School board member accuses Upper Adams of nepotism

A school board member accused Upper Adams School District of nepotism during a discussion regarding the district’s dental hygienist.

Board member Tricia Plank raised the concern at Tuesday’s meeting while the board discussed a new contract that would increase the pay of dental hygienist Robin Brewer by up to $2,500.

“My concern is that we’re not getting accurate information to make an informed decision,” Plank said. “But I think the other concern that you have is when you’re talking about — I mean, let’s be clear, the nepotism — we should be transparent.”

Superintendent Wesley Doll said he was not aware of such concerns.

“I’m just saying that I have heard from individuals in the community about nepotism,” Plank said, without elaborating.

Gettysburg Connection reached out to Plank for further comment, asking what led her to suspect nepotism, how many individuals expressed this concern to her, and to which employee Plank believes Brewer is related.

Plank did not answer these questions. She instead referred the Connection to the staff listing on the school district website. The staff directory does not indicate whether district employees are related to one another.

As of Thursday at 8:30 p.m., Doll had not confirmed whether Brewer is related to another Upper Adams staff member.

Brewer is a trained and registered Public Health Dental Hygienist who has served the district for more than 18 years, according to Doll. Her services include providing dental education for kindergarten through sixth grade, providing fluoride treatments to all kindergarten through sixth grade students, and conducting dental exams on students in pre-K, kindergarten, third and sixth grades. She also makes herself available for grades seven through 12.

Previously, Brewer’s $5,000 contract was set at a rate of $20 per hour, according to director of business operations Shelley Hobbs. Over the years, Brewer’s rates remained the same as costs rose. For the 2024-2025 school year, Brewer sought to increase her rate to $30 per hour, up to $7,500 per year. Hobbs said this was requested to help offset the cost of liability insurance that Brewer purchases for her protection.

After Plank asked about other options, Hobbs researched other school districts’ dental programs and presented her findings to the board in a committee meeting April 2. She said a “neighboring school district” that uses Family First pays $750 “per event” for state mandated screenings of students. Based on this information and the needs of Upper Adams students, Hobbs estimated that Upper Adams would pay $9,000 to implement Family First.

On Tuesday, Plank cast doubt on the accuracy of Hobb’s numbers. Plank said she did her own research and found that Gettysburg Area School District reportedly pays $4,500 for dental services from Family First.

Hobbs said she made her $9,000 estimation based on what she read in the neighboring district’s contract. She did not examine actual bills paid.

During the conversation between Hobbs and Plank, Doll spoke up.

“Out of a $35 million budget we’re spending time right now talking about 0.0002% of the budget,” he said.

“But I think that’s dismissive,” Plank responded. “Because when I sit here and say that I want to be fiscally responsible, I didn’t mean that I wanted to be fiscally responsible if it’s a large amount, or a small amount.”

The board ultimately voted 7-2 to approve Brewer’s new contract with the pay increase. Plank and Heather Young-Cover were opposed.

Plank wrote in an email Wednesday that she was “elected to this board to do three things: manage the Superintendent, create, implement, and oversee policy, and approve the budget and monthly expenditures.”

She wrote that taxpayers are “on the hook” for the school board’s and administration’s decisions.

“I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers that I take very seriously,” Plank wrote.

Doll in an email Wednesday spoke to Brewer’s “excellent” service over the years. He said she has built “extremely positive rapport” with students, parents and staff.

“With a district-wide free and reduced lunch rate of 56%, Mrs. Brewer is providing dental exams and fluoride treatments which benefit many students and families,” Doll wrote. “Her care to students and families is excellent as exemplified by student and parent/guardian verbal feedback.”

Young-Cover in an email April 23 said while she does not question the quality of Brewer’s service, she would like to save the district money when possible.

“Mrs. Plank’s information that she presented made it clear to me that there seemed to be an opportunity to save some money for a similar if not even slightly better service,” Young-Cover wrote. “I try to be as frugal as possible and am not against spending funds if shown to be the absolute best choice, but I did feel as though in this case there may have been better options that could have been explored.”

In other business, policy committee chair Susan Crouse said the committee will next discuss proposed changes to Policy 109.1 in August. The policy relates to the selection of books for libraries.

The next policy committee meeting will be May 2 at 9 a.m. On May 7 the curriculum and extra curricular committee and the business and operations committee will meet, starting at 6:30 p.m. The next regular board meeting is May 21 at 7 p.m.

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Mary Grace Kauffman, freelance reporter, worked six years as a full-time reporter for newspapers in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has covered topics including business, crime, education, government and features. Mary Grace has a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism from Shippensburg University. She resides in Adams County.

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