JERSEY SHORE - While a preliminary hearing is scheduled in Northumberland County today for Jersey Shore Area Superintendent Richard Emery, the district's school board took action Tuesday, approving a suspension for the district head following a drunken driving charge.
The board unanimously approved a 15-day suspension without pay for Emery, who is facing charges of allegedly driving while intoxicated. The suspension began May 22 and will conclude June 12.
According to an earlier report, charges came against Emery following a one-car crash the night of April 6 along Route 147 in Northumberland County. Emery failed a series of sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol level of 0.211 percent, the report said.
The approved item by the board included a stipulation that if Emery is found guilty of the charges he would be required to speak with all district students about his decision.
The decision came after a 25-minute executive session to discuss personnel matters.
Comments on the topic originally were not allowed as George Shroat, borough resident, began talking on the matter during courtesy of the floor.
Shroat began speaking on a situation last year when some district students were suspended 60 days from extracurricular activities following a party where underage drinking was present.
"Now the shoe's on the other foot," Shroat said.
Board President Robert Pryor then interrupted Shroat saying, "We are not going to discuss personnel issues."
Pryor told the public that the matter would be discussed later in the meeting.
"I understand that, but I hope you're not going to give him a slap on the wrist," Shroat said.
Residents Burt Francis and Keith Barrows questioned why the topic could not be discussed during public comment since it was an agenda item.
"Policy 903 doesn't say that you can limit the comment based on the content," Barrows said.
"I think we have the right to address the agenda item," Francis added.
After the board voted 9-0 to approve the punishment for Emery, Francis again spoke up. He stood up and rose a "parliamentary inquiry." He told the board that the public should have the right to make statements on the matter. He said he did not have any comment but wanted those in the audience who did to be able to speak.
After consulting J. David Smith, solicitor, Pryor reopened courtesy of the floor.
Robin Reidell, of Avis, brought up the student suspension again, saying that after the students "got busted," they weren't allowed to attend graduation.
"How is this any different?" she asked the board. "Why does he only get a 15-day suspension and the kids got 60?"
Pryor said after the meeting that he was at fault for stopping comments on the matter.
"I got some advice that if it's on the agenda that it can be commented on, but I don't have to respond," Pryor said, explaining why courtesy of the floor was reopened.
Pryor added that now that Emery's punishment has been approved, the board won't discuss it further.
"We want to move on," he said. "We don't want to discuss it."
Emery also faces three summary offenses. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. today before District Judge Richard P. Cashman.