Connellsville Area school directors on Wednesday unanimously voted to return the Ten Commandments monument currently located on the grounds of the junior high school to the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) in Connellsville.
The board decision came three years after the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) initiated a civil suit against the district, asking for the monument’s removal.
Senior U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry last month ruled the monument violates the Constitution but denied a motion calling for the monument’s removal. He said the argument is moot, because the two Does are no longer affiliated with the district.
“Nothing would preclude another student from bringing their own action at some point,” district solicitor Christopher Stern said. “It would just be a matter of time, and we can’t control what happens down the road as far as other parties.”
The Connellsville FOE donated the monument to the district in 1957.
School Director Kevin Lape said he is in favor of keeping the monument on school grounds but that the district does not have the money to continue to fight against the issue. Stern said the losing party is responsible for paying the winning party’s attorney fees in a civil rights action.
“He (McVerry) already made a determination, in my view, of the constitutionality,” Stern said.
He added that the district could lose the ability to choose how to remove the Ten Commandments if a future suit was brought against the district, as that was one of the remedies in the current suit.
Board President Jon Detwiler said the board still had to determine how and when the monument will be returned to the Eagles.
Also Wednesday, board heard from Nicole Mowry of Acme.
Mowry asked the board if they would consider hiring a teacher’s aide for her daughter’s third-grade classroom at Clifford N. Pritts Elementary. Mowry said there are 30 students in the class.
“With one week of school under our belt, I can already foresee a difficult year ahead of us,” she said.
Mowry said she believes a classroom aide would ensure that no student would get left behind when learning new topics, such as multiplication.
She also believes an aide would be helpful at the end of the day in reminding students of homework assignments.
Board Vice President Dr. Paul Means said the board would review the situation.
Connellsville resident Bryan Kisiel also addressed the board, inquiring about action the board took last month.
At its August meeting, the board approved to send correspondence to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to seek technical assistance and analysis as provided under Act 141 of 2012 School District Financial Recovery Early Warning System.
The state legislature put Act 141 in place to assist districts in full-blown financial distress or that have the potential to be in financial distress.
Business Manager Phil Martell had recommended that the board ask PDE to voluntarily enter into the system, adding that the board has not yet received a response from PDE. He said, however, that there is a maximum number of school districts that can be placed on that list.
“It’s something I will stay on top of,” Martell said.
Also Wednesday, the board:
n Recalled support professionals Lisa Donaldson and Sonia Bentley.
n Re-advertised the sale of Zachariah Connell Elementary School with changes in the specifications.
n Approved to participate in the School-Based Access Program in compliance with the regulations set forth by the state Department of Education and the Department of Human Services.
n Approved the agreement between Pressley Ridge and the district for education services.
n Renewed the agreement between Blackboard and the district for Blackboard Connect K-12 for parent notification system.