Brandywine recall group says it will begin collecting signatures on petitions today

Published 7:31 pm Friday, October 24, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Save Our Schools, supporters of a recall effort that aims at removing five Brandywine school board members, met Thursday night, two days before beginning to collect recall petition signatures.
However, of the 30 or so people attending the meeting, which was held at the Niles Township Hall, at least two thirds indicated they were supporters of Brandywine school board members and are working against any recall effort. School board supporters identified themselves by wearing white tags they wore with school board support slogans.
Discussion at the meeting sometimes included raised voices.
Elsa Hemphill, a recall supporter who has been vocal at recent school board and other recall-related meetings, made available hundreds of pages of information supporters of the recall have collected since the recall issue surfaced earlier this year.
She also read from an independent investigation done by Barb Ruga, Brandywine's lawyer, into the alleged sexual harassment case involving former superintendent, Eugene Sweeney and Ellen Connors, the school district's former curriculum development director.
Hemphill also, based on her information, made statements about the alleged misuse of cell phones, expensive gift purchases and travels, as well as other school district funds recall supporters claim were misused by Sweeney.
Jeff Mott was the first to voice his support of the five school board members who are subject to the recall.
The five are Cynthia Benson, Mike Shelton, Greg Harrison, Philip Bozung and Jim Curran
Sweeney and Connors resigned from their Brandywine position in August.
Mott, who has children in the school district and was active in promoting the recently-passed Brandywine bond issue, said he thinks the recallers are simply disgruntled because the $14.42 bond issue passed in June.
Mott said there is nothing that can justify what Hemphill presented at the meeting and called it "a lot of circumstantial evidence."
Paul Eddy, a recall supporter and member of the SOS committee, said he voted for the bond.
Eddy is a recall supporter, however, because he said there "needs to be an oversight (of the school board's conduct)."
Eddy is a twice unsuccessful candidate for a Brandywine school board seat.
Carol Ballard, who is sponsoring the recall effort, said she doesn't think the school board has followed up and done all the check ups that it could have regarding the hiring of Sweeney.
She said the board could have done a better job of looking into records from when Sweeney was an employee at Penn High School, South Bend, Ind., and at Lake Zurich, Ill.
Bozung, however, said the board checked Sweeney's records twice before hiring him in.
Benson, a board trustee, said the board did check with Penn State and Lake Zurich before hiring Sweeney, but didn't check with the school Sweeney was supposed to work for after he withdrew his initial application from Brandywine.
Hemphill said recall supporters will start collecting votes today.
They then have 90 days to gather recall petition signatures before they have to be handed in the township clerk for signature verification.