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Lancaster School Board at odds over designated parking spots for veterans

Some might say the Lancaster School Board needs a “time out.”

A proposal by board member Brenda Christopher to designate seven parking spots for veterans, one at each of the district’s schools, triggered the latest uproar on a board that has received more than its share of public criticism for its inability to get along.

Christopher says she wants to honor the veterans and again pitched her idea to the board Tuesday night.

But her proposal sparked the familiar divisive tone that splits the board, 5-2, with Christopher and Kelly Depczynski in the minority. They were elected last May as supporters of the school’s Redskins mascot, which was retired by the district after months of controversy.

The exchange over the veterans parking spot led to sharp exchanges between the board and the audience.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s just because I came up with this idea and you want to shut it down,” Christopher said to the board, and particularly to board President Patrick Uhteg. She said she has paint and sign donations lined up, and volunteers who would help.

The pro-administration bloc on the board defended its decision to study the idea and decided at its last meeting to review it as part of the board’s summer retreat. Many board members said they are very respectful of veterans, but said don’t want to rush to act on the idea.

“Any assertion that the board is not sensitive to veterans is not true,” Uhteg said.

Later Uhteg said, “Our veterans deserve better than to be used in a ploy to attempt to vilify members of this School Board.”

“We make lots of decisions quicker than this,” Christopher said. “There’s no reason to wait six months. We can work out this excuse and that excuse by July.”

She refused to back down, and she and Uhteg often talked over one another. When the meeting was wrapping up, she wanted to add a comment. Uhteg cut her off, saying: “Our meeting is over.”

Members of the public even commented on the board’s behavior.

“We never had arguing like this,” said Robert Szatkowski, a former board member and disabled veteran. “I see a cloud over this board. What’s going on here?”

Szatkowski praised the board-approved veterans tax exemption as enough of an honor. Providing a veteran parking spot for every school is “ridiculous,” he said, noting a small monument honoring veterans might be a better idea.

Melissa Studley scolded the board for delaying action on the parking spots and called it disrespectful. “This board is divided, and any idea from Mrs. Christopher or Mrs. Depczynski is (shot) down,” she said.

“It’s mind-boggling,” said James Wier, commander of the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7275. “I could get hundreds of petitions for a parking spot. We are vets ... I don’t want to make it political, but it hurts.”

But board member Marie MacKay stood her ground. “Don’t sit there and tell us we don’t honor the vets, because we do,” she said.