Garnet Valley School Board enthusiastically approved new administrators. From left is school board President Rosemary Fiumara; Rickey Martin, middle school assistant principal; Caitlin Jones, Garnet Valley Elementary School principal; Superintendent Marc Bertrando; and Leslie Hutchinson attending her first board meeting as assistant  superintendent.

By Susan L. Serbin

Times Correspondent

CONCORD >>The Garnet Valley School Board’s August agenda included four pages of personnel action to start the school year. Two appointments were particularly of note, and not entirely anticipated.

The board approved the resignation of Jason Kotch, formerly Garnet Valley Elementary School principal. Superintendent Marc Bertrando said Kotch had taken a post elsewhere without extensive notice to the district.

With much enthusiasm, the board appointed Caitlin Jones to fill the position. Jones, who was in attendance for the announcement, had been the elementary school assistant principal for six years and had worked in the district since 2004.

“If ever there was someone who earned her position, Caitlin is that person. We are where we are now due to your work,” Bertrando said.

Both board President Rosemary Fiumara and Director Scott Mayer had extremely positive and welcoming comments, and the full support of the entire board. Jones’s compensation was listed as $132,000 annually.

Rickey Martin is new to Garnet Valley, having taught in the West Chester Area School District for 17 years, the last 12 as a middle school science teacher. He was approved as assistant principal at Garnet Valley Middle School. Martin replaces Dawn Papa, who will move to the classroom.

Bertrando said his children, who attended West Chester schools, called Martin “the best teacher we ever had.”

Martin said he was eager to take an administrative position and very pleased to come to Garnet Valley. His compensation was listed as $103,500.

In June the board had a presentation by Delaware County Community College on the purchase of the Archbishop Prendergast School in Upper Darby. At that time, members took no action, citing a lack of information. Of the three district municipalities, only Bethel Springs is a DCCC sponsor, and has additional millage on its tax rate.

Prior to the unanimous vote to reject the DCCC resolution, several board members commented.

“I was dissatisfied with the presentation,” said Director Greg Chestnut. “I believe the college underestimates the time and money to renovate a building that has been vacant for 10 years. The college is experiencing a decline in enrollment. We do not know how this will affect Bethel.

"And I also object to the automatic renewal of participation to the extent of the debt,” said Chestnut referring to financing not to exceed $55 million and 20 years.

Director Tracy Karwoski had similar objections to the initial presentation and “follow up which was lacking. We have not seen a bang for our buck in Garnet Valley.”

Fiumara said there were too many unknowns, and that decline of enrollment “gave us pause to move ahead.”

“This is not a reflection of support for the community college itself. Just this project,” said Mayer.

DCCC required a vote on the resolution from all of the 12 sponsor districts. The resolution had majority approval prior to the GVSB vote.

The board passed a resolution regarding the Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program which was recently added to the Public School Code. Act 64 of 2019 generally recognizes technological advances as well as environmental and societal trends. It gives public school entities the opportunity to develop an FID program to meet the 180-day instructional day requirement.

The FID program may be online, offline or a combination of the two. It is intended to be used in cases “when circumstances prevent the delivery of instruction in its customary manner or location.” The circumstance cited range from weather conditions, law enforcement emergencies, damage to school buildings through a disease epidemic.

Bertrando said the resolution is the first step to enable the district’s application to set up the program. He noted the district is already fully capable from the technology perspective, referring to the successfully operating “e-school.” Next steps include negotiations with the teachers’ association and assessment of access to technology for every student in the district.


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