I attended the TE School District Facilities Meeting on Friday. Thinking that the fencing at Valley Forge Middle School discussion would be put to bed finally, the audience learned instead that the never-ending saga would continue…
After months and months of legal bills on the District’s side (i.e. taxpayers) and on the part of the Chesterbrook Civic Association and Green Hills residents, the Board has decided the District needs another school safety study, which will focus on fencing at VFMS, before they can make a decision. After TESD President Kris Graham read her statement proposing the hiring of a safety consultant for the Valley Forge Middle School fencing project, other Board members embraced the suggestion. What?
As background regarding the school safety study – In January 2013, the District hired Andy Chambers (the former Tredyffrin Township Police Chief) as the safety consultant to review the safety of the eight schools. Initially Chambers’ hiring was included on a school board consent agenda. Facing claims of Sunshine Act violation, the District solicitor Ken Roos recommended the ‘reconsideration’ of Chambers at the following Board meeting. Ultimately, Chambers was hired with a 7-2 vote with former school board members Anne Crowley and Rich Brake citing ‘lack of transparency’ in their dissenting votes. The public was told that Chambers contract was ‘not to exceed’ $11,500.
The Board has repeatedly cited the safety report as the rationale for building fences around the schools – it certainly provided the basis for why the five elementary schools were fenced last summer. The public was not provided input for the safety study and we were not permitted to see the safety study when completed (the Board cited safety reasons). The District has denied right-to-know requests for the study.
The taxpayers paid for the District’s safety study two years ago, which claims to suggest that all District schools need to be fenced. Why is the 2013 safety study not applicable for VFMS?
Now many, many meetings and legal and architectural fees later, the Board has decided that the District needs to spend more money for a new safety study – this study to focus specifically on Valley Forge Middle School fencing. It should be noted that the Board was quick to mention that this time the District will send out an RFP to find a safety consultant (something they admit was not done before they hired Chambers).
I’m sorry but I just don’t understand. Why is the District going to spend more money on the VFMS fencing project by hiring another safety consultant? The uncertainty for the neighbors continues, as the Board was quick to say that when this new study comes out in early 2016, it may still require fencing VFMS. Here’s a question for the Board — why not have Police Superintendent Anthony Giaimo and the Tredyffrin police conduct the safety study for the District? Certainly Giaimo’s background and experience would make him an excellent choice to review school safety.
Three school board candidates attended the Facilities Meeting (Fran Reardon, Easttown, Region 3 and Tredyffrin West, Region 2 candidates Michele Burger and Ed Sweeney). For the two open school board seats in Tredyffrin West, Region 2, the Primary election results had Burger (D) and Sweeney (R) receiving the highest number of votes respectfully – with TESD Board President Kris Graham in third place. There’s little doubt that the ongoing VFMS fencing issues cost Graham votes. I wonder if she thinks that by spending taxpayer dollars for another safety study and delaying the fencing project until 2016, will translate to a higher vote count in November.
The District’s mega-million proposed Maintenance & Storage Building received much discussion at Friday’s Facilities Meeting. This proposed maintenance building and the adoption of the 2015/16 Final Budget are scheduled for Priority Discussion at the school board meeting on Monday, June 15. Board discussion and public comment opportunity. 7:30 PM, Conestoga High School