With Major Headlines Across the Country — Should the TE School District Have Called the Police on a Special Needs Kindergartner?

The headlines about the kindergartner with Down Syndrome who was reported to the police for pointing a finger gun continue to roll in with no end in sight. There are countless articles in major newspapers, on network TV stations, Facebook groups, website and blogs on the issue all touting shock and disbelief that this has happened.

From the New York Daily News, Washington Post, Education Week, The Daily Mail (UK), ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CNN and on and on, including the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer today, the story of the 6-year-old Valley Forge Elementary School student has garnered much attention.

I have remained troubled since attending the school district policy meeting on February 4 and listened to Maggie and Mark Gaines, the parents of the special needs kindergartner caught in the middle of the debate, and to others referencing behavior problems that went unreported to the police. From school district parents, it is unclear which student behaviors constitute a requirement to “consult” with  police – the inconsistencies were glaring.

I simply do not understand how a middle school child can suffer a concussion at the hands of another student and there is no investigation from the school district yet on the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a special needs kindergartner who is reported to the police for pointing her finger like a gun.  If perceived “threats” require police involvement, then my question is what does it take to get attention for serious physical assaults in the District?

Was contacting the police the appropriate handling of a special needs child with specific behavioral issues? Late this afternoon, an editorial written by Dr. Kim Doan, a professor in the Special Education Department at West Chester University appeared in the Daily Local and helps answer that question.

A special education educator for 23+ years and a parent, Dr. Doan attended the TESD policy meeting and suggests that the District’s student behavior policy is in violation of Federal legislation,

The Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to individualize the education of children with special needs and that includes in discipline. A district policy cannot supersede federal legislation. Applying a policy in a “one size fits all” manner is tantamount to the violation of IDEA.

In assessing the student behavior policy of TESD, Dr. Doan states the following:

A policy, legislation, or assessment tool can be well written and thoughtfully designed but if the adults involved are not trained or consistent, then error is inevitable. Common sense should take precedence over all written policy. Let’s not criminalize our kindergartners before they’ve even learned their ABCs and 123s. The next time a similar event arises, consider the child for who he/she is as a whole person and think about why this little one made the statement to the teacher. We must remember that behavior is communication.

But rather than updating the student behavior policy to address special needs children as suggested by Dr. Doan, the school board is digging in its heels. At the policy meeting, all but two school board directors  (Scott Dorsey and Todd Kantorczyk) in attendance support the current policy, which includes reporting a six-year-old with Down Syndrome to the police.

Calling the police for a little kindergartner with Down Syndrome has become a public relations nightmare for the school district —  adverse media attention is problematic.  And touting the high performance test scores of our school district is not going to work this time; the problem is not going away. As the entire country (and beyond!) looks at the situation in disbelief, the District doubles down on the policy.

To be clear, the Valley Forge Elementary School teacher and the principal were doing their jobs when they called the police. The Tredyffrin Police in turn were doing their job. The problem is the District policy – we all want our children to be safe at school but the current policy goes too far.

Where does the school district go from here … ?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

State Senator “Andy” Dinniman (D-Chester) Announces Retirement, Endorses His Aide Don Vymazal

Late today we learned that state senator for Pennsylvania’s 19th District, “Andy” Dinniman (D) has announced his retirement.

A tireless champion for Chester County and its residents for thirty years, Senator Dinniman is a one of a kind.  He is everyone’s Senator. If you’ve ever observed him walk down the street. Or cross a crowded restaurant on his way to a table. Or appear at a parade or fair or other public gathering. The congenial legislator can’t make it more than a few steps without someone stopping him for a greeting, a friendly word or a handshake.

The news of the Senator’s retirement is bittersweet.  While I extend my best wishes for his much earned retirement, please know that you will be missed. Thank you for your many years of service and for making Chester County first but now is the time for your family. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for your wife.

According to www.politicspa.com, Senator Dinniman has endorsed Don Vymazal, his longtime Director of Government Relations and Policy, stating “Don, who is well-known in Phoenixville, is the most qualified, experienced, knowledgeable, and well-respected person to lead the 19th Senatorial District.” Vymazal experience includes 16+ years with the PA State Senate.

