Clarion-Limestone School Board member Jamie Mahle is calling for the resignation of school board president Molly Greenawalt and district superintendent Amy Glasl for what he sees as potentially endangering board members, students, school employees and members of the community.
Greenawalt told the CLARION NEWS she has no intention of resigning from the school board, where she serves as president of the panel.
Mahle said his request for the resignations stems from a Sept. 18 incident that forced the cancelation of the Clarion-Limestone School Board meeting that evening.
The meeting was set to begin at 6:30 in the C-L High School cafeteria, but the board did not arrive at that time. Shortly thereafter, board secretary Donna Smith told those in attendance the board was taking care of something along with Glasl, which required immediate attention.
At 7:17 p.m. the board members entered the cafeteria and were seated. Glasl did not join the board in the cafeteria.
Greenawalt apologized for the unscheduled executive session and made a short statement regarding the situation.
“It came to our attention this afternoon that a threat had been made against the school board and Mrs. Glasl,” Greenawalt said. “Because of the seriousness of the threat and the scope of the legality involved, we have decided as a board that we are going to cancel tonight’s meeting.”
Greenawalt did not relay any further details on the matter.
There were two state police cruisers outside the school buildings and at least two troopers were on site.
State police on Sept. 20 issued a press release stating only “Clarion-Limestone School District reported to state police a threat that occurred during school hours on (Sept. 18). Investigation continues.”
A busy morning
Sept. 18 dawned with a swarm of state police activity near the River Hill bridge over the Clarion River as troopers searched for a male suspect who had threatened to harm himself.
The man was in possession of a handgun and troopers sealed off the area in the pre-dawn hours as they attempted to take the man into custody.
That activity led the closing of a portion of U.S. Route 322 and school closings at Clarion Area, the Clarion County Career Center, Immaculate Conception School and Clarion Area and Clarion-Limestone Head Start.
According to emails provided to the CLARION NEWS by Mahle, Glasl notified board members of the situation around 6:41 a.m. Sept. 18 of the threat and again at 8:12 a.m. when the suspect had been into custody.
Glasl told the board members state police told her the suspect was not a threat to the public, but that he was a threat to himself.
At some point later in the day, the school district received word of communications that threatened the lives of the school board members and Glasl.
With the suspect from the River Hill incident in custody, the threat did not come from that suspect.
The regularly scheduled board meeting was set for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 18.
Mahle told the CLARION NEWS he arrived at the school campus around 5:50 p.m. to take part in an interview of a potential coach.
“When I got there, there were state troopers walking around on the lawn,” said Mahle. “I went into the business office and asked (a secretary) what was going on and she said (Glasl) would tell me.”
Mahle said he then encountered high school principal Mel Aaron in the hall.
“I asked him what was going on and he said he had been instructed by the superintendent to not tell me,” said Mahle.
Mahle said the interview with the potential coach was conducted and he was notified to report to Glasl’s office.
“That sent up a red flag for me,” said Mahle. “Things were very odd.”
Mahle said about ten minutes after the meeting was supposed to start, he and other board members were told about a communication that threatened the lives of board members and Glasl.
Mahle said he suggested the meeting should be canceled immediately.
Mahle said the meeting was canceled but no warnings or information about why the meeting was canceled was provided to anyone else in the building.
Mahle said there were members of the community waiting in the building for the meeting to start, students practicing activities in the gymnasium and people outside the buildings engaged in different activities.
Mahle said he found it odd that board members Lee Stewart, Kathy Henry and Terry Leadbetter were not at the meeting.
School events go on as scheduled
According to emails provided by Mahle, Glasl contacted board members via email on Sept. 20 to update the situation.
“I am informing you that the threat situation continues to be properly and thoroughly handled by the administration and state police,” wrote Glasl. “No board members names were mentioned individually; the only name specified was mine.”
Glasl told the board members of the threat made against her personally. The CLARION NEWS has opted to not include that specific threat.
“Although (three board members) have expressed concerns about the students involved. I do not believe it is in our best interest to reveal the names of the students or release pictures of them to you.”
Glasl said administrators had not yet worked out the details of possible expulsion hearings and if the board would be part of those or not.
“I personally do not know the students but would like to mention I feel perfectly safe,” wrote Glasl.
The superintendent mentioned the high school homecoming events were set for that evening and she had contacted state police for additional security in addition to a Clarion County Sheriff’s Department deputy who is at the district as a resource officer.
Greenawalt responded to Glasl’s email.
“I do not need any further intervention. We’ve already spent extra money on this and even more noteworthy, valuable time by Amy and other administrators,” wrote Greenawalt, according to the emails provide by Mahle. “With parents informed and investigation nearly (if not already) complete. I’m going to reiterate Dave’s previous comment. Bring it on. I think we handled this extremely well with confidence and clarity. I feel quite safe and will be at the game tonight.”
