SALEM TOWNSHIP — Parents and teachers in the district are concerned about the quality of board leadership, according to one Regional School Unit 58 resident.

At the start of the Thursday evening’s meeting at Mt. Abram High School, Elizabeth Marble, a Freeman Township resident and mother of six children in the school system, told the board of directors she was starting a petition drive that would show support for board Chairman Dan Worcester’s resignation.

She claimed Worcester, a director from Phillips, had fostered an atmosphere of mistrust and intimidation.

“The chairperson hovers over two cost centers in our budget that totals approximately $1.9 million each year,” she said. “Because the chairperson does not allow anyone to scrutinize these centers as closely as all the others, the poor taxpayers he is claiming to protect are spending money unnecessarily that could be used for students’ programs and services.”

Worcester was the district’s transportation and facilities director before resigning in 2009 to take a position with the commercial pellet boiler company that sold the district two boiler systems.

He said he had not responded to Marble’s phone calls and email requesting a chance to discuss these issues before Thursday’s meeting because he was on vacation in Florida until Tuesday.

He suggested she should check her facts about 2014-15 budget decisions. Last year’s $9 million budget was lower than the previous year’s $9.2 million.

“We cut transportation and maintenance and tennis,” Worcester said.

Marble said after the meeting that she would urge community members to listen to past audio recordings posted on the website.

Teachers and staff members have left the district because of frustration and low morale, she said. Business Manager Luci Milewski and Technology Director Angel Allen recently have resigned their positions, she noted, and she predicted that others will follow.

Much of the problem, she said, was the lack of involvement in the local communities. Each year, a handful of people make decisions with little understanding of the process, she said.

She also said that teachers have been working without a contract for three years. “Our district has spent a lot of money on legal fees.”

The 14 directors will continue their preliminary review of cost centers in the 2015-16 budget.

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