Vymazal will face a primary challenge from Kyle Boyer, first term TE School Board director. On Thursday, February 13, the Chester County Democratic Party will hold its endorsement meeting.

Below is Senator Dinniman’s announcement of retirement:

“For nearly 30 years, as your Chester County Commissioner and State Senator, I have had the privilege of building a close relationship with the people of Chester County. Now, I have a responsibility to explain why I will not be seeking reelection.

This was a very tough decision, especially knowing just how many of you have faithfully and tirelessly supported my work over the years. However, as I sit at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center with my wife, Margo, who is now recovering from surgery, we both came to the sudden realization this was not the time to run again.

Anyone who seeks public office understands that it’s a family decision. Despite enduring a series of health challenges in recent years, Margo has always supported me. Over 51 years of marriage, she always said “yes” when I wanted to run. Even after a three-month stay at the hospital and Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation, she remained my biggest cheerleader, my most astute advisor, my rock. I remember times during her long hospitalization that I would go to Harrisburg, come home to walk and feed the dog, and then head back to the hospital to spend the night at her bedside. Margo and I have faced some long days and tough battles together, but that is what a real, loving relationship is about — and it only gets better with time.

Even after all of this, Margo again, out of steadfast love and devotion, agreed to support my plans to run in this year’s election. But now it is my turn to be there for her and lovingly support her as we focus on her recovery from a procedure that will allow her to again walk freely and live without constant pain for the first time in years.

Again, as I write this, sitting beside my wife and family, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by feelings of both gratitude and hope. I cannot help but reflect on my own career and marriage and the idea that “love is love.” I have been blessed to not only serve as your representative, but even more so, to share my life and all it’s ups and downs with a strong, supportive, and committed partner who I love. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

In closing, please know that I will continue to work hard for you until the very last day of my term. And Margo thanks all of you for the cards and well wishes.”

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

TE Policy Committee Update: Public Wants Answers from School Board About Police Record for 6-Year-Old & State Senator Andy Dinniman Weighs In

I attended the District’s Policy Meeting last night. For nearly two hours of public comment, it was remarkable as parent after parent spoke out – all on the topic of Policy 5401 student discipline and the need for clarification. Many of the comments and discussion centered on which student behavioral situations constitute a requirement to “consult” with  police. As an audience member, it appears to be much confusion as to how Policy 5401 was intended to work vs the reality of what actually happens. In addition, concern for the handling (or mishandling) of special needs children and their specific behavioral issues.

It was troubling to learn from parents that the District appears more focused on students who make threats (including the 6-year-old Down Syndrome kindergartner) versus the students involved in physical altercations. Threats appear to escalate quickly to the police level yet on the flip side parents told stories about children who have been physically bulled and even beaten (yes, that word was used) without any police notification. These stories were difficult to hear – with one coming from a 12-year-old from Chesterbrook.

One of most poignant stories came from Tredyffrin Township supervisor Sharon Humble who reported that just yesterday her middle school son was bullied and pushed at school causing his head to hit the concrete. And although Mrs. Humble reported that her son was at home with a concussion, the District did not contact the police. This is crazy – how is that a kindergartner with Down Syndrome now has a police report but there’s no investigation into a significant physical alteration. I simply do not understand.

Throughout the two hours, CBS channel 3 was taping the meeting as was a T/E parent. Once the video from the parent is available, I will post. During the time that I was at the meeting, the members of the school board had little to say. But there was one remarkable moment between the Policy Chair Kyle Boyer and a District parent.

A parent attempts to read a letter from PA State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) regarding Policy 5401 which was sent to TE Superintendent Gusick and the school board prior to the meeting. Boyer interrupts the parent, saying “we’re not allowing you to read the letter” and refuses to allow her to continue. The parent then responds “Why, because you’re running against him?”  At which point, there were audible gasps from the audience.

