Keystone board member laments divided community

Trisha Dixon

KNOX - Keystone School Board member Trisha Dixon, defeated in a re-lection bid by write-in candidate Randall "Buck" Weaver, said Nov. 15 she hopes the community and the school district can recover from a divisive election.

"At the end of the day, we need to ask what's best and our answer needs to be local unity -- despite division and differences in opinion," said Dixon.

Weaver, Jason Say and Jason McMillan launched write-in campaigns about a month ago as protests to masking mandates and other COVID-19 protocols followed by the Keystone School Board. Those protocols are based on mandates handed down by the state Department of Health and Department of Education.

Weaver and Say won their write-in bids while Stacey Thompson was re-elected over McMillan's effort.

Dixon noted turn-out for the election was around 49 percent of registered voters.

Dixon lost to Weaver by 185 votes. Incumbent Randy Burr II lost to Say, who led the write-in campaign effort, by 64 votes.

Earlier in the meeting, Say used the public comment portion of the meeting to proclaim the election was "a pretty loud and clear message" to the board to adhere to the "My Kid My Choice" group's demand to drop the masking requirement.

"I am disappointed that the quiet majority remained silent," said Dixon. "Less than half of registered voters' voices spoke at the polls. Less than half voted. Twenty-seven percent of all of residents in our district. Winning by 64 votes doesn't represent the majority."

Dixon said she remains confident the board has acted in the best interests of students and taxpayers.

"A few board meetings ago -- the one where a passionate group of concerned citizens and parents disrespected those who opposed them for having a different opinion -- the meeting where people were demanding their freedom but removing those rights from those with opposing view -- one local mother spoke and asked the question ‘Is this the best plan?'

"The plan being that if the group didn't get what they wanted, they would pull kids and put them into cyber (school) knowing that it isn't the best for their kids' learning and understanding that it would affect the district financially. That would be the pressure spoken about frequently. Followed by the threat of taking over seats on the board. Again pressuring those up for re-election to vote this group's way."

Dixon said the group apparently believed applying that pressure would get what they wanted at that point --no masks.

"Nobody likes ultimatums," said Dixon. "Our board that night, while being called cowards and asked to step aside, showed great courage in voting for what was in the best interest for the district and community as a whole and not bowing to the pressure imposed upon them.

"It became apparent that there was no point in trying to explain or inform when people came to speak but not to listen."

Dixon said she has heard a great deal of intentions from "anti-mandate candidates" but no real plans.

"What we have evidence of is that they will work against the state, against Harrisburg, and against the district -- against the kids, call it what it is," said Dixon. "None of this is for the kids."

Dixon said one write-in candidate created a group with a goal to pressure the board to vote no to a mask mandate, and gave people a plan to accomplish that.

"Knowing there were detrimental consequences, whether from the state or from this social media group, he continued to lead the charge anyway," said Dixon. "This turned into a lose-lose situation. Anyone knows that you weigh the costs and, when our kids are involved, we need to take them even more seriously.

"So, a group not only chose to attack a convenient target, the local school board, but they chose to turn the state's eyes on us through social media, making any alternative decision almost impossible to even consider."

Dixon said the protest over a masking mandate grew to a "no vaccine mandate" to a claim of fighting for local control.

"Those are three different points. Three different goals. What was the plan?" said Dixon. "What are the measurable outcomes? What has happened to indicate success in any of these areas? At the end of the day, I think it really came down to feelings of frustration, lack of control, and a perceived loss of freedom."

Dixon said those plans created division among families while the concept of freedom was relative, being that it only applied to a singular perspective, as evidenced through "petty comments" and social media attacks, misinformed and misleading letters and speeches to the board and administrators and individuals cherry-picking policies.

Moving forward

Dixon also highlighted the positives she said she has experienced while serving for eight years on the board.

"Collectively as a diverse administration and school board, we have been laser-focused on our school community's health and safety throughout this pandemic and I am proud to say that I have served on this board and am proud of the decisions I've made," said Dixon.

Dixon said it has been a honor to serve on the board, governing based on the overall health, safety, and welfare of the students and community at the core of every decision.

