Judge sides with school board, de­cides in fa­vor of three vot­ing re­gions

The Advance of Bucks County - - FRONT PAGE - By Cary Beavers

DOYLESTOWN – Penns­bury will re­tain its three vot­ing re­gions, with ad­just­ments, un­der a de­ci­sion ren­dered Nov. 21 by Bucks County Court of Com­mon Pleas Pres­i­dent Judge Su­san Devlin Scott.

In her de­ci­sion, Judge Scott said a re­align­ment plan submitted by the district “is prefer­able be­cause it main­tains the WrDdLWLRnDO cRn­fiJurDWLRn RI Whe dLsWrLcW” and that it is “less dis­rup­tive to the over­all rep­re­sen­ta­tional scheme be­cause it moves just three precincts – out of the 35 SrecLncWs Ln Whe dLsWrLcW – WR new reJLRns.”

Judge Scott also said, “A three-re­gion plan is bet­ter equipped to ab­sorb shifts in pop­u­la­tion, which en­sures sta­bil­ity in the IuWure.”

The de­ci­sion means there will still be three vot­ing dis­tricts, but each will have close-to-equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Re­gion 1 will have 23,928 peo­ple (33.62 per­cent), Re­gion 2 will have 23,273 (32.70 per­cent) and Re­gion 3 will have 23,964 (33.67 per­cent). Three board mem­bers will be elected from each re­gion.

The district’s school board in June passed the three-re­gion plan in or­der to com­ply with laws des­ig­nated un­der the state’s con­sti­tu­tion, which re­quires that vot­ing re­gions have equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

A cit­i­zen’s group, Con­cerned Res­i­dents Of Penns­bury (CROP), chal­lenged the school district’s plan in court, ask­ing the judge to con­sider an al­ter­nate plan that would cre­ate nine vot­ing re­gions, each send­ing one rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the board of school direc­tors.

John McDon­nell, the former Penns­bury Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (PEA) pres­i­dent who worked for more than 30 years in the

district’s mu­sic de­part­ment, pre­sented CROP’s plan that was signed by more than 3,800 school district res­i­dents. The board’s plan was known as “Ad­min­is­tra­tion 2” while CROP’s plan was tagged “Cit­i­zen 1.”

CROP’s at­tor­ney, David Tru­elove, said he was not sur­prised when he was in­formed that the board’s plan was ap­proved.

“diven the judge’s dis­cus­sion at the oral ar­gu­ment in Oc­to­ber, I can’t say I’m sur­prised,” Tru­elove said. “We have to live with it right now.”

Tru­elove said that CROP had de­vised its own three­rHJIRN SODN, EuW NHvHr RI­fi­cially pre­sented it, us­ing it in­stead as a point of com­par­i­son with the district’s plan.

“We didn’t present it as an al­ter­nate plan, per se,” Tru­elove said. “ead we done that, per­haps [the de­ci­sion] would have been dif­fer­ent.”

Af­ter sort­ing through both plans and hear­ing ar­gu­ments for each, Pres­i­dent Judge Scott de­ter­mined that both plans met the cri­te­ria for re­align­ment con­tained in the school code, which is why the de­ci­sion came down to “which of the two plans would best serve the needs of the school district,” ac­cord­ing to the of­fiFIDO ZrIWWHN FRSy RI 3rHsI­dent Judge Scott’s de­ci­sion.

Penns­bury School Board so­lic­i­tor Jef­frey Sul­tanik said the rul­ing un­der­scores what the board has been ar­gu­ing since the process started.

“Judge Scott es­sen­tially adopted what the Penns­bury School Board has been say­ing from day one about the board’s pe­ti­tion ver­sus CROP’s pe­ti­tion,” Sul­tanik said. “The board’s … plan pre­serves the district’s three re­gions, equal­izes the pop­u­la­tion among the three re­gions, and does not im­pact any ex­ist­ing seated board mem­ber.”

One thing both sides agreed on was that the school district’s cur­rent FRN­fiJurDWIRN KDG EHFRPH too un­bal­anced, with a dif­fer­ence of more than 13 per­cent be­tween the most and least pop­u­lated re­gions. The board’s plan low­ers that num­ber to 2.91 per­cent, while CROP’s plan pro­posed a 7.44 per­cent de­vi­a­tion.

De­spite the num­bers and Pres­i­dent Judge Scott’s pledge to keep pol­i­tics out of her de­ci­sion, much of the two sides’ ar­gu­ments have po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones. CROP’s plan would have al­tered the way the school board is cur­rently con­sti­tuted, which some have ar­gued was the sole mo­ti­va­tion for CROP’s plan to be­gin with.

In a let­ter dated June 19, 2012 from Penns­bury Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent de­orge Miller to the Penn­syl­va­nia State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (PSEA), Miller asked the PSEA for fiNDNFIDO DssIsWDNFH WR fiJKW the le­gal bat­tle, in part be­cause un­der the nine-re­gion plan, “there can be only one rep­re­sen­ta­tive per re­gion … [School board vice pres­i­dent Simon] Camp­bell and an­other mem­ber of his ma­jor­ity, hath­leen wawacki, whose terms end in 2013 ZRuOG fiNG WKHy KDvH NR seat to run for re-elec­tion.”

col­low­ing Tues­day’s re­lease of Pres­i­dent Judge Scott’s de­ci­sion, Camp­bell penned a let­ter of his own, ask­ing for PEA mem­bers to take a “salary re­duc­tion in the amount of le­gal fees that the school district was need­lessly forced to in­cur.”

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