March Board Meeting addresses turf replacement concerns

The Student and Superintendent Reports highlighted recent student-led events and accomplishments, and the board discussed contracts with FieldTurf USA and Make the Distinction.


Rhys Hals '23, Haven Happenings Editor

The WSSD Board of School Directors gathered on Mar. 27 for their monthly meeting. The meeting was held in the Strath Haven Middle School library and live-streamed on the WSSD YouTube channel. The official board meeting agenda is on the district website.

Student Report

The Board Meeting opened with the student report given by school board representative Supraja Sudarsan. She covered recent high school events including the production of Grease, Foreign Language Week, and the first ever community-wide International Night in which clothing and food from around the world were shared and enjoyed by those who attended. 

She also mentioned the International Day assembly that occurred on Friday, Mar. 24 at the high school where students gave speeches, performed dances, and put on a fashion show. The event was student-run, organized by seniors Dyvnee Lee and Aashna Pandey. 

She cited the high school Speech and Debate team’s recent accomplishments at district tournaments, at one of which they won speech sweepstakes. 11 members of the team qualified for the NCFL national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, and 7 people qualified for the NSDA tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Speech and Debate coach Mr. Jeffrey Kahn was named coach of the year by the school district, and German teacher Herr Paul was named district volunteer of the year. 

Sudarsan concluded by bringing the board’s attention to the Advanced Placement (AP) testing policy that requires students enrolled in AP classes to take the tests at the end of the year. She asked that this policy be revisited, as taking the tests does not ensure college credit and they are pricey.

Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent Wagner Marseille covered facility and maintenance updates in his report. He recommended the Board approve a proposed contract in the amount of $1,120,000.00 with FieldTurf USA. He said that over $700,000 have been raised by the community for the King Field turf replacement. 

He cited the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA) and the hope to change the light fixtures in district buildings to LED and the need for a long-term plan to continue maintenance of the lights. He mentioned the need for better and clearer signage in district buildings to mitigate what has been a “long-standing challenge for when individuals visit us.” Signage will be added in the middle and high school buildings. 

He announced an upcoming Strategic Plan community meeting happening Tuesday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at NPE. 

He congratulated the students that organized and participated in International Night and Day presentations.

He also acknowledged student athletes senior Alexa Brown and sophomore Gavin Shifflett. Brown placed 5th place in shotput at the New Balance Track and Field Indoor National Championships and was deemed an All-American. Her winning throw was 42’ 3.25”.She will have a plaque added to the All-American wall in her honor. 

Shifflett competed in the PIAA State Swimming Championship. He set personal best times in the 200 freestyle (1:43.01) and 500 freestyle (4:36.32), also setting a new school record for that event. He placed 14th and 10th respectively.

Marseille announced that committee meetings will begin to be streamed starting with the Educational Affairs Committee Meeting on April 12.

Policy Committee Updates

Policy Committee chair Mrs. Rachel Holbert shared that during the most recent Policy Committee Meeting held on Mar. 22, the committee did a first read of Policy 823, which allows Naloxone, commonly known by the brand name Narcan, to be stored and administered by trained district officials. Naloxone is used to reverse opioid overdoses. 

Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) Updates

Head of PSBA Ms. Mary Jo Wikowski-Smith reported that higher than expected numbers of students in PA are contacting Safe2Say to ask for mental health treatment and resources for themselves or others. 

Girls wrestling is on the cusp of being sanctioned by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. The governing body of high school sports in PA. 2 needs more positive votes from the PSBA before an official ruling can be made.

Turf Replacement

The board approved for the district to enter into a contract with FieldTurf USA 8-1. The contract entails a $1,120,000 cost of replacing the synthetic turf field. 

Board member Ms. Nannette Whitsett raised concerns about the new turf. According to Whitsett, the grass is made from petroleum and old tires. She cited some ongoing studies on the health risks of synthetic turf. The rubber pellets and synthetic grass can break down and become airborne, entering people’s airways, and causing respiratory health issues. Some reporting suggests that this can be linked to brain cancer. 

The manufacturing of this material also results in greenhouse gas emissions, a detriment to the environment. The turf can reach high temperatures and contains PFAs, known as forever chemicals as they don’t break down. She acknowledged that natural grass alternatives are a substantial expense to the district. 

Make the Distinction Contract

The administration recommended the board approve a contract not to exceed $2,500 with Make The Distinction, a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization focused on helping teen girls, especially Black girls, in their transition out of secondary schooling through a one-on-one mentorship program.

Board member Ms. Christine Dollé raised concerns about the timing of this contract, as the contract with Bloom Planning for the strategic plan aims to meet similar goals.

The contract was approved 8-1.


The next board meeting is on April 24 at 7 p.m. in the middle school library.