With petition filed, judge to decide new Spring-Ford board member

Spring Ford Area School Board appointment candidates Janet Stokes and Clinton Jackson pose together after a meeting which again ended in a 4-4 tie. Photo by Frank Otto

LIMERICK — Although the Spring-Ford Area School Board planned to vote on re-advertising its vacant Region II seat, the appointment decision appears well out of the board members’ hands now.

Clinton Jackson, one of two candidates the board deadlocked on, filed his petition with the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on Friday.

Jackson’s filing means the decision of who will fill Julie Mullin’s old seat now solely belongs to a county judge.

“In the event the court retains jurisdiction by way of a proper petition, the power to appoint will be out of the district’s hands,” board solicitor Mark Fitzgerald explained Monday.

The school board deadlocked three times, 4-4, over two different meetings on Jackson and Janet Stokes, the finalists of four who applied and were interviewed for the position.

Mullin’s resignation was accepted at the Spring-Ford board meeting Jan. 27, the only meeting held last month due to snow. Her resignation technically became effective when she assumed the role of tax collector, which occurred Jan. 6 at Upper Providence’s reorganization meeting, when her swearing-in was scheduled.

Pennsylvania’s Public School Code Section 322 says Mullin could not be both a school board member and a tax collector at the same time.

By the same code, a school board has 30 days from the date of a resignation to vote on a replacement. That means Spring-Ford’s window closed around Feb. 5.

A meeting was held Feb. 10 in which Jackson and Stokes were brought in for additional questioning after their initial interviews the week before. The vote count did not change, however.

Jackson’s petition came four days after the last meeting.

On the agenda for the board’s regular workshop meeting this Tuesday night was an action item to re-advertise the vacant seat.

With a petition filed, the board advertisement could really only be to urge petitions to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.

The agenda item could be struck in light of Jackson’s petition filing.

Stokes said Monday that she had not yet filed a petition for the empty seat but that she plans to soon.

An online search of Montgomery County records showed no others filing petitions as of Monday night.

It is unclear which judge will decide the appointment.

Jackson is an engineer who has served on the advisory board of the Spring Valley YMCA. He said he favored expanded science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses and seeking partnerships or “co-ops” with local businesses to provide learning experiences for district students.

A board member from 1997 to 2005, Stokes advocated setting up a sort of personal mentor program for students in the district as well as adding “rigor” to the district’s curriculum to combat “grade inflation” she believes is occurring within the district.

The Region II seat (which covers the Limerick and Trappe areas, according to the school district’s website) became open after Mullin was elected to become the new Upper Providence tax collector in the fall.

In November, Mullin said she was leaving her seat to “help the school district in a different way.” She took over from Beverly Nohl, who the board said made errors in her points and had issues with the “timeliness” of filing taxes.

Check out a Twitter recap from Feb. 10’s meeting interviewing Stokes and Jackson.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

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