Wednesday, July 15, 2020

OJR School Board Picks DeFoor to Replace Minor

Clifford DeFoor, lower left, was interviewed digitally on Zoom during Tuesday's board meeting.
It took two days and hours of interviews, but the Owen J. Roberts School Board finally settled on a former member as a replacement for former board president Karel Minor who resigned last month.

With a 6-2 vote, the board chose Clifford DeFoor as the ninth board member. DeFoor had previously run for the board several years ago and lost, but was subsequently appointed to fill a vacancy then as well.

He was selected from among a total of eight candidates who expressed interest in replacing Minor, who resigned in June after making a racially charged joke on Facebook.

Not surprisingly, all the finalists faced a series of questions about their use of social media.

In total, the candidates who applied to fill Minor's seat were:
  • Michael Aijala - North Coventry Township
  • Clifford DeFoor - North Coventry Township
  • Daniel V. Dougherty - East Vincent Township
  • Donald P. Foy - East Coventry Township
  • Michelle Frees - East Coventry Township
  • William Kleinfelter - South Coventry Township
  • Erin Marcellus - North Coventry Township
  • Rita Pederson - West Vincent Township
All eight were interviewed publicly on Zoom Monday night, and then four were chosen from among them to be finalists.

Three of the applicants, Frees, Dougherty and Kleinfelter, ran for the board last year. Frees lost in the
Daniel Dougherty, lower left, is interviewed.
primary election and the other two ran on the Republican line in the November elections but were unsuccessful.

By Tuesday, Dougherty was the only former candidate left among those the board wished to consider and four of the six public comments heard before the interviews supported Dougherty. The other two speakers questioned DeFoor's attendance record when he say on the board previously.

Former board member Heather McCreary, who ran with Dougherty as a Republican in November, urged the board to select Dougherty because he lost winning a seat in the election by only 22 votes.

But the only board members who voted for Dougherty were John Diehl and Kathy DiMarino, both Republicans.

McCreary was less then thrilled with the final decision, saying she was "disgusted. that's why I didn't put my name in," she said, being sure to note that she lost her reelection bid by even fewer votes than Doughtery.

Denise Wilson told board members "we the Republicans will not support you" in the next election as a
Rita Pederson, bottom row, is interviewed.
result of the decision. Board President Leslie Proffitt replied "looking out for personal interest is not something I'm interested in."

Missy King said she was"very disappointed. Obviously do not care what voters want. You Paul, should be aware of what's going to happen in November."

Her comment was addressed to Paul Friel, who is running as a Democrat in November against incumbent state Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26th Dist.

Friel replied that the board has been non-partisan about its decision-making. "I appreciate everybody on this board, Democrat and Republican alike. That has what has made this board effective," he said.

Cathren Flieger from South Coventry says she was rooting for DeFoor "and he was my number one," thanks board for hard work and dedication.

During his interview, DeFoor said his schedule is pretty wide open. 

Michael Aijala, lower left, is interviewed by the board.
His job allows him to be flexible and he has no conferences or vacations scheduled. DeFoor said when he served previously, he missed two school board meetings one for father/son camping trip. 

DeFoor has worked at Vanguard for more than 20 years. He is interested in serving on the technology committee and finance committee. "I'm basically just a dad at Owen J., and I just want to help. I feel like I have something to contribute."

He said he did not run in the most recent election because he supported others who were running.

However, he decided to apply for the open seat because Some told him the board "needs more diversity. Minority community needs a voice at Owen J."

DeFoor says when he served on the school board previously "there was a lot of tension" on the board. "I don't see that with this board. It seems like you guys get along and you are team players, get to what is best for our school and our children."

After being selected, DeFoor said "I am absolutely blown away. I am a very hard worker and very passionate about the education of our children."

"You may rue the day," joked board member Melissa Booth, with whom DeFoor had served previously. 

"We've got a lot of work to do this summer," said Proffitt.

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