William Penn: Who is suing who and for what? Part 1


First, Court Docket Update.  As of this morning, the last posting shown on the Commonwealth Court's​ online docket is President Judge Jubelirer's Order setting a briefing schedule and date for oral argument.  This briefing schedule is for the Motion for Post Trial Relief filed by Respondents Ward and Cutler.  Click this link to see the online docket:

Commonwealth Court docket of selected postings for William Penn v. PDE

If you would like to see detailed examples of the eight arguments raised in Respondent's Motion for Post Trial Relief, see my prior 3-3-23 post in this blog.  

Let's move on to learn who the Petitioners are to this action and the attorneys representing them in court.  

Next week, I'll identify the state government officials who were sued and their current counsel.  The following week I'll discuss the basis of Petitioners' claim for relief.

Petitioners.  Several school districts, parents, former students and two non profit organizations comprise the petitioners who started this lawsuit in 2014.

According to the 2-7-23 Opinion, "The Greater Johnstown School District (Greater Johnstown) is located in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, around the City of Johnstown."  "...it is now the poorest school district in the Commonwealth based upon median income."  Opinion Findings of Fact (OFF) Paragraphs 2-3.

"The School District of Lancaster (Lancaster) is located in Lancaster County and encompasses the City of Lancaster, which has approximately 60,000 residents, and Lancaster Township, a small town that could not afford its own school
system.  It is one of the largest school districts in the state, with approximately 10,500 students."   OFF Paragraph 5.

"Panther Valley School District (Panther Valley) is comprised of four small towns across Carbon and Schuylkill Counties — Summit Hill, Lansford, Nesquehoning and Coaldale. Panther Valley is a former coal mining community and is facing the departure of its three biggest businesses. There are approximately 1,800 students in Panther Valley, an
enrollment that has increased in recent years." OFF Paragraphs 7-8. 

"Shenandoah Valley School District (Shenandoah Valley) is a small, rural district in the heart of Pennsylvania’s former coal country, in Schuylkill County.  Its only significant industry today is Mrs. T’s Pierogies, a prepared food manufacturer." 

"There are approximately 1,100 students in Shenandoah Valley, who all learn in one school building containing both an elementary school (for grades pre-K-6) and a secondary school (for grades 7-12)." OFF Paragraphs 9 & 10.

Wilkes-Barre Area School District (Wilkes-Barre) is an urban district on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The district serves “a coal mining community that has a rich tradition. ​Wilkes-Barre serves approximately 7,500 student in nine schools...." OFF Paragraphs 11 & 12. 

"Comprised of six boroughs that were consolidated into one district in 1971, the William Penn School District (William Penn) is a majority Black district located in Delaware County. William Penn educated approximately 4,900 students in 2019-20.  The district’s facilities comprise 12 buildings...."  OFF Paragraphs 13 & 14.

"Student Petitioner S.A. is a 2020 graduate of Mastbaum High School (Mastbaum) in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).  Petitioner Sheila Armstrong is the mother of S.A. and a resident of SDP." OFF Paragraph 15.

"SDP is not a party to this matter, although Student Petitioner S.A. attended SDP.  SDP is situated in the 'poorest big city in the country' and is the Commonwealth’s largest school district 'by far.' SDP operates 216 schools and a total of 300 buildings, many of which are badly aging.  In 2019-20, the district had an enrollment of approximately 130,617 students, and another 70,000 SDP students were enrolled in
charter schools." OFF Paragraphs 16 & 17.  

"Petitioner P. Michael Horvath graduated from Wilkes-Barre in 2019.  His mother is Petitioner Tracey Hughes, a resident of the district." OFF Paragraph 18.

Student Petitioner K.M. formerly attended William Penn and is a 2021 graduate of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. Petitioners Bryant and Jamella Miller are the parents of Petitioner K.M., and residents of William Penn. OFF Paragraph 19. ​ 

The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) is a statewide membership organization composed of approximately 178 second-, third-, and fourth-class public school districts and 18 intermediate units (IUs) in
Pennsylvania, including Shenandoah Valley.  Any school district that has a small student count or is considered rural based on a sparsity calculation can become a member of PARSS. OFF Paragraph 20.

Petitioner NAACP-Pennsylvania State Conference (NAACP-PA) is a non-profit organization operating in Pennsylvania and is a unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), described as the
nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. A primary purpose of the NAACP-PA is to improve the political, educational, social, and economic status of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities. OFF Paragraph 21.

Petitioners' Counsel  Petitioners are represented by attorneys from the Education Law Center, O'Melveny Law Firm and the Public Interest Law Center.

Education Law Center Press Release; Paul Socolar, Education Law Center-PA, 215-372-1650  psocolar@elc-pa.org 

O'Melveny Law Firm Press Release

Public Interest Law Center Webpage.  Jonathan McJunkin ,Public Interest Law Center, jmcjunkin@pubintlaw.org 570-337-1969 

Together, the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center maintain a William Penn Court Case website: FundOurSchoolsPA.org 

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