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PMSD Board & Admin Push Back on Pecci Calling PMEA COVID Concerns “a Total Disgrace"

Pocono Mountain Education Association President Tom Brogan addresses the school board during the January 20 meeting.

SWIFTWATER – Before Board President Rusty Johnson could gavel the January 6 PMSD board meeting closed, Frank Pecci asked to be heard.

Earlier in the meeting, a written statement from Pocono Mountain Education Association President Tom Brogan encouraged the board to consider returning to full virtual in light of record case, hospitalization, and deaths in the county and in the district’s municipalities.

“I would like to update the board and school community on the most recent data available,” Brogan’s statement said. “For the week ending 1/1/21, the community transmission rate for Monroe County is ‘Substantial’ for the 8th consecutive week. For the 7-day period of 12/25 - 12/31, Monroe County had an incident rate of 329.2 per 100,000 residents and a 19.6% positivity rate. For today, 1/6, Pocono Mountain School District zip code data shows an incident rate of 354.48 per 100,000 residents and a 34.67% positivity rate, both of which are higher than the county data.”

“As a reminder, both the PA Department of Education and Health recommend full remote learning when the incident rate is greater than 100 per 100,000 residents or a greater than 10% positivity rate. Considering that all data exceeds these guidelines and for the safety of our children, staff, and school community, I encourage the board to take action this evening to move Pocono Mountain to the full virtual model until the data from the PA Department of Health shows that it is safe to return to the Hybrid model.”

PMSD board member Frank Pecci.

Later, at the end of the meeting, Pecci lashed out at Brogan personally, telling him he should resign, and at the teachers as a whole, complaining they aren’t working a full day. Pecci, who is Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds for the Monroe Career & Technical Institute, first addressed Brogan directly, telling the math teacher,“I’ve been in public schools now for over thirty years and I’ve showed up to work every day.” Pecci went on to say to Brogan, “if you have an issue showing up to work then maybe its time you either retire or resign.”

He then appeared to address the instructional staff more broadly, angrily saying, “You all went into this profession for your love of the students – well how about showing it and showing up to work and helping these kids out.” Pecci concluded by saying, “it just amazes me that you guys want to be paid for sitting at home putting an hour or two on a computer when everybody else has to work. I think each time you complain it’s a total disgrace.”

No response was made to Pecci at the meeting, but the following day both Johnson and Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Robison issued statements to the teachers which, while not mentioning the Pecci statements, expressed support and appreciation for the work and dedication of the instructional staff.

Brogan told his colleagues that Robison reached out to him to say the comments did not reflect the feelings of the administration. Robison also told Brogan that Johnson wanted him to know that most of the board does not agree with Pecci, either.

Brogan said he subsequently met with Johnson for “an honest and productive conversation about moving forward from the last Board meeting.”

Brogan says the working relationship between the Association and Administration “is very good.” Although the PMEA and Administration do not agree on how to respond to the pandemic, “just because we don’t agree on one topic, does not mean we are not continuing to meet to work together on the many issues that come up on a regular basis.”

Brogan told The Boro that “the comments from Mr. Pecci were disheartening and demoralizing for the professional staff who have been working so hard to maintain high quality in person and virtual instruction for our students.”

In the afternoon after the board meeting, Pecci issued a statement to the professional staff saying he was reacting “in frustration” to PMEA’s COVID concerns, which he took as an attack on the board.

He did not apologize, but said his words did not reflect his opinion of the value and dedication of the teachers.

At the outset of the January 20 board meeting, president Rusty Johnson addressed the controversy, which he said generated numerous communications to him and to the administration.

Saying that the board was diverse, with individuals from disparate backgrounds and points of view, Johnson said he tries to run the meetings in a professional manner and ensure that all receive the respect they deserve.

Especially in the current environment, he noted that “emotions are running high,” but that “board members, as well as the public, have the right to express their opinions. Those opinions are strictly their own, and not the opinions of the entire board, or of the entire public.”

Turning to Pecci’s comments, Johnson told the public that they “did not reflect the feelings of this board.”

He promised that he would keep an open dialogue with the education association as the district navigates the COVID crisis and thanked the association “for all you do for our students and the district.”

Brogan personally appeared at the meeting to give an update from the association. In concluding his remarks, he said he wanted to emphasize that, despite differences of opinion on some matters, the relationship between the association and the administration is very good. He said there is frequent, constructive, and open communication between the parties. He specifically stated approval of the administrative decision to remain with the hybrid system right now.

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