Ex-member faults Peters school board for public discussions

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A former Peters school director blasted current board members Monday night for airing the district's dirty laundry during a public meeting.

"I feel this district and its students have been made a mockery of," said former school board president Cindy Golembiewski, who said she was "disappointed" with recent media reports focusing on misbehavior of district students.

During a board meeting last month, member Bill Merrell suggested the board take action to stop "twerking" and other forms of "dirty dancing" at school events.  Mr. Merrell chaperoned a high school dance where students left early after being warned to stop the suggestive dance moves.  Two of them were cited by police for underage drinking.

Ms. Golembiewski said she would have preferred board members go to administration and "quietly and confidentially" dealing with situations they may witness in the schools, but Mr. Merrell said he believes it's his right to speak out.

"We are private citizens too," he said.

Ms. Golembiewski suggested that interfering with students and faculty could create a legal situation for board members, who shouldn't be involved in such conflict, she said.

But Mr. Merrell, who spoke with students after the dance about his concerns, said he felt any taxpayer should feel free to come before the board with an issue.

Ms. Golembiewski was among a faction of three previous board members who lost re-election in November.  Mr. Merrell was part of the faction that replaced them.

Students are being given the option to take a free introductory dance class this weekend at a local dance studio.  Many told Mr. Merrell that they had never learned to dance and were mimicking moves they'd seen on MTV.  He suggested that students be given the opportunity to take weekend dance classes before the prom in early May.

Administrators are still deciding what action to take to prevent twerking at future events, though neighboring school districts, including Mt. Lebanon, have had success with a student contract that spells out expectations and provides consequences for improper behavior.  Since the change was implemented last year, no students have been punished for inappropriate dance moves.

Also Monday, the board:

• Approved continued participation in the Western Pennsylvania Natural Gas Consortium of school districts from 2015 to 2018.  Final gas transportation rates have yet to be determined, but the district will pay less than its current rate of $4.271 per unit (mmbtu), according to the agreement.

• Awarded a one-year food service contract to Aramark Inc. with an option to renew for four additional years.  The district has been using the vendor since 1991.  Aramark directly bills students for school lunches.

• Approved a one-year agreement with Reliance Communications for an online phone system application for $7,799.

• Approved several extra-duty assignments, including Michael Pittas as high school boys lacrosse assistant coach, and Gillian Callender and Fred Burns as assistant coaches for the high school track team.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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