Newcomer to lead Thorpe board
Members of the Jim Thorpe School Board pose for a photo. Pictured in the back row, from left, are Superintendent John Rushefski, Paul Montemuro, Scott Pompa and T.J. Garritano. Front row, from left, are Gerald Strubinger, Cindy Lesisko-Henning, Raniero Marciante via video chat and Pearl Downs-Sheckler. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES
Scott Pompa is sworn in as a new member of the Jim Thorpe School Board. Pompa was one of five members elected in November to take the oath Wednesday. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
A new member of Jim Thorpe School Board who ran his campaign on promises of transparency and a new way of doing things seemed intent to prove that Wednesday after being sworn into his position.
Shortly after he raised his right hand and promised to protect the Constitution, Paul Montemuro, a newcomer who was elected to the board in November, was also made its president by a 5-4 vote.
Montemuro nominated Scott Pompa to be vice president, which also succeeded with a 5-4 vote.
Montemuro, who was once a supervisor in Penn Forest Township, said things were going to change in Jim Thorpe. “We’re going to be a little more aggressive,” he said. “We’re going to run the meetings a little bit different.”
“We’ve got a lot to do, and that’s where we’re coming from.”
Along with Montemuro and Pompa, Cindy Lesisko-Henning, Pearl Downs-Sheckler and T.J. Garritano were also sworn in Wednesday.
Montemuro said every future meeting will be taped and audio will be kept. To make the monthly school board meetings more of a “group, family type of thing,” he also decided, public comment would not be limited to the beginning of a meeting. Instead, visitors will be allowed to comment on any motion seconded by the board, a prospect that didn’t sit well with at least one incumbent.
“They’ve been acknowledged,” Glenn Confer directed at Montemuro.
Confer then switched topics, saying to Montemuro that he doesn’t “ever want to hear of you having a special meeting outside this school district.” Confer acknowledged his words were based on “hearsay,” but still held onto his point.
The seemingly divided school board in Jim Thorpe is part of ongoing transparency concerns within the district, sparked in part by alleged money abuses by its business office. The allegations, which ended in the resignation of the district’s former business manager Lauren Kovac, were centered on school board members and administrators dining and flying first class and footing the bill with a district credit card taken out in Kovac’s name.
When it came time to appoint committee heads, most of the chair titles were given to new board members, including the one for Montemuro’s newly created field committee, which will specifically oversee district fields at L.B. Morris Elementary, Penn-Kidder and Jim Thorpe Area High School.
Montemuro then nominated himself as chair for the building and grounds committee, which again drew ire from Confer, who pointed out that as board president, Montemuro already oversees every board and shouldn’t chair one.
Montemuro named Pompa instead.
During the course of the meeting, Montemuro also asked to see the contract for Carl Beard, the school board’s attorney, said school board meetings will switch venues between the Jim Thorpe School District Office on Center Avenue and its campus in Penn-Kidder and demanded the door into the district office be opened earlier for regularly scheduled meetings.
When asked to pose for a photo for the newspaper, Confer and another member, Dennis McGinley, declined, leaving after a brief executive session.