"I feel I can say for certainty that there are no personal agendas on this current board," said Dixon. "Overall, people see reports of the board's final decisions, but they don't see the inner turmoil when making these decisions.

"From where I sat, decisions were unbiased which made votes puzzling to the public. We left our personal opinions ultimately at the door."

Dixon said the board worked as a team, even when as individual members they might have disagreed.

"As a woman, a current educator, and one of the newer members of the board, you never made me feel unwelcomed, unappreciated, or unequal. I value that," said Dixon. "From here, I pray for strength to endure the struggle and for courage to make the difficult choices to do what is best for our district -- students, teachers, support staff administrative staff, janitorial staff, volunteers, secretarial staff -- and our community -- parents, grandparents, those without children, businessmen and women, and community partners.

"We, as a community, continually find ourselves in rough days with conflicting perspectives where disagreeing has become a driving force for division and with one-sided, proposed solutions without regard for the entire district's health, safety, and welfare.

"My hope is that we can find common ground to stand on without playing tug of war where one side is trying to win over the other. This isn't a game and we need to drop the rope and see that our kids are the ones in the middle suffering more than anything."


SHIPPENVILLE - It's been a while since the Shippenville Borough Council has been able to address the town's streets but that might be coming to an end -- for certain streets anyway.

CLARION - During a recent Rotary meeting in Clarion, Tina Gibbs, Community Relations Coordinator for PennDOT District 10, addressed several questions regarding the planned replacement project of the Canoe Creek Bridge on Interstate 80 in Clarion County.

CLARION - The residents of Clarion County have an additional reason to be thankful, a tax cut. The Clarion County Board of Commissioners No. 24 rolled out their proposed 2022 budget with a one-half mill tax decrease.

SHIPPENVILLE - A possible increase in the borough real estate tax was discussed briefly at the Shippenville Borough Council meeting Nov. 10 but ultimately council approved for advertisement the borough's 2022 tentative budget without a tax hike.

HARRISBURG -- The effort to establish a new entrance to the Clarion Industries plant in Paint Township received a big boost last week when the Department of Community and Economic Development's Commonwealth Financing Agency's Multimodal Transportation Fund approved an $863,431 grant for the …

CLARION - PennDOT continues to plan for the replacement of the Canoe Creek Bridge along Interstate 80, but the department is also planning on other projects in Clarion County.

KNOX - "It's pretty clear what the message was," incoming Keystone School Board member Jason Say told that board at its Nov. 15 session. "I hope this school board heard it loud and clear."

PAINT TWP. - The University Korner convenience store chain, with nine stores in Western Pennsylvania, including five in Clarion County, is planning a new store along River Hill (U.S. Route 322) in Paint Township.

KOSSUTH - Ashland Township's troubled relationship with its 2014 International general-purpose truck is nearing an end.

KNOX - Keystone School Board member Trisha Dixon, defeated in a re-lection bid by write-in candidate Randall "Buck" Weaver, said Nov. 15 she hopes the community and the school district can recover from a divisive election.

CLARION - The Clarion County Office of Elections has finished tallying hundreds of write-in votes this week and the results show incumbents in three races being defeated by write-in candidates.

FRILLS CORNERS - Moving ahead with facilities upgrades, the North Clarion School District Nov. 8 unanimously approved to advertise for bids three renovation projects at both the high school building and the elementary school building.

CLARION - The Clarion County Board of Commissioners Nov. 9 approved a $2,000 payment to Scott and Pamela Price of Leeper for "mileage discrepancy for vehicles purchased at county auction."

CLARION - A 1 percent sales tax or possibly a per capita fee both are ideas that could be considered to fund ambulance services in Clarion County.

LEEPER - "It's an emergency it really is," said Farmington Township Supervisor Matt Sherbine earlier this month in describing the status of ambulance service in Clarion County.

KNOX - Knox Borough Council Nov. 1 gave its preliminary approval to a $1,091,179 general fund budget for 2022 and leaving taxes at their current levels. Final adoption of the spending plan is expected in December.

CLARION - When Knox-area resident Scott Bell asked the members of the Clarion County Board of Commissioners if they would support a memorial bench for the victims of Agent Orange he touched on a problem facing more than 400 county residents.