In the comments on the last post on Community Matters, I provided an image from the public Facebook page of Sen Dinniman. The Senator was informed of the handling of the kindergartner with Down Syndrome; and states he has contacted the District and will post the letter shortly.  The letter was subsequently released on his Facebook page and a copy is at the end of this post.

To clarify, according to the Chester County Democratic Committee website, www.chescodems.org  first term T/E school board director Kyle Boyer is opposing incumbent  Senator Andy Dinniman, (who has served in the state senate since 2006). The two democrats will face off for the Pennsylvania Senate, District 19 seat.

In closing, it is my understanding that a draft of changes to Policy 5401 was presented by the Policy Committee (after I left) although a copy was not part of the meeting agenda. No final decision and the matter will continue to be discussed at a future Policy Committee meeting. It was a uncomfortable and troubling meeting without a clear path forward.

Senator Dinniman delivers a powerful message to TE School District in his letter below — please read.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

TE School District Policy 5401 “Student Discipline” Results in Police Record for Kindergartner With Down Syndrome — School Board, How is This Possible?

I learned of a troubling situation from the January 21 meeting of TESD Policy Committee. Although I was not in attendance at the meeting, I reviewed the video of the meeting and would encourage all reading this post to do likewise (click here for video).

According to Maggie and Mark Gaines, their 6-year-old kindergarten daughter (who has Down Syndrome) now has a record with the Tredyffrin Township Police Department.  The following is from the statement read by Mrs. Gaines at the Police Committee meeting:

Our daughter Margot is a kindergartner at Valley Forge Elementary School. And she now has a record with the Tredyffrin police department, because the district alleged she had made a threat to her teacher.

On November 19, Margot, who has Down syndrome and often struggles transitioning between activities, was asked by her teacher to do something she did not want to do. At one point in her refusal, she pointed her finger at her teacher and said, “I shoot you.”

I imagine the utterance was not unlike the instances when I’ve told her it’s time for bed and she says, “I hate bed. I hate mommy.” As most parents can attest, I have learned not to take offense. For I know that a short time later she is usually cuddled up to me, while we read bedtime stories and exchange kisses and cuddles before saying good-night.

At any rate, the teacher claimed this response was a “threat” and brought Margot to the principal, who talked to my daughter and quickly determined that she neither understood what she was saying nor meant any harm to her teacher or any of her classmates.

The principal then followed district policy and convened a “threat assessment” team. The threat assessment team met and determined Margot had made a “transient” threat, which is simply an expression of anger or frustration with no intent to harm anyone. The threat assessment team recommended no disciplinary action. Also, there was no recommendation from the principal, Margot’s teachers nor any other members of Margot’s IEP team to address the “problem” behavior in her IEP since it appeared to be an “isolated” event.

I think most people would agree that this is where the issue should have ended. And yet it did not.

Mrs. Gaines received a call from the principal after the assessment team met to notify that the District policy required a call to the police regarding the incident. As any parent would do, she “disagreed and argued it was absurd to involve the police for an episode involving a kindergartner who pointed her finger, not in malice, but in protest to a request to change classrooms.”

The Gaines do not believe that the District Policy 5401 “Student Discipline” requires the police to be called for a transient threat. However, the school district alleges that 6-year-old Margot with Down Syndrome made a threat to her teacher and therefore under Policy 5401 required police involvement.

Compounding the situation, we learn from Mrs. Gaines statement  that their kindergartner’s information was entered into the Tredyffrin Township police database and that it “would not be deleted or expunged after any reasonable time period”. When Mrs. Gaines asked the police officer who could have access to the information, the response was that it was publicly available.

I want to be clear  — nothing is as important as protecting our children and everyone wants our schools to be safe. But surely there must be a better solution than to create a police file on a special needs kindergartner. I do not want to believe that the District intended this outcome from its Policy 5401.

A statement by former school board director and chair of the policy committee Kate Murphy was read at the January 21 meeting and provided the following remarks,

Good evening Policy Committee Members,

When we revised Policy 5401, and reviewed the accompanying Administrative Regulation, we didn’t discuss a situation like this. Many of our changes and revisions were driven by events that occurred in our middle schools or high school, not in our elementary schools.

