Coatesville Chooses New School Board Director

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A school board involved in a racist text scandal elected James Hills as its new director. But parents say their voices weren't heard. (Published Saturday, Jan 18, 2014)

    A local school board involved in a racist text message scandal filled a vacant seat during an election on Saturday. But many parents were upset over the selection.

    Paul Johnson, a member of the Coatesville Area School board, died on December 20 at the age of 82. Johnson served as the Region 1 school board director, representing both Valley and Coatesville. On Saturday, school board member James Hills was selected as his replacement.

    Many of the parents who attended the meeting Saturday were disappointed when Hill was named to the board since he did not campaign for the position.

    Hills, Bob Beckershoff and Dr. Tonya Thames Taylor were the nominees for the position. Taylor, a former board member and Coatesville Area NAACP Chapter president withdrew from the race Saturday morning however.

    The Daily Local reports that Taylor was accused of nepotism after her niece and nephew were allegedly hired by the school district without being presented to the school board for approval. Officials say Taylor’s niece, Adrienne Shaw, has a criminal history, which includes charges of theft and deception and therefore should not have been hired.

    Taylor was the first official to learn about racist text messages sent between former Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and former Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato last September.

    The scandal also came up during the meeting with board members fielding questions from parents about the investigation.

    Como and Donato resigned from their posts after an IT staffer who was fixing Donato’s phone discovered text messages containing the N-word. The staffer brought the texts to the attention of the school board on August 18. Chester County prosecutors eventually launched a criminal investigation and asked that more than 100 pages of transcripts be turned over to detectives.

    "All should just have whatever first names they want...then last name is N-----! Leroy N-----, Preacher N-----, Night train n-----, Clarence n-----, Latoya n-----, Thelma n----- and so on," read one message sent from Donato’s phone on the night of June 4.

    "Great idea! Joe n----- bill n----- snake n----- got a nice ring to it," Como replied.

    “hahahahahahahahahahahaha could have whole homerooms of N-----,” came another message from Como’s phone.

    “hahahahahahahahaha! Will N----- report to office, pardon the interruption but will N----- report to nurses office. N----- to lunch now!” Donato said.

    Amid the racist messages were also conversations about district money.

    "Gonna give them til Aug 1st to raise coin still want district to give at least 40k on top," wrote Donato in one of the texts.

    Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan told NBC10 Philadelphia that prosecutors have spent several months looking at whether Como and Donato were skimming district cash.

    On October 21, Hogan announced that the Coatesville Area School District had not cooperated with their investigation. Hogan accused the school board as well as its solicitor, James Ellison, of trying to “obstruct, evade, and delay” the criminal investigation.