Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jen Holzberger's Resignation from EASD School Board Leaves the 7th of 9 School Board Positions Up for Grabs This Fall

The Holzbergers on a recent trip to London, where they will be moving this August.

Posted by: Noël Jones

She seemed almost out of breath when I spoke to Easton Area School Board member Jen Holzberger today about her family's impending move to London. "It's chaos--I only have until Monday to get the whole household packed for the movers!"

Jen Holzberger, after years in the PTA, was elected two years ago to the school board--a run inspired out of concern for the district where her children attended school. After learning about issues facing the district through PTA and school board meetings, she decided to take the plunge. And what a plunge it was.

Holzberger has represented Region III during some of the most contentious school board meetings in recent history--meetings that saw the firing of 72 teachers (which she voted against) during the budget
crisis brought on by the double-whammy of an economic recession, and delayed pension payments coming due for the district. Regular taxpaying citizens, teachers, parents, students and union members flooded the board meetings at the Education Center, meetings which ultimately had to be relocated to the Easton Area High School Auditorium, and even then, the line for public comment wound out the doors, spilling into the hallway outside. The meetings sometimes went past midnight. But unlike other school board members who sought to limit public comment so that the meetings would be shorter, Holzberger didn't complain and took it as part of the responsibility of the position to which she had been elected,  consistently studying the budget and challenging the administration and the board to follow policy and rein in wasteful spending, while still looking out for the concerns of students and teachers.

Holzerger had two more years left to her term, but her husband was recently promoted at his company and transferred to London, so the family will be moving to London in August. Is she relieved to not have to deal with the stress and pressure of being on the school board any more? "Not really," says Holzberger, "you know, I would never pressure anyone to run for the office, because there is a lot that comes with it--the hours of reading and research, the criticism, the media attention, the attention that is drawn to your family--even an average trip to the grocery store can be affected--but for anyone that has considered running in the past, or is considering it now, I would say that I'm still really glad I did it and despite all the challenges, it does have it's rewarding moments."

Always a class act, here is Jen Holzberger's resignation letter on the EASD web site.

Those in the community who have been eager for change from the croneyistic status quo in the EASD will be sorry to see this "newcomer" go, and can only hope that other dedicated citizens will step forward to run for her spot, take the position as seriously, and the heat as gracefully, as she has. In fact, with this new resignation hot on the heels of the resignation of Sarah Bilotti, we now have 7 out of 9 board positions up for turnover. For a community who has been screaming for change as much as those in the Easton Area School District have, we had better make sure that all that complaining and criticizing turns into a full complement of new candidates to run for these positions this fall.


Julie Zando-Denis said...

What a loss for the school board and the City of Easton. Best of luck to you and your family as you embark on this new adventure.

noel jones said...

Here is a great point made by a reader to me backchannel in an email, which I will post anonymously here:

"I'm not sure how you come up with Sue taking home $324,000 of our money this year.

Actually if you read her contract that may be an underestimate, long term!

Here is why--the cute language of her contract allows her to bank vacation time then to selectively elect to pay herself any banked amounts as salary.

Now if she just happens to trigger a salary bump of say $50,000 inside one of the consecutive 36 months she uses for retirement purposes the net impact is to bump her lifetime retirement pay by roughly $350,000!

Now other mere mortal teachers, even well paid administrators like Kish and Guidry are barred by their contract language from making any such use of banked time---unless of course payroll were to report the payouts as salary during the course of employment (makes one wonder just how the sweetheart payouts given to 2 male administrators a few years back were treated for pension purposes?)

Now frankly I do NOT fault any individual for trying to get the best compensation package they can get--I fault the supposed elected watchdogs for giving away the store. Quite frankly the Board did it once again via an essentially a no cut guaranteed multi-year contract for the COO. Any intelligent real world corporation would have strongly considered it as an 'at will' employment situation."

noel jones said...

in answer to this reader, the $324K was a quote from the ET article, but i'm sure they weren't figuring in the bump to her pension. it's a really good point.

I would also like to remind everyone that the COO recently hired that this reader mentions, is apparently related by marriage to Sue McGinley, so we shouldn't be surprised that he received a similar provision. Outraged, certainly. But not surprised.

Let's face it, we have basically only had two real watchdogs for the community on school board: Jen Holzberger, who is leaving, and Kerri Leonard-Ellison, who is running for re-election, and is being challenged by the brother of the HR Director John Castrovinci.

It is really important, if resident really want to turn this board around, that a) we make sure Ellison gets re-elected, and b) we make sure that someone of similar quality and dedication runs for Jen Holzberger's seat and WINS.

With 7 of 9 seats up for grabs, we need to make damned sure that all the people we elect are going to actually READ THE CONTRACTS and vote to only approve contracts in the best interest of the people.

The croneyism destroying Easton has got to stop. But it will not stop on its own--we have to MAKE it stop. It's our responsibility to attend the meetings, get to know our school board members by seeing them in action, and only electing the ones acting on our behalf, rather than their own self-interest, or just plain laziness and incompetence.

I hope to see everyone on Thursday--Enough is enough!

Piaggio said...

@anonymous who made the verbal attack (that has since been deleted) on Noel: if you seem to know so much about well how the EASD is being run internally and administratively, please make us as knowledgeable as you are and inform us. At the very least, make available your connection to the district, the administration, or the SB. As I have stated before, my relationship to the SD is that of a retired EAHS teacher. What is yours?

noel jones said...

Piaggio--thanks for posting. i think you're referring to a verbal attack in another recent EASD post. no comments have been deleted from this post. on the rare occasion that i feel the need to delete a comment, readers can see a note with the original time stamp that says "deleted by administrator".

For better or for worse, I am part of the media, and much like a newspaper, I do not disclose my sources, otherwise no one would feel comfortable tell me what is going on within the district. As I do not like to be wrong about things, I only post information based on leaks from very reliable sources within the district. When I am unsure of something, I state openly that I am unsure and want verification from readers, i.e., rumors of the new COO being related to McGinley-a reader posted some extremely specific and verifiable information that was helpful to all of us who are trying to figure things out. This blog is and remains a community effort of individuals and not within anyone else's control. I could not do it myself--the flood of information is hard to keep up with sometimes, but I am always grateful for it.

You are welcome to call the Express-Times or the Morning Call and demand to know their confidential sources too, but I imagine that you will get a similar reply.

When people tell me things off the record, they stay off the record. When reliable people on the inside tell me things anonymously, I report the information without revealing their names.

There are hundreds of employees in the district, and hundreds in our community who have worked with the district in the past. The idea that the administration thinks that everyone is happy and that no one is going to share information is unrealistic.

Bloggers are different from journalists and both are different from an organization like WikiLeaks for instance, but all are part of the media, and when people are unhappy and want change, they talk to the media.

As there is a deficit of trust in this school district and quite frankly in this city, county, state, there is no shortage of people who want to see change. It is pointless for the administration to get upset about leaks, as it is a problem of their own creation.

Piaggio said...

Noel, the deleted comments I was referring to were under the blog about the supt. that followed the one about Ms. H's resignation. . Sorry, must be the heat. They were not deleted, I simply posted under the wrong blog, and when I did not see them, I thought they were gone.

noel jones said...

no problema--i get confused myself when there are multiple posts on the home page about the EASD!

chandra said...

You made me smile!
Copy of Resignation Letter