It wasn’t my intent to notify the police, or create a “record” with local law enforcement when an elementary-aged child made what our trained threat assessment team determined to be a “transient threat.”

Knowing now how this policy is enforced, please ask if this is your intent. Does it make sense to notify local law enforcement every time an elementary-aged student makes a non-substantive threat out of anger or frustration?

If this isn’t your intent, please clarify the language in Policy 5401, and ask the administration to do the same in their accompanying regulation.

Thank you

Thank you Kate for providing historic background on Policy 5401 — much appreciated.

Folks, watch the video of the January 21 meeting and the associated public comments and I think you will agree that review and clarification is needed for District Policy 5401 “Student Discipline”!

There is a school board Policy Meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 4 at 7 PM at the Administration Building.  According to the meeting agenda, there will be follow-up on Policy 5401 Student Discipline. I plan to attend the meeting in hopes that the school board clarifies Policy 5401 and takes the appropriate action.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

T/E Preliminary Budget Calls for 2.6% Tax Increase Question: What Happened to the $4 Million Surplus from October?

At its last meeting on January 6, the TESD school board voted 8-1 to authorize the Administration to display a 2020-2021 preliminary budget proposal that includes a property tax increase of 2.6%.  The proposed property tax increase of 2.6% is the Act 1 index. For the record, this will mark the 16th straight year of tax increases in TE School District.

At the January meeting, the public learned that the school district needs the tax increase to help close the projected $7 million operating deficit.  I am baffled … in a blog post dated October 10, 2019,  (you might want to review the post and the 54 comments) I wrote the following:

How is it possible that in June, the TESD Business Manager claimed a projected deficit of $1.5 million for the 2018-19 year and then based on that, the taxpayers received a 3.91% tax increase for 2019-20?  Then fast forward less than four months later and this same Business Manager tells the school board at the Finance Committee meeting this week that not only did the District not have a deficit for the 2018-19 year but instead it magically had a $4 million surplus — A $5.5 Million discrepancy! How is this possible?

The same business manager who magically found the multi-million dollar surplus in October now says the school district has a projected $7 million operating deficit.  It is no wonder that I have received emails from residents asking what happened to the $4 million surplus. In an effort to understand how those extra millions were accounted for in the preliminary budget proposal (which is on the agenda for adoption at tomorrow’s school board meeting), I searched for it on the school district website.

Today, I learned from Keith Knauss, former long-serving school board director at Unionville Chaddsford School District and regular contributor to Community Matters, that if you want to see a copy of the proposed budget proposal you must drive to the District’s administration building on North Valley Road.

I reread the press release from the January 6 meeting – it clearly states that the school board voted to authorize the Administration to display the budget.  Sorry, but forcing residents to drive to the administration building to view the budget is not my idea of transparency.  However, as I learned from Keith, it gets more ridiculous.

Rather than drive to the administration building to view the proposed preliminary budget, Keith filed a right-to-know request with the District’s Open Records Officer Art McDonnell (yes, also the Business Manager). Rather than provide a copy of the proposed preliminary budget (a public document) McDonnell denies the request! On what grounds, I cannot imagine.

Today Keith sent the following email to our school board members and shared a copy with me:

School Directors,

You may want to ask your business manager and Open Records Officer Mr. McDonnell why he is making it inconvenient to see the proposed preliminary budget passed by unanimous vote on January 6th.  A school board concerned with public review and comment would have had the budget available with the 1/6 agenda.  An acceptable alternative would have had the budget available on the district’s website the next day.  The questionable alternative chosen by Mr. McDonnell was to require the public to inspect the document at the district offices.  Why make it hard to see the budget?

Rather than visiting the district offices to see the budget, I chose to send a Right to Know request to the Open Records Officer Mr. McDonnell seeking the budget.  He could have easily sent a pdf copy of the budget as this is the standard format required by PDE for all budget documents.  Instead, my request was denied.  I have appealed that denial to the Office of Open Records.  This is an unfortunate outcome.  First, the denial paints the district as opaque rather than transparent. Second, the appeal requires time on my part and legal fees on your part.