Update on threat investigation
On Sept. 30, Glasl provided the following statement concerning the investigation of the threats:
“On Wednesday September 18,2019, district administration received information regarding a threat made against the board of school directors as a group, and the district superintendent individually, by a group of students.
“District administration promptly contacted the Pennsylvania State Police and began the process of calling the students’ parents to ascertain the students’ whereabouts.
“Upon further investigation, the district, along with the assistance of the Pennsylvania State Police, determined the students did not take any steps to act upon or carry out the threats. The district is handling this incident in accordance with its policies.”
Four days later, on Sept. 24, Mahle responded to the Glasl email and Greenawalt’s response.
“Amy’s email says something about me wanting to know the names of the students. I never asked Amy for the names. Whatever Dave (Schirmer) said to Amy, I wasn’t involved, and that was Dave speaking for Dave, not for me. I can’t speak for Roger (Powell).”
Mahle’s email continued, “Molly says: Bring it on.’ I guess that is Molly’s leadership style, but it crosses the line when we are talking about the safety of our students, teachers and community members, who were all put at risk last Wednesday.”
In the email, Mahle said Greenawalt and Glasl both knew of the threat at 3:15 p.m. in the afternoon, but decided to not do anything to notify all the board members, students, parents or the public of the threat.
“It seems like some of the board members did receive calls but I know I did not,” wrote Mahle.
The email continued, “If the threat was serious enough to talk about felony charges with the state police, district attorney and expel kids from the school, everyone should have been notified and all activities cancelled prior to the evenings’ activities.
“This could have been a tragedy for a lot of families and this district. Taking this risk was completely unacceptable.”
Mahle, whose term on the board ends at the end of the year, told the CLARION NEWS he doesn’t understand why the entire board was notified of the situation along River Hill that morning but not the “credible” threat received by the district that afternoon.
“I have been getting a ton of questions and comments from members of the public asking me why were kids threatening the school, why were our kids at the building, why was the public allowed in, are the kids safe?” Mahle wrote. “I can only tell them what little I know, but I don’t have answers to all the questions. I’m upset, the staff is upset and the community is upset. We want answers and we want accountability.”
A call to resign
“The whole situation is unacceptable on a lot of levels. I believe in the best interest of the school district both Amy and Molly need to resign immediately,” wrote Mahle. “We need to be able to move forward as a district, and we cannot afford to have leadership that think of themselves before our students.
“We need new leadership, and new ideas that are more appropriate than telling potential active shooters to bring it on.’
“I do not really want to be in the middle of this, but I’m not going to look the other way when your decisions are putting our kids’ lives at risk.
“Nothing is being done to openly explain or address the situation.”
Mahle concluded, “Doing nothing is not an option. If I need to go to the media in order to shed some light on what is going on and bring out the truth, then so be it. I would rather not, but if you fail to resign. I don’t have a choice.”
In his email, Mahle said he expected an answer to his request for Greenawalt and Glasl to resign by noon Sept. 27.
Two board members respond
Greenawalt and board member Mike meals responded to Mahle’s email.
Greenawalt disagreed with Mahle’s account of the events.
“Go for it Jamie. But you better get your timeline and information straight before you attack me again,” wrote Greenawalt. “Because if you don’t, I’ll be sure to take any remaining credibility that you may have from you. And that’s not a threat. That’s a promise.”
Meals replied in an email to Mahle “Are you high or drunk? Make sure you have medical evidence to show you’re not because that’s what I’m going to have the media check out. I suspected your team player approach last week was a facade.”
Mahle told the CLARION NEWS as of Monday, Sept. 30, he had no received any response from Greenawalt and Glasl concerning the resignation request.
Mahle said he decided to go public with his concerns and the email exchanges because he wants the public to “know what is going on at C-L”
Greenawalt offers comments
While she did not respond to Mahle’s email, Greenawalt met with the CLARION NEWS to address some of the issues.
Because the investigation remains open and the school district must follow certain protocols involving student discipline, the identities of the students involved were not discussed.
“The threat situation in my opinion was handled incredibly and very professionally,” said Greenawalt. “(State police) troopers McGinnis and Bauer were there. The troopers did not feel the students (in and around the building) were in any danger. At no time was it ever suggested that we should lock the school down.”
Greenawalt said any call to lock down the school isn’t hers to make.
“If the state police even suspected there might be a danger, they would suggest we shut down and we would do so,” said Greenawalt.
The school board president, who will leave the board at the end of this year, added, “And let me say this Amy Glasl is doing a great job at C-L.”
Glasl declined to comment on Mahle’s call for her resignation.
Because of the ongoing procedures, Greenawalt said she could not comment at this time on the specifics of the threat, but explained the threats did not involve a bomb.
“It wasn’t a bomb threat and it was not directed at any students” said Greenawalt. “The threat was specifically directed at the board members and Superintendent Glasl.”
Greenawalt said there is no reason for either her or Glasl to resign.
“Protocol was followed, policies were followed,” said Greenawalt. “I’m very satisfied with the way the situation was handled.”