GPR Management Inc., of Strattanville, which owns and operates five area MacDonald’s restaurants, has sold the businesses to a Pittsburgh-based management company.

LEEPER - Farmington Township officials said they are very satisfied with tree-trimming work done along Aaron and Breezemont drives, but one resident is not so pleased with the work.

KNOX - The Knox Ambulance Service is moving. Or will be in the months to come as Knox Borough Council Nov. 1 agreed to sell the former Boy Scout meeting hall along Petrolia Street to the ambulance company for $1.

CLARION - The Clarion Mall area is gaining another major retailer as Harbor Freight Tools has confirmed to the CLARION NEWS it is locating its 51st Pennsylvania store in the former Peebles/Gordman's building in Monroe Township.

FRILLS CORNERS - North Clarion Elementary School Principal Keith Hastings believes students in that building need a place to keep their books and personal items.

MONROE TWP. - The new Penn Highlands Healthcare Medical Building in Clarion officially opened Oct. 25, and the $6.5 million facility near the Clarion Mall offers a wide range of services to area residents.

CLARION — With no contested races at the county level, the results of the 2021 general election weren’t in question on Tuesday as about 9,051 Clarion County residents went to the polls.

NEW BETHLEHEM - Banks are a place to keep your money safe but a closed bank can be a place to keep memories. That is what the Redbank Valley Historical Society is looking to do with the former Northwest Bank in New Bethlehem.

KNOX - Knox Borough Council's drive to upgrade the town's water system received another boost last week when the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority approved a $1.478 million grant and a $941,000 low-interest loan for the borough.

FOXBURG - Getting students to graduation is the ultimate goal for school districts and Allegheny-Clarion Valley High School Principal Dr. William Jordan last month informed the A-C Valley school board as to how the junior class was progressing toward earning their diplomas.

CLARION - In early 2022 budget planning, Clarion County is facing a $1.2 million shortfall but the board of commissioners does not see the need for a real estate tax increase in the upcoming year.

ELK TWP. - Do you know a senior citizen, college student, or single person that would like a hot meal? A family in need? A busy mom who just needs a break? Someone who has medical issues or recently had surgery?

CLARION - It's usually "caveat emptor" let the buyer beware when buying a used vehicle through an auction, and Scott and Pamela Price of Leeper agree with that adage, but the couple believes they got a raw deal when they bought seven vehicles through the recent Clarion County surplus sale.

CLARION TWP. - Hearts are in the right place in regard to the Clarion-Limestone School Board and what to do with the Betty Willison Scholarship account, but unfortunately for the board, the laws are quite stringent when it comes to how to invest the principle.

SLIGO - Pastor Brock Beveridge is quick to point out the large diorama of "The City of Jerusalem" isn't perfectly actuate, but it is pretty close. The scene includes the temple on the mount which was destroyed by the Romans.

CLARION - Students, faculty and staff at Keystone School District returned to classes Tuesday under direction to comply with a state Department of Health mandate requiring face masks in all district buildings.

MONROE TWP. - Putting life back into the Clarion Mall, "Family Farm & Home" opened its doors to the public Oct. 14, headed up by store manager Bobbi Wood, a Clarion-Limestone High School graduate and an eight-year Army veteran.

CLARION TWP. - "Seceder Cemetery" is a secluded garden of heroes. Lying among the trees are the graves of eight veterans of the Revolutionary War, several graves of Clarion County men who served in the War of 1812 and at least one veteran of the Civil War.

RIMERSBURG — A 71-year-old Rimersburg man faces numerous charges after police said they found 13 images of a 15-year-old girl in various stages of undress and to the point of nudity.

PORTER TWP. – Tpr. Katherine Berggren reports a 48-year-old New Bethlehem man faces numerous charges, including attempted homicide, after he allegedly fired a gun in the direction of a 45-year-old South Fork woman and an 11-year-old girl, also from South Fork.

KNOX - With a much smaller audience, the Keystone School Board Oct. 11 again outlined its stance on the state's mandatory masking rule and the district's intention to enforce the rule beginning Oct. 18.