I’ve attached a copy of the appeal.

Regards,

Keith Knauss

Reread the last couple of sentences of Keith’s email to the school board, “…the denial paints the district as opaque rather than transparent. Second, the appeal requires time on my part and legal fees on your part.”

Yet again, you have to ask yourselves “who” is running the TE School District? The District (read taxpayers) will now incur additional legal fees due to the actions of McDonnell over a simple right-to-know request. The budget proposal is public information! However, it’s not McDonnell’s money – so why should he care. Had McDonnell included the budget proposal on the District’s website immediately following the January 6 meeting, all of this nonsense, time and expense would have been avoided.

You have to wonder why McDonnell is limiting the number of people who will see the proposed budget proposal.  Many of our residents have full time jobs, so how many were actually available to go to the District’s Administration building? Was  McDonnell concerned that some of us might go looking for the $4 million surplus that the District had three months ago!

Transparency needs to be more than a feel-good buzzword.  The government has an obligation to share information with citizens. On the eve of the school board meeting to approve the preliminary budget (and tax increase), the meeting agenda is now on the District’s website.

Paging through the 122 page meeting agenda, I found a summary of the proposed preliminary budget, now indicating a deficit of $7,729,580. With a 2.6% tax increase (as allowed by Act I), the deficit is $4,689,619. To be clear, the public does not have a copy of the detailed proposed budget, only a summary!

My question remains – what happened to the $4 million surplus that the District had three months ago!  Where did it go Mr. Business Manager?

Residents want open and transparent government from our school board. The reason for that is simple: Our government is intended to be, as President Abraham Lincoln put it more than 150 years ago, “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

T/E School Board  – please help us!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

$1.5 Million Designated for Tredyffrin’s Wilson Farm Park Updating – Who’s making the Decisions and Where’s the Input from the Township Park & Rec Board?

In the last few days, I have received emails, texts and phone calls from concerned township residents regarding the plans underway for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.  It turns out that the more I learned about the situation, the more troubled I have become – hence the need for today’s post.

For many residents in Tredyffrin Township, the opening of the award-winning Wilson Farm Park in 2004 was a very special time.  Located in Chesterbrook,  the 90-acre recreational facility quickly became the jewel of the township, offering sports fields,  picnic areas, pavilion, putting green, amphitheater, tot lot, etc.  The Fourth of July fireworks, Community Day and the Summer Concert Series are all held at Wilson Farm Park and enjoy tremendous support from the community.

Last fall township supervisors approved a $7M municipal bond initiative. With a three year window to use the funds, the bond money was to go to a variety of needs, including township building improvements, road and street repairs and our community parks.  With the aging infrastructure of Wilson Farm Park showing a need for general maintenance and updating it was good news that $1.5 million of the bond money was earmarked for township parks.

Over several supervisor meetings, discussion evolved about the use of the bond money, including Wilson Farm Park. I noted in a review of the November and December supervisor meetings, that a subcommittee (Jack Trimmer, Troy Logan and Meg Hamilton) of the Parks & Rec Board was approved to work on the bond funding usage for the parks. Understanding that the Parks & Rec Board is integral in determining how the $1.5 million would be spent in the township parks, their voices would be critical in the process.

At the November 18 meeting, the supervisors approve a proposal for Simone Collins Landscape Architects for $21,750 for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. There was no mention in supervisor meeting minutes about a request for proposal (RFP) so the specific scope of work is unclear. However, it is noted that Simone Collins is well respected and is who designed the original plans for Wilson Farm Park in 2003/4.

Fast forward and the next thing we know there is an Open House this past Monday, Jan 13 in Keene Hall, 7 PM to discuss the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Posted earlier on the same day on the township website is a ‘Wilson Farm Park Master Plan Survey’.  Several residents whom contacted me complained about the lack of notification of the meeting and therefore poor attendance.

At the meeting, Simone Collins delivers a complete presentation for the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. As detailed in the PowerPoint, the team includes Simone Collins personnel as well as Spotts, Stevens & McCoy engineers. The Simone Collins plan includes many needed updates and routine maintenance in addition to some “new” features including the transformation of the putting green into four pickleball courts.

