MILTON — Milton Area School District Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan responded this week to what she classified as acts of “bullying” being carried out against administrators and board members by certain members of the community.
Without revealing the specific instances she was referring to, Keegan read a lengthy statement on the matter during Tuesday’s board committee session.
“I believe freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy, but I also believe that in the current state of our nation we have never needed responsible speech more,” Keegan said. “It is my understanding that we have become victims of people in this community waging a ruthless campaign against us.
“There is a human cost to the relentless propaganda we are experiencing,” she continued. “Although each of us continue to put on a brave face, I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been to many.”
She said administrators and board members have made “concentrated efforts” to remain professional and reasonable.
“Lies after lies have been created at the expense of many of us,” Keegan said. “We have silently and privately suffered. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to our leadership principles.”
She said there comes a time when one must stand up to tactics being carried out against district administrators and board members.
“Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences good people,” Keegan said. “We all know that bullying is unacceptable.”
She said the Milton community has been “purposely misled” and information has been strategically omitted as lies have been spread.
“If we are saying no and no has become a bad word, then we are no longer doing our jobs,” Keegan said. “Under my leadership, we will not break school district rules, board policy or state and federal laws. We will lead with integrity.”
Several board members and administrators offered words of support to Keegan following her remarks on Tuesday.
“That needed too be said and I support it,” board member Kevin Fry said. “This team is here for an environment of education. I support you.”
Board Vice President Brett Hosterman said he agreed with Fry.
“We are here for the kids,” Dr. Brian Ulmer, the district’s director of Secondary Education, said. “We want to be here. We appreciate your support, as a board.”
Athletic Director Rod Harris likened the situation to how a sports team would react to a difficult situation.
“When you are put under duress, teams unite,” he said. “This team is united under one front to stand tall and stay strong.”
In a separate discussion during the meeting, Keegan said she sent a letter to Sen. John Gordner (R-27) and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera outlining concerns with the costs of private cyber-charter schools.
For students who attend a cyber-charter school operated by the district, Keegan said the cost is $2,620 per student.
Under state law, she noted that school districts are required to pay the tuition for students who opt to attend private cyber-charter schools.
According to Keegan, private cyber-charter schools charge $12,337 for reach regular education student and $24,837 for special education students.
Last year, she said the Milton Area School District was responsible for paying the costs of 30 students to attend Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, at a cost to the district of $365,300.
“It’s not free,” Keegan said, of cyber-charter schools. “The taxpayers do pay for that.”
Fifteen years ago, board member Christine Rantz said the district paid $50,000 per year in tuition for students to attend cyber-charter schools.
Keegan said Gov. Tom Wolf’s agenda for the coming year includes further discussions on the costs to school districts of cyber-charter schools.