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Knoch board members confronted over missed training

SAXONBURG — A right to know request recently revealed that several Knoch School Board members have not completed training required by the state.

Under Act 18, Section 328 of the Pennsylvania Public School Code, each newly appointed school board member is required to complete five hours of “new school director training” within the first year of their term, while each reelected school board member is required to complete three hours of “advanced school director training” within that same time frame.

The issue surfaced at a monthly work session in early May when school board candidate Tim Danehy confronted several board members with information from a right to know request he filed March 20.

A check of the records by the Butler Eagle showed that three school board members — Justin Kovach, Debra Miller and board vice president Anthony Infante — have yet to receive their school board training certificates.

The required training involves courses in subjects such as policy and administrative regulations, board’s role in finance and budgeting and facilities planning, among others.

Records show that Kovach has not received his training certificate yet. However, Kovach only joined the school board in June 2022. Under state law, newly elected school board members have one full year to complete their training; Kovach still has one month to do so.

Infante, whose term on the board started in 2021 and will run through 2025, told the Eagle that he hadn’t gotten around to completing the training yet.

Miller, who has served on the Knoch board for 19 years, said she finished her training at the end of April. As a longtime member, she was only required to take the three-hour course instead of the five hours required of newly elected members.

Miller said that both the pandemic and disruptions in the makeup of the school board impeded her from performing the required training earlier.

At the work session, Danehy said board president Donna Eakin completed her required training on March 24, 2023, more than three years late.

Eakin responded at the session that she had, in fact, completed the required training in January 2020, less than a year after she was elected. She said the records showing otherwise are a result of a series of bureaucratic mix-ups on the part of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, one of the organizations that provides the required training for school board members.

“They had me misclassified as a new board member,” Eakin told the Eagle. “So when I completed my training, they thought I had more training to do.”

While school board members are required to complete a few hours of training at the start of their term, Section 328 of the Public School Code does not specify any penalties or punishments for noncompliance.

Republicans Kovach and Eakin and Democrats Miller and Danehy won spots in the primary and will be on the ballot for school board in the general election Nov. 7. Other candidates for school board are Republicans William Gebhart, Jesse Scheller and David McRandal.

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