All of this brings me to the point of this post – many questions and few answers.

Where is the input from the township’s Parks & Rec Board on the Wilson Farm Park Master Plan, specifically the subcommittee that was established to work with the consultant?

This appears to be a much-evolved master plan for Wilson Farm Park, when exactly did this work begin? In addition, since the members of the township’s Park & Recreation Board have not had a seat at the table, who exactly is leading the charge for the township?

It was my understanding that the $1.5 million was to be spent on updating existing park infrastructure so where did the idea to transform the putting green in to four pickleball courts come from?  Not saying that pickleball courts are not a good idea; but if the Parks & Rec Board did not recommend it and the community has not yet weighed in, where did the idea come from? Not to mention, that the chosen location of the “new pickleball courts” is right next to the folks who live in Newport townhouses. It is no surprise that a number of the residents living next to Wilson Farm Park are very upset about the proposed plan and have contacted me!

It appears that this is a “cart before the horse” situation – the township now has a new Wilson Farm Park Master Plan proposal without any input from the members of the Parks & Rec Board and without the results of the citizen survey.  According to the Simone Collins timeline contained in the presentation, the Wilson Farm Park survey is to be available until approximately Feb. 29 yet it lists the date of March 1 as “Plan Complete”. It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement, but is that really happening here.

According to the Legislative Code of Tredyffrin Township, § 138-5  Powers and duties of the Park and Recreation Board, “The Township Park and Recreation Board shall have general supervision of all Township parks, and all maintenance thereof, including replacements of property and equipment therein. ..”  so why are they not involved in this process?

How is it possible that the township can spend $1.5M in the township parks without input from the Parks & Recreation Board?  If memory serves me correctly, the $1.5M bond money was earmarked for “parks” and not just for Wilson Farm Park. There are 12 parks in Tredyffrin Township, yet there is no mention of money going anywhere but to Wilson Farm Park. Is Simone Collins working on the other parks too?  Or is the complete $1.5M going to Wilson Farm Park?

On the Board of Supervisor agenda for Tuesday, Jan 21 is a “motion to approve proposal from Simone Collins for Wilson Farm Park Master Plan”.  Is this “proposal” the PowerPoint presentation that Simone Collins presented on Monday, Jan 13? Are the supervisors approving a plan without input from Parks & Rec members? In addition, what about results from the citizen survey which does not end until Feb. 29, how does that factor into the “proposal”?

If the township has three years to use the $7M bond money, why is there a rush to push through $1.5M spending on Wilson Farm Park Master Plan. Wouldn’t it make more sense to slow the process, involve the Park & Rec Board, review the results of the Wilson Farm Park Citizen Survey, hold a public forum for community discussion and THEN take the next step on approving a Wilson Farm Park Master Plan.

It is important that the community is involved in the process of spending funds for park development/improvement. Our voices matter and it is imperative that government be transparent and honest with the public, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Do You Live in Tredyffrin Township and Struggle with Stormwater Issues? Plan to Attend: Public Forum of the Resident Stormwater Task Force on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 7 PM

If you are a Tredyffrin Township resident dealing with stormwater issues (and aren’t we all?), please plan to attend the first public form of the Stormwater Task Force on Tuesday, January 7,  7 PM at Tredyffrin Township building. Tredyffrin supervisors authorized the citizens’ Stormwater Advisory Task Force to assist the township in characterizing stormwater problems and recommending solutions. At the meeting on Tuesday, the Task Force will provide some background to stormwater in the township and lay out its goals and approach and ask for resident input.

The Task Force is primarily collecting data about stormwater problems through an on-line survey. Residents can go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TredyffrinStormwater to enter information into the comprehensive Township wide database. If you have general questions, you can email the Task Force at: stormwatertaskforce@gmail.com.

Given that many of our neighborhoods regularly deal with major stormwater issues, a citizen-led township Stormwater Task Force is needed and much-appreciated. Nobody knows a community better than its residents.

