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2 Allentown School Board members resign

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 22 2013 09:13:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 23 2013 01:32:15 PM CDT

Furloughed teachers getting jobs back in Allentown

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

In a surprising turn of events, Allentown School Board Directors Joanne Jackson and Julie Ambrose tendered their respective resignations during Thursday night's board of directors meeting.

Jackson, an outspoken advocate for the district's teachers, has not been shy about being at odds with other school board members and the administration of Superintendent C. Russell Mayo according to comments she has made over the last several months and echoed once again Thursday night. 

Ambrose resigned due to personal educational pursuits that conflict with her board duties and schedule. The board is expected to approve the resignations of both directors at their next board meeting in September.

The seven remaining board members will have 30-days to approve their replacements, who will serve the remainder of Jackson and Ambrose's terms.

Prior to the resignations, the directors voted to recall a total of 71 teachers who were laid off in July's budget vote. The vote was 6-3.

There was no discussion on the measure prior to or after the vote. The approval is effective August 26th.

In other business Thursday night, a motion to grant inclusion of the Adelaide Silk Mill to the list of Keystone Opportunity Zone in order to spur an 150-unit loft-style apartment unit failed by a 5-4 vote.

Director Scott Armstrong who has been a fierce critic of the granting the proposed project the KOZ designation, spoke prior to the vote.

"This is not in our best interest," Armstrong said passionately.

Armstrong added that the "property could be fairly valuable" if the fervent development of the Neighborhood Improvement Zone would "pan out" and that by approving the measure Thursday night, the directors would, in essence, be giving the property away, while also potentially being responsible for educating additional students who would live in the apartments.

The majority of his fellow directors agreed.

The 235,000-square foot former mill was once a bastion of activity during the early 20th century but has been sitting dormant for years and is in a deteriorating state, according to documents filed with the board by the City of Allentown.

The city had sought approval from the board on behalf of developer Borko Milosev, who in his zeal to win the board's favor to perform a $25 million rehab on the facility, agreed to pay the district $20,000 annually in lieu of taxes if the zone had been approved.

In other news, Mayo announced that a total of 16 classrooms in Sheridan Elementary have been found to have "higher than normal levels of mold" in various carpets.

With the detection of the fungus, the district is now forced to immediately hire a contractor to remove the carpets and disinfect the 16 rooms next week, Mayo said.

"Hopefully we will be ready by the opening day of school," he said.

Teachers will not be able to access the building next week as the building will be "quarantined," as Mayo put it, until the work is complete and the building is deemed mold free.