Gerry Turner
Gerry Turner (SUBMITTED)
  • Related: Former city school board member appeals removal

  • Read more: Scroll down to the Reading Room section of the page and check out the court documents filed with the case.

    Five York City School Board members voted Wednesday to add a new member to the board, but the other three abstained from voting.

    The board voted to appoint Gerry Turner, who unsuccessfully ran in the primary as a Democrat for mayor, as the replacement for former board member Hiawatha Powell, who was removed from his seat last month by a 5-4 vote.

    Powell's seat was vacated because the majority of the board voted for resolutions that alleged he had missed too many meetings without notice and was no longer a city resident. Powell has refuted those claims, and his attorney, Clarence E. Allen, filed an appeal of the board's decision Wednesday afternoon in York County Court of Common Pleas.

    The board advertised for a replacement, and four residents applied: Turner; Sandie Walker, who is on the school board ticket for November; resident Chandra Illarza; and 2009 William Penn Senior High School graduate Christopher Keys. Keys withdrew his name Wednesday and was not at the meeting.

    Three board members -- Samuel Beard, James H. Morgan and Beverly Atwater -- abstained from voting for any of the candidates.

    Morgan and Atwater said they wanted to wait until Powell's appeal is heard. The three also voted against removing him from the board last month, saying they believe the charges are bogus.

    "What I am against is what brought us to this point," said Morgan, who went on to describe the board's removal of Powell as "evil, hateful and personal."

    Before the vote, the three candidates each gave a short speech and then answered two questions from board vice president Tom Foust, who asked about their positions on improving schools and district's budget.

  • Turner, who is retired, said he hopes to bring change in the district and make sure money is being spent wisely. He frequently attended meetings as a resident before opting to apply for the position, so he knows the issues at hand, he said.

  • Walker, who is the city's youth program coordinator, said she believes children need positive role models and she would work to better the district's image. She received the most votes in the May primary, virtually assuring her a seat on the board.

  • Illarza, who works for the city housing authority, said she brought experience as a parent and someone who has struggled but has turned her life around. Education is the key to helping students make changes in their lives, she said.

    Board president Jeanette Torres said she voted for Turner because she believes he is committed to being an active board member because he attends so many board meetings as a resident.

    "All the candidates were very impressive and would bring something special to the board," Torres said after the meeting. "But we are in this situation because someone did not attend meetings, and I feel confident that (Turner) will give it his all."

    Both Walker and Illarza said they were disappointed they were not selected but respected the decision. They said they understood why the three board members would choose to abstain pending a court ruling on the dispute.

    Turner, who could serve until December 2009, said he was grateful he was chosen, but would willingly leave the board seat if Powell was successful in his appeal.

    "He certainly deserves his hearing," Turner said. "The bottom line is I am here because I believe in community service -- whether I am here a day, a week or a year."

    ndobo@ydr.com, 771-2032