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AASD board leader retires

After a decade in office, school director and current Altoona Area School Board president Sharon Bream has resigned.

Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said Bream’s resignation, which was effective Sunday, is a retirement.

“Sharon was on the board for 10 years and had a great career as a school director,” Prijatelj said. “She has family that she wants to spend more time with, and she wants to be able to enjoy her retirement and focus on that aspect of her life.”

Bream, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, served on the board since 2011 and is a lifelong resident of Logan Township.

She was re-elected to a four-year term in 2019, and her term doesn’t expire until December 2023.

Prijatelj said the district has 30 days to fill her position. Board members are scheduled to meet for a work session Thursday to discuss how to fill the position.

Prijatelj said all options will be considered during Thursday’s work session and a final action plan will be formed then.

Former vice president Frank Meloy was elected as the new board president by a 6-2 vote, with Eric Haugh and Kelly Irwin Adams dissenting.

Irwin Adams said she did not think it was “in her best judgment” to vote yes and said she believes there has been a lack of transparency between the school administration, Meloy and the school directors.

Irwin Adams said Meloy “was a great mentor to my husband, and I think it’s without question his role as an assistant superintendent was wonderful. My ‘no’ vote tonight has to do with his role as school director.”

Irwin Adams said she hopes the lack of transparency can improve.

Haugh did not provide any reasoning for his no vote.

Meloy, the only nominee, thanked his fellow school directors and said, “I will try to fulfill my duties to the best of my ability.”

Val Mignogna, who is the newest school director, was the only nominee for vice president and was unanimously approved.

Moving into a regular meeting, resident Janelle Yerty, who has two children in the district, requested board members reconsider the district’s mask mandate.

Yerty said that decisions regarding face coverings should be a personal choice for students and their parents.

Two staff members, a teacher and a crossing guard, died in the past month due to COVID-19, and Prijatelj said safety is the No. 1 priority for the entire administration.

“We have to take this seriously,” Prijatelj said. “We are doing everything we can to keep our students safe. We have a pretty strong control of our situations at this point. We’ve been running our COVID protocol all year by cleaning and sanitizing rooms. We’ll have to see how the whole mask mandate plays out in the courts.”

School directors honored the two employees who recently died and acknowledged their dedication during their careers.

Heather Marie Gailey, 45, died Nov. 30 due to complications of COVID-19 after serving as a teacher since 2001.

Meloy said the district lost a remarkable teacher and mentor. “Her care, compassion and commitment to students has enhanced the quality of our education program and mission.”

Debra Ann Church, 63, died Nov. 26, also due to complications of COVID-19, Prijatelj said.

Church was employed by the city as a crossing guard for students at the high school, and school directors said her positive attitude and devotion to the safety of students will be sorely missed.

“The school crossing guard can be a thankless position, but Debby always had a smile on her face,” Meloy said. “She took pride in ensuring the safety of all those who crossed traffic. She was well-respected by Altoona police services for the job she performed. She will be greatly missed.”

After the meeting, Prijatelj responded to Yerty’s comments, saying the district is “not taking the situation lightly.”

Prijatelj said the district is following the mandate from Pennsylvania Department of Health that requires face coverings to be worn in all school entities, and even with the order being battled in court, he said the district will continue to follow the order until new guidelines are established by the state.

“We are going to abide with whatever the decision is,” Prijatelj said.

Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.

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