A recent example is the proposed parking lot on Irish Road which is part of the Conestoga High School expansion project.  The parking lot plan requires the removal of many trees from its wooded lot.  We know that rainwater does not percolate into impervious surfaces but runs off instead. Impervious surface is the primary contributor to stormwater runoff and is a major contributor to flooding.

Residents in the high school area (particularly Irish Road, Lizbeth Lane and Oak Lane) have suffered with major stormwater and flooding issues for years – if you know the area, many homes in the neighborhood sit downhill from the proposed high school expansion project and parking lot. Such a large land development project, which includes the removal of many trees, is certain to impact a community already impacted by stormwater runoff problems and stormwater issues.

Residents township wide are experiencing severe stormwater issues – from Glenhardie, Deepdale and Strafford Park areas to the Pennsylvania Turnpike neighbors in the Great Valley and anyone in the township living close to the Trout and Valley Creek watersheds. If you are experiencing stormwater issues, you are encouraged to attend the meeting on Tuesday and make your concerns known.  Neighbors cannot afford further damage and possible devaluation of property as a result of severe runoff issues.

Let’s work together with the citizens’ Stormwater Task Force to help mitigate and prevent flooding and erosion of our properties!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

TESD Auditor to Attend Finance Meeting Monday, Dec. 9 – Will the Public Receive Answers to $1.2M Accounting Error? Some Taxpayers are Suggesting Fraud & Cover-Up!

As the T/E School District launches its $40 million high school expansion plan and new parking lot, there remain unanswered questions and concerns about the District’s finances and budget process – particularly the unanswered status of the $1.2 million accounting error.  Six months ago the school board voted 6-3 for the District to take responsibility for the accounting error and to correct the audits and annual financial reports for 2016-17 and 2017-18 years.

At the Finance Meeting on Monday night (7 PM TEAO), the District’s audit report and updates is on the agenda and will be presented by Auditor Donald J. Pierce, CPA and partner at Maillie, LLP. Former school board President Scott Dorsey previously assured members of the public that they would be able to ask the Auditor questions directly – it is assumed that newly elected Board President Michele Burger will honor that commitment.

Since the District’s accounting error was first identified in early 2019, residents in the community, including financial professionals, have attended meetings, asked questions, voiced concerns and followed up with emails to school board directors. To date, there have been few answers.

In advance of the finance meeting tomorrow, one of the community’s financial experts Neal Colligan sent me an email detailing specific concerns/questions re the District’s accounting error. Neal is convinced that the accounting error was intentional on the part of the District (I read this to mean the Business Manager) and wants to know specifically when the Auditor learned about the error. It was previously established that the Administration did not tell the school board of the accounting error.  Neal states the following in his email –

The Administration has always maintained that the Auditor was aware of this timing error when the decision was made (by the Business Office) to post them in the wrong year.  Some of the Board has parroted the same story.  On April 22, 2019; the Superintendent read a statement into the record that included, “once the invoices were found, they were booked, according to GAAP, in the 2017-18 year…” and that this information “was shared by the auditor at the time..”.  On August 26, 2019; the District Solicitor wrote this statement of Fact: “concurrent with the processing of the invoices and recording of the expenses in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the District informed its independent auditor of the found unpaid invoices….” and “the independent auditors verbally advised that the invoices did not meet their test for materiality…”

Over the course of the last year it was apparent to the public that some members of the school board were not interested in the correction of the accounting error (remember three members of our school board opposed the vote in June).  It appeared that they expected the public to quit asking questions about the accounting error; probably in hopes that the problem would just go away. The good news is that Neal and others in the public may finally get the answers from the Auditor tomorrow night!

Aside from simply “doing what’s right”, why should this error in the District’s accounting be important to the school board (and the taxpayers)?  Neal answers that question here –

The Auditor is hired by, and works directly FOR, the Board.  They are reviewing the Business Office and their internal controls.  Mistakes or break-downs in controls MUST be reported directly to the Board (by the Auditor if the Administration does not share with the Board as in this case).  The Auditor has NEVER mentioned this “timing error” in their Management Letters report to the Board; they will certainly address it THIS year.

