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PETERSBURG – Upper Township Board of Education held its end-of-school-year meeting June 17, with parents there to cheer on their children making talented and gifted program presentations. At the conclusion of their performances and recognition for several teacher retirements, the room cleared out.

Prior to the meeting, the Herald was alerted to an online controversy about publication of politically partisan cartoon images in the district's elementary school yearbook. The image was of a pug dog wearing a Democrat donkey image on the shirt and holding a sign stating “Pugs Against Trump.”

Superintendent Vincent Palmieri sent a letter to elementary school families June 14. It stated this is “my official apology for any unnecessary stress or emotion that these images may have ignited.” Palmieri’s letter went on to state that “no staff member would ever intentionally support the publication of such an image in a child’s yearbook (or any other publication associated with the district).”

Palmieri pledged to have better oversight in the future, and in a June 17 update announced that stickers would be available to all students with a yearbook to cover up the two pages where the offending images appeared. 

Upper Township Committee member Hobart Young responded to posts on Facebook.

At the June 17 meeting, Michele Barbieri, president, board of education, moved through the various agenda and report items and then called for general public comments. Palmieri asked for a show of hands as to who was there to comment on what issue. One hand raised for the yearbook issue, that of Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president, Erika Kelley.

“I have been PTO president for three years now going into my fourth year. I am outraged that something like this yearbook issue has caused so much controversy; meanwhile we are facing a $ 4-million budget shortfall, overcrowded classrooms, bullying, violence in our schools and student suicide.

"I am outraged that no one showed up for this meeting despite calls on Facebook that we would need security and police to handle the stated hundreds of people who were going to show up,” said Kelley.

“Where is Hobie Young? He has his pitchfork ready and talks about ‘subliminal messaging’ but he and the other ‘keyboard warriors’ can’t even bother to show up to this meeting.

"I am indeed outraged that of the 200 Facebook posts before this matter was taken down, not a single person has had the decency to attend this meeting and respond,” continued Kelley.

As is policy, there was neither reaction from board members nor any indication of whether a response would be forthcoming.

To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com 

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