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Fager changes mind, will remain on Middletown Area School Board

By Dan Miller danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 7/11/17

Mel Fager has changed his mind and is staying on Middletown Area School Board, Fager told the Press & Journal in a text message on Monday, July 10.

Fager, who has been on the board since being …

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Fager changes mind, will remain on Middletown Area School Board

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Mel Fager has changed his mind and is staying on Middletown Area School Board, Fager told the Press & Journal in a text message on Monday, July 10.

Fager, who has been on the board since being appointed in January 2007, had announced he was resigning in a June 21 post on his Facebook page.

The school board had set a special meeting for Tuesday, July 11, presumably to accept Fager’s resignation. The meeting was canceled Monday.

Fager in a statement emailed to the Press & Journal after his text message said he has decided to stay on the board largely as a result of the reaction from people to his earlier decision to resign.

“After hearing pretty much every day since (announcing his resignation) from people asking questions and showing a lot of support, the one thing I keep hearing people telling me is that you can do more from on the board, than off the board, for the community,” Fager said.

Fager also said he will accept being re-elected to the board for another four years in November, if that is the will of the voters.

Six seats are open on the nine-member board this year. Five incumbents are on the November ballot, including Fager, Mike Corradi, and three others all appointed to the board since December 2016 — Brian Keating, Darnell Montgomery and John Ponnett.

The only incumbent not on the November ballot is David John, who is not seeking re-election. The only non-incumbent on the ballot is Julie Gomboc-Turyan, who lives in Middletown.

Since announcing his resignation on June 21 Fager had told the Press & Journal he was supporting a slate of four write-in candidates seeking election to the school board in November.

The slate includes Bob Newton, former school board presidents Barbara Layne and Newton Davis, and Montgomery, a Lower Swatara Township resident and Harrisburg School District teacher appointed to the board in December 2016.

The write-in slate surfaced almost immediately after the board’s controversial decision to transfer Earl Bright from principal of Reid Elementary School to becoming principal of the school district’s new in-house alternative education program.

A number of residents spoke out against the move and asked the board to reconsider, or at least delay, taking action. Close to 470 people had also signed an online petition opposing transferring Bright from Reid.

Fager and Montgomery both voted in favor of transferring Bright, as did every other member of the current board.

The write-in slate is being promoted through Facebook. Supporters say they are organizing public meetings to be held in August to promote the write-in candidates. It appears that incumbent board members, including those on the November ballot, also will be invited to attend.

Fager said the first such forum is tentatively set for Aug. 7 at Middletown Area High School.

After changing his mind and deciding to stay on the board, Fager on July 10 told the Press & Journal he had “a good conversation” with board President Linda Mehaffie.

“She agreed on a lot of things I had to say that frustrated me,” Fager said.

Mehaffie declined comment for the article when contacted Tuesday.

Fager in an earlier email to the Press & Journal, after he had announced his resignation, had referred to “the new members” coming onto the board, and how Fager had tried to get the board to hold a “retreat” to educate these new members on their responsibilities.

Fager did not identify the “new members” by name in the email. Keating, Montgomery and Ponnett had all been appointed to the board since December 2016, to replace three veteran board members who had resigned in October and in early December — Michael Richards, Terry Gilman, and then-board President Newton Davis.

“If someone is giving you the honor to work for them, you should have the respect to do everything you can to learn and know your job to the best of your ability, no matter what it takes. If it asks more of you than you can give, then it is not for you,” Fager said in the earlier email. “My feeling is, and I say this from experience, there is no way you can do your job and know what your job is, unless someone teaches you.”

Fager, who lives in Middletown, in the earlier email also said his resignation had nothing to do with recent concerns expressed by residents that the board does not have enough members on it who live in the borough.

The concern was voiced by borough resident Dawn Knull when she and other Middletown residents were trying to persuade the board not to approve transferring Bright from his position as principal at Reid Elementary.

Fager said he had never thought of the board as having too many members from Lower Swatara, and not enough from Middletown. The first he ever became aware of such a concern is when he saw it on social media, Fager said.

To Fager, the issue isn’t where board members reside, but how much they know about what it means to be on the school board.

“I think there is some out of balance as far as knowing whose duties are whose, and what you should be involved with and shouldn’t,” Fager said in the earlier email to the Press & Journal on July 1. “This can all be taught at retreats and other ways and those outlets have not been used as of the day I stepped down. I think the unbalance is a valid issue within duties of the board, but not from location of your home in our district.”

Fager in his July 10 email also said he wants to stay on the board to keep working on behalf of a program he strongly feels is needed, to provide more options and opportunities for special education students who have an IEP (Individual Education Program).

The program does not currently exist in the district, Fager said.

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