26 Feb Patel Out At Scranton School Board
Scranton School Director Gopal Patel announced this week that he is stepping down from the job he has held for two months. Patel, a local businessman, was selected by a 4-3 vote in December following Paige Gebhardt Cognetti’s resignation from the School Board.
The appointment was met with criticism. Unlike the process observed after School Director Carol Oleski’s untimely death last October, Patel was named without the vacancy being advertised or the motion to appoint him even being listed on the agenda. The local businessman had previously applied to fill Oleski’s vacancy, which went to Greg Popil. Board President Barbara Dixon argued that having conducted the previous search it made sense to pick from that list. Observers, most notably Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, argued that by seating Patel without public comment the majority school directors violated the Sunshine Law.
Since October, there have been three vacancies on the School Board. In addition to Oleski and Cognetti, Robert Casey, the board’s vice president, resigned earlier this month due to conflicts with his role as a state employee working for DePasquale. Director Mark McAndrew also wants out: he’s seeking one of two seats on the City Council in the May 21st Democratic primary.
The departures come at a difficult time for the Scranton School District. Two former employees are under federal indictment. Tensions with the Scranton Federation of Teachers are high. In January, state leaders placed the beleaguered district in recovery status. Dr. Candis Finan, a former Pike County schools superintendent, is the state’s chief recovery officer responsible for a plan that may include layoffs, service reductions, and tax increases.
Patel, who in 2017 was also named by Democratic Mayor Bill Courtright to a seat on the Scranton Sewer Authority, has indicated that he is leaving Scranton to temporarily live in Florida.