign their seats.
Other emails involving board members included the report of a handgun brought to a board meeting, hiring security for meetings, and the district’s search for a superintendent to replace Timothy Bowers.
Overall, Young revealed to the public some behind-the-scenes actions that cut through the rumor mill and resulted in shedding some light on what was happening in the district.
Young said it wasn’t easy trying to access information.
“Working with the agency you are requesting it from can be scary,” Young, an assistant administrator at Pennsylvania College of Technology, said. “They feel they have more authority than they really do.”
But over time, he feels the process becomes easier. He said he’s certainly glad he experienced what he did.
“Oh yeah. It was the fact of completing the process and knowing I was right, and we should have seen this information and the district was incorrect in withholding it,” he said.
Would he do it again?
“If it has to come to that, yes,” he said.