North Allegheny school director resigns over 'verbal attacks'

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North Allegheny school board member Beth Ludwig cited the rancor directed toward her by members of a parents group as the major factor in her Feb. 20 resignation.

The group formed to fight the closing of Peebles Elementary School in McCandless.

"I couldn't take the level of discourse anymore in the community," Mrs. Ludwig said after the board voted to accept her resignation. She has served for 12 years. "What happened before tonight made me sick. It hurt my heart, and we were on the path of becoming a three-ring circus."

She said many of the attacks directed toward her online were "clear examples of cyber bullying."

Mrs. Ludwig, a former teacher, said she walked off the stage during a public hearing Jan. 30 on the potential closure of the school because of the personal verbal attacks from the audience.

Dan Hubert, another board member who faced criticism, also left the hearing before it ended at 2:20 a.m.

Both were pilloried in comments on the Save NA Schools' Facebook page for leaving early, with one writer stating Mrs. Ludwig remained on the board "to hurt us and our children."

Board President Maureen Grosheider said she tried several times to talk Mrs. Ludwig out of resigning.

"Those of us who have served and work with Beth understand and admire her passion [and] commitment. She has always put the best interests of children first," Mrs. Grosheider said. "In many ways, Beth has been the heart and soul of this board. She will be greatly missed."

Member Linda Bishop, who joined the board with Mrs. Ludwig, said her colleague "has given generously of her time and talents and I think she has always been focused on making North Allegheny a better place for all of us."

Mrs. Bishop also noted Mrs. Ludwig's passion for arts education.

The resignation was approved, 7-1, with Mr. Hubert objecting.

"She was an exceptional board member, very strategic in her thinking and had great insights into the educational programs that we have," Mr. Hubert said. "It's a big loss to North Allegheny."

Mrs. Ludwig sat in the audience during the meeting, and asked to speak under the "citizens comments" section after the resignation was approved.

"It's been a real pleasure and I can't thank you enough," she said. "I'm sorry it is poor timing for you, but it is the right time for me."

Resident Marianne Stearns of Franklin Park told the board that she was also "disappointed" in some of the comments made by parents at the public hearing.

"We teach [about] bullying in the schools, and then we have these kinds of comments," she said. "I'm asking that we all respect one another."

Because Mrs. Ludwig was in the middle of a four-year term, the board has 30 days to choose her successor, who will serve only until December.

An application will be placed on the district's website. The board will interview each candidate in public.

Voters in November will elect a director to serve the remaining two years of the term.

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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