Cost of aquatic scoreboard brings controversy to Parkland School Board
SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. — Parkland School Board has gotten into a heated debate over a scoreboard.
The board on Tuesday discussed controversy over a Sept. 29 vote to pay about $80,000 for a new scoreboard for the district’s swimming pool, with Director Patrick Foose saying he is getting calls about his vote against the scoreboard, and accusing the board of not being transparent.
- School Board Director Patrick Foose said he was harassed by fellow board members for voting against a new scoreboard for the district's swimming pool and the process was not transparent
- Board President David Hein said the board is transparent, and Foose had access to all the information he needed to vote on the issue
- The new scoreboard would pay for itself through advertising revenue, other board members said
“We all have a right to vote as we please on any given matter,” Foose said. “I should not expect to ever have to get a call at 10 p.m. at night after the meeting to discuss my remarks. I was elected by the taxpayers of Parkland and that is who I am accountable to.”
But board President David Hein responded that the school board is transparent, and said school board members can get the information they need.
“Let me be clear on this point: I do not care, nor have I ever cared, how a board member votes, and I will never tell a board member how to vote,” Hein said at Tuesday’s meeting. “That is their choice. And I respect that.
“What I do expect, however, is that we all educate ourselves on the topics at hand.”
“Let me be clear on this point: I do not care, nor have I ever cared, how a board member votes, and I will never tell a board member how to vote. That is their choice. And I respect that. What I do expect, however, is that we all educate ourselves on the topics at hand.”David Hein, president of the Parkland School District Board of Directors
Buying a scoreboard
The current scoreboard at the swimming pool is broken, so the school board’s Academics, Arts and Athletics Committee looked at several possibilities for its replacement.
School Board Director Marisa Ziegler said the committee considered a scoreboard that would cost about $21,000 and a video scoreboard that would cost about $80,000.
The committee chose the video scoreboard because it can display advertisements. Ziegler said she expects about $10,000 to $12,000 in advertising revenue a year, meaning the scoreboard would pay for itself in 4-6 years.
Ziegler also said the video scoreboard would provide curriculum opportunities for students interested in learning about graphic design and advertising sales.
Parkland Director of Community Relations and Development Nicole McGalla said the district has an advertising program with other sports such as football, soccer and basketball that brings in about $100,000 a year.
Hein added in an interview that the more expensive scoreboard would integrate with the pool’s current equipment better than the cheaper option, and that the scoreboard will be paid for through the Capital Projects Fund, which is set aside for larger building projects.
The board voted 7-2 at its Sept. 29 meeting to buy the video scoreboard, despite concerns from directors Foose and Jarrett Coleman that it cost too much.
Wants more information
Foose, in particular, raised concerns about the board’s transparency. He said the committee he chairs did not receive a brief on the issue, and when he asked the superintendent and other board directors for more information, he did not receive adequate information to make his decision.
So he submitted a request for the information under the state’s Right to Know law.
“How can we claim to be open and transparent when we aren't providing each other with the necessary information to make the best decisions possible for the taxpayers?” Foose said at the Sept. 29 meeting.
Coleman also expressed concern for the cost of the scoreboard, suggesting the school board should buy the cheaper item to save the taxpayers money.
Foose said he received more information after he submitted the request, but he thought it was not enough for him to make a decision. He said he did not receive information about the potential lifespan of the scoreboard.
At the Sept. 29 meeting, Foose made a motion to table the vote for the scoreboard until he could receive more information. His motion failed, 2-7, with Coleman being the other affirming vote.
"If debate is stifled and the members who do speak out are harassed for doing so, how can we have faith in our elected bodies to do what is right for the citizens who put them into office?”Patrick Foose, Parkland School District director
On Oct. 17, Foose published a letter to the editor in the Parkland Press newspaper accusing the board of a lack of transparency and for harassing him for his vote.
“As citizens, we have the right to know exactly where our tax dollars are being spent and have a basic understanding of where the members stand on a governing body,” Foose said in the letter.
“However, if debate is stifled and the members who do speak out are harassed for doing so, how can we have faith in our elected bodies to do what is right for the citizens who put them into office?”
Says he’s moved on
In an interview, Hein said again that he believes Foose received all the information he needed to vote on the matter and that Foose’s Right to Know request was unnecessary.
“In my opinion, there's never a need for any school board director, Parkland or otherwise, to have to file a Right to Know request to get information, because we have access to the information,” Hein said.
Hein said he was not aware of any harassment or retribution against Foose. He said he tried to reach out to Foose to talk with him about the issue, but Foose said he had moved on.
“In my mind, this is not a controversy, and we were done with it over a month ago, and then it keeps coming up,” Hein said. “It’s a difference of opinion, a difference of how somebody voted. And that's, that's great. Not a controversy and, you know, in my opinion, shouldn't have gotten this far at all.”