Panther Valley graduate, volunteer football coach and former Nesquehoning borough Councilman Richard Zabroski is the school board's newest member.
The board appointed Zabroski, a Republican, to serve the time remaining on the term of school director Anthony Pondish, who resigned in October. Zabroski's appointment breaks the months-long 4-4 vote logjam by the board created by Pondish's absence.
Shortly after Zabroski was sworn in on Thursday, longtime school directors R. Mickey Angst and David Hiles said they were relieved at the surge of interest in board seats.
They said they did not expect to serve the entire four-year terms to which they were elected in November. Both said they ran for election only because there weren't enough candidates to fill the ballot.
Pointing to the slate of eight candidates seeking the board seat, both Angst and Hiles said they felt confident there is now sufficient interest in board seats for them to retire from public office.
The board voted 5-3 to appoint Zabroski, with school director Koreen Nalesnik breaking rank and voting with Anthony DeMarco, David Hiles, Jeff Markovich and Michelle Markovich.
School directors Angst, Irene Genther and Bill Hunsicker voted for Republican Mike Celentano of Summit Hill, who lost his bid for a seat on the board in the November general election. Angst said that Celentano should have been appointed because he was the only candidate who ran for election to the board.
Superintendent Rosemary Porembo asked each candidate seven questions the board had compiled: Why are you interested in becoming a member of the board? Do you have proof of residency in the school district? What is your personal involvement with education in our community? Do you have the time to commit to this? What makes you stand out among the candidates? What do you feel is the number one challenge in our school today? What is your priority concern regarding the school district that has not been raised?
Zabroski said he coaches Little League, Knee-Hi football, and wrestling. He has a degree in education from East Stroudsburg University, and said the first challenge would be balancing education, extra-curricular activities in order to develop well-rounded students.
Zabroski said news reports that show the school district in a negative light need to be changed.
"When I went here in 1986, you were proud, walking around with your chest out to be a part of Panther Valley, and I think, at this point, we need to get back to that," he said.
He told the board they had a tough job, but "the job of the school board is to govern the school, and the priority is the students of Panther Valley."
Zabroski said board members "need to actually sit back and look at why you are here, and be the impartial people that you need to be to govern the school the way it should be governed so that our students have the proper education and the ability to go out and become a pivotal part of society."
He attributes his success in life – Zabroski manages operations for three Macy's stores – to teachers, coaches and administrators at Panther Valley.
The other seven candidates were Celentano; former Panther Valley school director Robert Graver of Summit Hill; retired nurse Andrea Marren of Coaldale; school administrator Christopher Smith of Lansford; attorney Adam Weaver of Summit Hill; insurance agent John Williams of Lansford; and realtor Douglas Yoder of Nesquehoning.
In a related matter, the board, now having a full roster, was finally able to reorganize. Jeff Markovich was elected president; Koreen Nalesnik, vice-president, and Michelle Markovich, secretary.