An audit is an expensive (cost of the audit) check on the Administration.  IF the Administration is not honest with the Auditor, this important control does not exist.  There’s plenty of written evidence that this accounting error was engineered by the Administration and that they never informed the Board or the Auditor.  If that’s the case: this is extraordinarily dangerous to the Community.

Board Members must then consider the likelihood that this has happened before and assure that it does not happen again.  An audit can never catch Management Fraud.  The reason is obvious; Management can commit the Fraud and then cover it up.  Did this happen here?  If so, the Board needs to take serious action and remove the individuals who engineered this financial mis-statement and non-disclosure.

There are plenty of documented statements like the ones above indicating those involved in this saga and (???) cover-up.  The timing of the Auditor’s “notice” of this November of 2017 event is a critical piece of information.  The Board wants to be trusted by the Community, can they trust their Administration/Solicitor?  Maybe we’ll find those answers when the Auditor speaks.

Here’s hoping that Neal is able to help to find the community’s needed answers from the Auditor at the Finance Committee meeting!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Eat, Drink & Be Merry … And Help the Berwyn Fire Company!

In the midst of all the Thanksgiving celebrations, I missed the start of the Berwyn-Devon Restaurant Week on Sunday, December 1 but the good news is that it runs through Saturday, Dec.7.

If you go to one of the participating restaurants – 30 Main, Alfredo Italian BYO, Berwyn Tavern or La Cabra Brewing through Saturday night, the restaurants will donate 20% of your bill (excluding tax and tip) to the Berwyn Fire Company.   Support these community spirited restaurants and you support our local fire company!

Here’s a special treat for the beer drinkers in the community … If you are not looking for lunch or dinner, La Cabra has their newest beer on tap – Actionem Communem, brewed on-site, just for the Berwyn Fire Company.

According to La Cabra, “This American IPA was brewed to support the brave men and women of the Berwyn Fire Company. Heavily hopped for notes of classic citrus pith and tropical fruit with an extra dose of thanks for their tireless service, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to support their work keeping our community safe this holiday season”.  The Actionem Communem beer on tap will be available after Restaurant Week ends … here’s hoping that it becomes La Cabra’s biggest seller! Thank you La Cabra Brewing for supporting Berwyn Fire Company!

All money raised through Restaurant Week will go towards replacing the Berwyn Fire Company’s 2002 Tahoe EMS responder with a 2020 Expedition. According to Berwyn Fire Company EMS Capt. Mike Baskin, “the primary use of the 18-year old vehicle is as a back-up paramedic responder when one of the ambulances is out of service and also goes to about 50 medical standbys per year. It is used by EMS officers and QRS (Quick Response Service) providers to render care at medical emergencies prior to or in addition to the arrival of an ambulance. We are attempting to use a combination of grant and targeted fund raising money to replace this rather than reduce capital and operational reserves.  The total project is about $53,000.”

Dine and Donate to help the fire company — let’s fill La Cabra Brewing, 30 Main, Alfredo’s and Berwyn Tavern starting tonight through Saturday night and show our support for  Berwyn Fire Company! (Alfredo’s participation is through tonight (Thursday) and does not include Friday and Saturday).  These restaurants are generously donating 20% of your bill to the Berwyn Fire Company! All you have to to is Dine to Donate!

Make Sure to Print a Copy of the Restaurant Week ad (above) and bring it with you!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Oh No! Catalyst Appeals Digital Billboard Decision to Chester County Court of Common Pleas!

With fingers-crossed I had hoped that Catalyst Outdoor would just accept the denial by Tredyffrin Township and its Zoning Hearing Board for a digital sign in Paoli and just walk away … sadly they did not!

With a thirty day window to appeal the township’s decision, Catalyst Outdoor has just done that – and late this past Friday submitted their appeal application to the Chester County Court of Common Appeals! Now it is no longer in the hands of Tredyffrin Township — it moves to the Common Pleas judges and we wait.  This is so wrong!Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Community Matters © 2019 Frontier Theme