When: Warwick school board meeting, July 19.
What happened: During the meeting, residents brought up a wide range of topics, with a large amount of discussion on gender and transgender students.
Comments: Bethany Tomassetti wondered if students were encouraged by the school district to pick their gender, and noted that gender identity should be black and white. Mark Mueller gave a explicit and graphically detailed description of a sex change operation. Moms for Liberty member Rachel Wilson Snyder said that she was upset about the definition of gender. Parker Webb spoke about being transgender and said that students should be able to express who they are without fear of retribution. Webb noted that the high rate of suicide is not because a person is transgender or queer but rather because of the way they are treated by society.
Questions to board: Responding to questions from Justin Cook, Superintendent April Hershey and Assistant Superintendent Melanie Calender confirmed staff doesn’t encourage students to pick a gender or encourage or offer gender reassignment. Instead, the administrators agreed they encourage “students, teachers and policies that create a psychologically safe environment for students regardless of gender identity and which are inclusive regardless of gender identity.”
Other public comments: Amy Martin questioned why the school district was using Lancaster General Health medical personal to fill in for the school district’s athletic trainer when there were multiple events going on at the same time. Separately, Kimberly Regennas said she did not agree with an opt-in instead of an opt-out procedure involving books and educational materials that board member Jim Koelsch proposed at the June 21 meeting. She noted that the Library Review Committee has reviewed more than 1,000 materials and that highly trained librarians select appropriate learning materials. Parents are already able to opt out of any materials they do not want their children to read. An opt-in policy would be too costly and complicated to implement, she said.
Message of unity: Before public comments, board member Lisa Miller reminded those in attendance that the board was there for everyone. Her words were intended to heal the rift that has developed for the past two years at school board meetings, on a variety of topics ranging from masks and vaccines to book banning and equity.
Quotable: “I see you when you come and speak. I see and I hear all of you,” Miller said. “You are valued. ... We have an amazing board who cares about all of you. We are willing to talk to you.”
Personnel matters: The board approved a change of status for Colleen Heckman to be named as director of student services, filling a vacant position. Heckman has been serving as a learning facilitator at John Beck Elementary School. In her 30 years with the Warwick School District, she had previously served as a learning support teacher, school counselor and interim principal at John R. Bonfield Elementary School. Board members also approved a new language arts teacher at Warwick Middle School and an occupational therapist for the elementary schools.
Project updates: The board was updated on the new field house change orders for bleachers and the pouring of concrete footings for stadium seating at a cost of more than $48,000. It was also reported that during installation of sewage lines, there were issues that require a different pump and a budget variance. The board approved an updated plan for the roofing project at John Beck Elementary School, requiring resheeting of areas of the plank deck to allow for a solid surface for nailing the shingles.
Additional approvals: The board approved as a second reading, the policy revisions on student expression/dissemination of materials and nonschool organizations/groups/individuals. They also approved the election and salaries for 2022-23 of the extracurricular bargaining positions for athletics, the extra-duty bargaining position rates and professional contracts, and the extra-duty nonbargaining position rates and professional contracts.