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Bermudian Springs Addresses Alleged Inappropriate Social Media Activity From Staff Member

The Bermudian Springs School District is investigating alleged inappropriate activity on an administrator’s social media account. The school board acknowledged the investigation during its meeting on Tuesday evening.

“The district wanted to proactively respond to any questions or comments about the personnel investigation currently ongoing about posted Twitter content,” said Board President Michael Wool. “As we indicated previously, the investigation is ongoing and includes contact with the Twitter account owner and the Twitter media company.

Wool said the administrator had been placed on administrative leave effective Jan. 4 and will continue on leave until at least the conclusion of the investigation.

Superintendent Shane Hotchkiss had acknowledged the investigation with a post to Twitter on Jan. 4, writing, “The District is investigating an administrator’s Twitter posting. While we believe an account hack occurred, forward concerns to the District Administrative Office.”

Wool advised that the investigation is largely private, as it involves personnel, and that any information or questions should be directed to Hotchkiss.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Hotchkiss announced that the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines should be available for school staff by the end of January and would be administered in school buildings. The second dose of the vaccine would be administered about three or four weeks later.

The vaccine will not be mandatory, according to Hotchkiss. He told the board that he will continue to learn more about the vaccine.

Public comment

Two women approached the board to request that changes be made to the school operations.

Jennifer Goldhahn said that the district should reopen the elementary school, then the middle school.

“Learning at home is problematic,” she said. “It’s hard. It’s hard on the kids. It’s hard on the parents. It’s hard on the teachers.”

Goldhahn said she acknowledged the risk to staff and faculty but said that people also face risks when they go shopping. She also acknowledged that some teachers are considered high-risk, and said it is “reasonable” that teachers are in Phase 1B of the vaccine administration.

“I do not think it is reasonable, however, to hold our students back until every teacher gets vaccinated,” she said.

She suggested keeping Fridays open for half-days.

“Let’s get our kids back to where they need to be,” she said.

Melissa Wagner identified herself as an alumna, coach, parent, and longtime substitute teacher.

Wagner said that while she will help her children and students focus on washing their hands and maintaining a distance, she believes they need a normal school schedule.

“But I do not teach my children – my children or my students– to live in fear, because as we know, the world is a crazy place,” she said. “We don’t know what is going to be thrown at them, but we need to teach them to be able to adapt to what is thrown at them; to be cautious, but not be fearful.”

Wagner said her children have struggled with the changes this school year, and said that while there are risks at school, there are risks when visiting stores, as well.

With parents working and kids home with caregivers and struggling to adapt, Wagner said it is time to get the kids back to school.

“Kids can’t see their parents, they can’t see their friends, they can’t have activities at school, they can’t have anything in the community,” she said. “And that’s seriously hurting our community. What I think we need to seriously think about is the mental health and the stability of everybody in our community, and kids just need to be kids, and they need to be back in school and be doing exactly what they should be doing, and that is being a kid and not having to worry about all of this stuff.”

Board recognition

Hotchkiss recognized each of the nine board members for School Director Recognition Month. Each member was given a certificate in honor of their service.

“Given the current pandemic and the demands placed on public education to navigate through unprecedented times, the jobs of these nine individuals have become even more challenging,” he said. “Fortunately, our board members rise to the challenge and make the difficult decisions for our school, staff and community.”

Hotchkiss asked community members to thank school board members for their work.

Dr. Jon Fox, assistant superintendent, recognized Kheila Dunkerly, director of innovation. Dunkerly is the recipient of the 2021 Pennsylvania Education Technology Expo and Conference Dr. Laura Hummel Technology Innovator of the Year award. She will be honored in an online ceremony, according to Fox.

“This prestigious award goes to educators who have a record of outstanding work in the educational technology field,” Fox said. “We are proud of the work Ms. Dunkerly does and continues to do, and please congratulate her on this well-deserved and prestigious award.”

A buildings and grounds meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 in the auditorium of Bermudian Springs High School. It will also be livestreamed on YouTube.

The next board work/study meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8.

The next regular board meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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