Following the release of a grand jury report that criticized how school leaders handled a sexual assault investigation, hundreds of parents in Susquehanna Township have called on district administrators to resign.
Dozens of people in the Dauphin County community met Monday night to discuss the grand jury report and ways to improve the district.
“And, it was really the last straw in a series of very bad decisions the administration has been making in the last few years,” said Bonnie Finnerty.
Finnerty is a parent of five children, two of whom graduated from the school district. She placed the other three in private school because of her concerns with academics and other issues in the district.
After hearing about the grand jury report, she started a petition seeking the resignation of district superintendent Dr. Susan Kegerise and assistant superintendents Cathy Taschner and Kimberly Donahue. As of Monday night, the petition (which can be viewed here) had almost 700 signatures.
“New leadership at this point is in order. It’s the only way to restore the hope that the community wants to have in this district,” said Finnerty.
According to the grand jury report, district administrators heard rumors in the spring about a possible sexual relationship between a student and the high school’s assistant principal, Shawn Sharkey. Investigators found school leaders allowed Sharkey to be in the room while they questioned students. The grand jury report says the administrators focused more on figuring out who started the rumors as opposed to determining if there really was a victim.
On the advice of Paul Blunt, the district’s legal counsel at the time, no administrators went to police about the accusations. Blunt’s law firm no longer serves as the district’s solicitor.
In the fall, police say new evidence came to light and Sharkey was arrested.
“Those people are mandatory reporters, so I don’t know how that they can say ‘Well, since your solicitor advised you, then it’s OK,’” said Jennifer Lench, a parent.
A few school board members attended Monday’s community meeting as well.
Recently elected board member Clifton Edwards said about the calls for the administrators to resign, “So, simply throwing the captain off the ship might not be the best way to redirect the ship at this moment in our journey.”
Board member Carol Karl added, “You fix the systemic problems, and then the individual problems become smaller and fewer and fewer.”
During a board meeting before the community meeting, the board voted to hire Shaffer & Engle Law Offices as interim solicitor.