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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Resident chastises school board

  • A Wayne County resident told members of the Wayne Highlands School Board Tuesday they have "lost sight" of their mission and he wants to see change.
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  • — A Wayne County resident told members of the Wayne Highlands School Board Tuesday they have "lost sight" of their mission and he wants to see change.
    Travis Samson, a local businessman, made a presentation to the board during its monthly committee meeting. There were around 30 other people at the meeting to support Samson.
    Samson began his presentation by complimenting the district on a "job well done," saying students and teachers from other schools call the Wayne Highlands district "one of the best" when it comes to education.
    However, he then quickly told the board he does not agree with the path members have taken.
    "The school board has lost sight of what its job is," said Samson.
    Samson said the public is fed up with "taxation without representation," adding, "We don't feel we're being represented."
    He also told the group a former member of the board wrote the school board is there to "back up the administration."
    But, said Samson, the "school board is elected from taxpayers," adding members need to "think outside the box."
    He then pointed out some specific areas Samson thinks the board needs to consider, including athletics, where he said some districts are charging the students to play sports.
    Samson also said the board "shouldn't do favors with other people's money." That includes waiving facility fees for certain groups.
    He also told the board they should not waive tuition fees for the students of teachers in the district.
    Samson said there should be "absolutely no sacred cows" when it comes to business done by the board. He said the board should also audit extracurricular activities compensation, asking if there is duplicate compensation for the same jobs.
    Samson also said that "every expense should be vetted."
    He then turned to the subject of teacher compensation.
    Samson said the average household in Wayne County makes $26 per hour but the average hourly rate for teachers is $56. He also questioned by the district employes "16 people" who make over $100,000 per year.
    He also had a handout for board members which pointed to specific areas regarding teacher compensation which he says need to be considered when negotiating contracts.
    That includes paid medical, dental, life and vision insurance, a seven-hour work day, sabbatical leave that includes 50 percent pay for a year plus 100 percent benefits and a 184-day work year.
    Samson also said the board has raised taxes every year for as long as many people can remember and added that has to stop because it is hurting businesses and residents.
    "I know two business owners who want to expand," said Samson. "But they can't do that because they are afraid taxes are going up."
    Page 2 of 2 - He also pointed out that landlords are raising rental prices because of rising school taxes and some people are even losing their homes over higher taxes.
    "You guys are better than this," said Samson. "I have hope there are some of you ... that can do what's right."
    Board president Tom Fasshauer said he "appreciates" the fact Samson and others are taking an interest in the district.
    But he also said the board is looking out for the taxpayers.
    "This board does not back up the administration," said Fasshauer. "You must not know (board member) Lothar Holbert."
    Fasshauer also invited Samson and "anyone who wants to ask specific questions" to make an appointment with him, Superintendent Greg Frigoletto and business manager Jeff Firmstone and they can go over the budget line by line.
    Fasshauer also told Samson that "all through the years" that "many board members" have came onto the board with the same feelings about the budget.
    "I know I did," said Fasshauer. "We didn't like it."
    However, he said after being on the board, many people come to realize the realities of budgeting and the many state and federal mandates which have to be followed.
    "None of us on this board like to raise taxes," said Fasshauer.
    Frigoletto told Samson the board makes every decision with the taxpayers in mind. He said all decisions are "considered at a deep level."
    Samson said he would contact Frigoletto to make an appointment to discuss budget matters.
    The board will meet again next Tuesday for its regular monthly meeting. The meeting will be held at Damascus School. It starts at 7:30 p.m.
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