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Students, parents protest principal's retirement

Published April 21. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton Area School District's decision to accept the retirement of an elementary school principal has been met with resistance by several residents and students.

The school board on an 8-0 vote Tuesday approved the irrevocable retirement notice from Gary Bruch, principal of Towamensing Elementary, effective Oct. 4, 2010. Director Darlene Yeakel was absent.

Prior to the board's vote, several members of the audience urged them to refrain from a vote on the matter, and, instead, encouraged them to meet with Bruch so that he may potentially reconsider his stance.

Resident BillieJo Moyer, a parent who has two children that attend Towamensing, went so far as to suggest to the board that it table the item.

"I would ask that you table (the retirement) of Mr. Bruch and discuss the matters at hand," Moyer said. "Losing the principal will have a detrimental effect on the school."

However, board President Barry Scherer told Moyer the board planned to honor Bruch's retirement, which he voluntarily asked for.

"The board recognizes and appreciates Mr. Bruch's dedication to the district and the school," Scherer said. "Our recommendation is based on his request."

Still, Moyer said she believes Bruch would agree to stay on longer if the board were to sit down and talk with him.

"To lose a principal who cares about the students, I think is ridiculous," she said. "You should meet with him to see if something else could be worked out."

But, Scherer reiterated to Moyer that there was nothing more to Bruch's choice to retire.

"It's a personnel matter," he said. "All we dealt with is his (retirement) letter."

At that, several Towamensing students pleaded with the board to retain Bruch.

Sixth-grader Brock Moyer said the students supported their principal.

"We do not want to lose him," Brock said. "Losing Mr. Bruch is like losing one of the best things that ever happened to our school."

Fellow sixth-grader Cowan Unger also voiced his support of Bruch.

"I would like to ask the board to please table his request and ask him to stay another year," Cowen said. "Please talk with him and ask him to reconsider his request."

Resident Beth Brong, president of the Towamensing P.T.O., also urged the board to reconsider.

"Please consider tabling this, and talk with Mr. Bruch," Brong said. "It's going to be a tough loss to our organization."

Third-grade pupil Matthew Binder also voiced his support for Bruch.

"He's more than a principal; he's someone we can count on," Matthew said. "Please consider asking him to stay; Towamensing needs Mr. Bruch, and we need Mr. Bruch."

Resident Lorra Haydt said she, too, doesn't want to see Bruch leave.

"Losing Gary Bruch would be a big, big mistake to our school," Haydt said. "I hope you reconsider his retirement to the district, and talk to him."

After the board voted to accept Bruch's retirement, both Brong and Moyer told them they were disappointed with their decision.

But, Scherer said Bruch's retirement letter had two dates on it; Oct. 4, 2010, and June 30, 2011.

"The board is very appreciative of Gary's support," Scherer said. "We're sorry to see him go, but when an administrator comes to us with a request to retire, we're not in a position to bargain with the individual."

Superintendent Carol Boyce attempted to clarify the situation.

"The first date was in accordance with (the district's) Act 93 contract," Boyce said. "The second date was not in accordance with the Act 93 contract."

Scherer said the decision to retire was solely made by Bruch.

"He could have stayed for as long as he needed," Scherer said. "The board didn't do anything to force Gary out."

Director Susan Debski echoed Scherer's sentiment.

"I think Mr. Bruch is fabulous," Debski said. "I don't want to see him go."

Contacted this morning, Bruch declined to comment.

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