Tax hike, dress code draw public’s ire at Wyoming Area School Board meeting

By Marcella Kester - For Times Leader

EXETER — A proposed dress code and a 5 percent tax hike made for a contentious meeting for the Wyoming Area School Board Tuesday night.

Students and district residents filled the Secondary Center’s auditorium, many signing a petition to dismiss the newly proposed dress code.

The policy — which took up most of the later half of the meeting — is defined as a “structured dress code,” according to papers handed out at the meeting. It defines clothing requirements, which would effect for district students in grades 4 through 12.

According to the proposal, sweatpants, yoga, stretch or spandex pants would not be permitted. No cargo pants or cargo pockets would be allowed, and pants must be “casual/dress/corduroy or dark colored blue denim jean pants of a solid color.”

Shirts must be a polo or button-down shirt, but should not be open further than two buttons.

A petition was brought before the board, started by district students and parents before the meeting, which allegedly acquired more than 100 signatures at the meeting alone.

“Our principal posted about the dress code on Twitter,” said incoming senior Albert Sciandra. “It was passed on from there.”

Sciandra — who has been class vice president throughout his high school career — gathered with his fellow class representatives at the meeting to debate the proposal with board members.

Peter Butera, who has been the prior class president for the incoming senior class, was first to hit the podium.

He brought up his rebuttals with the board, stating that the new code has no real merit and that dressing up students will not prevent bullying or a school shooting.

“Somehow dressing misbehaved kids up in nice clothes will make them act better,” Butera said to cheers and applause from audience members.

District Solicitor Jarrett Ferrentino said that the proposal was only the first read and will not be voted on until at least July or August. He also offered students the chance to gather and present their own proposals to the board before the next meeting on July 26.

Board members also had a lengthy discussions with attendees over a proposed electronic device policy, with both board members and the public noting concerns with the policy, which was not written by the district and is instead a generalized policy that multiple local districts have used in recent years.

Another agenda item that was voted on and passed drew complaints from the audience.

The board — with the exception of Toni Valenti — voted to hire an “assistant principal of discipline” at a total cost of $116,00, a $65,000 base salary and $51,000 for benefits.

District Superintendent Janet Serino claimed that the district needs someone to handle student disciplinary actions so that the other two administrators can focus on curriculum and other details.

The vote came on the heels of an approved 5 percent tax hike for district residents living in Luzerne County. Many voiced their frustrations with the hire, saying their tax dollars are being spent in the wrong places.

The district approved a 2016-17 general fund of $33,312,034 with a tax of 15.4127 mills for Luzerne County and 75.998 mills for district residents living in Wyoming County. A mill is $1 per of tax $1,000 of assessed property value.

By Marcella Kester

For Times Leader

Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.

Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.

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