To fence or not to fence — Valley Forge Middle School fencing saga continues

Fencing April 2015

On Wednesday, Nov. 18 the public was invited to attend a community meeting at Valley Forge Middle School with the District’s safety consultant from National School Safety and Security Services (consultation fee: $15,500).

Chesterbrook resident Doug Anestad attended the fencing meeting and provided the following update of the meeting for Community Matters:

The Valley Forge Middle School fence safety consultant meeting was quite an event with a very large turnout with over one hundred in attendance.

The meeting started at 7pm and the safety consultant said that he wanted to finish by 9pm. There was a line of people talking the whole two hours at the two microphones that were set up. Each person had a maximum of 5 minutes to speak with many not using their allotted time.

The message was consistent, loud, and clear: the audience did not think that the proposed fencing would increase student safety, are ugly, and the money would be better spent on the students.

The audience seemed to be much more worried about the daily traffic jams at Valley Forge Middle School during drop off and pick up than any supposed safety the fences would add.

It was not just parents of Valley Forge Middle School students that spoke out against the proposed fences. Valley Forge Elementary parents not only spoke out against the proposed fencing at Valley Forge Middle but also stated that they didn’t see the benefit of the fences that have already been installed at Valley Forge Elementary.

Valley Forge Middle School PTO members, including the PTO President Sarah Culbert, spoke out against the proposed fences.

Speaking of the PTO, a parent mentioned that he got a letter from the PTO trying to get raise money to purchase iPads for the students. He pointed out that the $80,000 budgeted for the fences would not only complete the fundraising, but go way beyond it.  I just looked it up, and for $80,000 we could purchase 200 iPads for the students at retail cost. The school district gets an educational discount so they could get even more.

The point wasn’t really about buying iPads. The point was that the money could be better spent on the students. The audience wholeheartedly agreed.

In addition to the PTO president, there were presidents of quite a few homeowner associations including David Miller, president of the Chesterbrook Civic Association. They stated that in their communities, everyone they talked to was against the proposed fences and people didn’t see how they helped student safety and were a waste of money.

One of the most telling things that happened was when one person speaking at the end stated that she was uncomfortable publicly speaking and commented that many other people felt the same way and therefore wouldn’t speak. She asked if there could be a show of hands for people who were against the fence. It looked as if every hand in the audience went up. When the safety consultant asked who was in favor of the fences, only one hand from the Tredyffrin community went up.

The bottom line is that the community came out in force yet again to give their input. The input was loud and clear. The community knows fences will not increase student safety.  Fences are an eyesore and a waste of money.

If the school board goes ahead with the fences, one has to ask what the point was of even asking the community for their input. The community wants the money spent on students – not useless fences.

As part of the District’s agreement with the safety consultant, a preliminary oral presentation is tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 20, 2 PM at the District’s Facilities Meeting. The safety consultant will provide written report with recommendations following the site visit.

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  1. I did not attend the meeting so I’m very grateful for the this report.

    One of the most telling things that happened was when one person speaking at the end stated that she was uncomfortable publicly speaking and commented that many other people felt the same way and therefore wouldn’t speak. She asked if there could be a show of hands for people who were against the fence. It looked as if every hand in the audience went up. When the safety consultant asked who was in favor of the fences, only one hand from the Tredyffrin community went up.

    Many citizens are uncomfortable giving their opinion and speaking in public. Officials count on this fear. That’s why we’re in the spot we’re in right now and not just with this issue but others as well.

    Cheers to this citizen for facing her fear by getting her message out in a clever and imaginative way. It was better than speaking out. Her idea allowed everyone in the room to be heard. Brilliant!!

    Petitions are also an excellent way to spotlight an issue and educate citizens without having to stand up and speak at a public meeting.

    Thanks to everyone who attended.

  2. The 2+ hour Facilities Meeting was disappointing. The only agenda item was a preliminary report by the safety consultant regarding Valley Forge Middle School.

    The original idea for hiring a safety consultant at VFMS was to review all aspects of school safety and then to present recommendations. But unfortunately, we learned that the school board hired the consultant for a narrow focus, to specifically review fencing — apparently other safety ideas were not part of the mission.

    As presented by the consultant, the argument for fencing at VFMS was no longer about keeping unwanted people out (shooters) but rather for keeping the children inside — numerous remarks made about the special ed ‘runners’. No evidence was presented that children have run into the road or that such a problem exists. The suggestion was that the 5 (preferably 6) ft. fence could help with keeping deer, fox, off the school property and of course, the District argument of ‘marking the property boundaries’ was restated by the consultant.

    I was at the township Zoning Hearing Board meeting where the District’s attorney failed to make the case for a fence variance for VFMS along Valley Forge Road. Are we to believe that because the District’s consultant recommends a 5 or 6 ft. in the front yard (where zoning only permits a 4 ft. fence), that the Township’s ZHB will now approve the variance.

    It was suggested by the Facilities Chair that if we (residents???) liked the final consultant’s report, we might want them to do a full safety review of all schools. (1) the residents will never see the final report; the Board will cite safety reasons (as they have done in the past) and the report will not be released and (2) the District has spent $15,500 on a report to reinforce fencing at VFMS. The residents learned nothing new from the consultants, it was simply re-hashing sound bites on fencing. In fact, when the consultant was asked if they ever ‘not recommended’ fencing, the consultant’s response was that in 30 years, he couldn’t possibly remember. There was no specific information about VFMS, only generic bullet points. So my question would be, why should the District spend more taxpayer money to have the consultant say what the school board wants to hear?

    I would like members the school board to fully articulate what ‘new’ information was presented by the consultant – explain to the residents the benefits of this $15,500 expenditure.

  3. It may have been disappointing to you and others who attended. It’s always harder for those on the front lines. For me and others reading, it was gratifying; a success, and a big relief.

    “”” As presented by the consultant, the argument for fencing at VFMS was no longer about keeping unwanted people out (shooters) but rather for keeping the children inside — numerous remarks made about the special ed ‘runners’. No evidence was presented that children have run into the road or that such a problem exists. The suggestion was that the 5 (preferably 6) ft. fence could help with keeping deer, fox, off the school property and of course, the District argument of ‘marking the property boundaries’ was restated by the consultant.”””

    This information demonstrates to citizens and parents that the fencing is not for security purposes as public officials have stated over the years.

    And:

    “”It was suggested by the Facilities Chair that if we (residents???) liked the final consultant’s report, we might want them to do a full safety review of all schools.””

    Now that’s just down right provocative. He knows it too. A final way to mock citizens on his way out.

  4. “”””Speaking of the PTO, a parent mentioned that he got a letter from the PTO trying to get raise money to purchase iPads for the students. He pointed out that the $80,000 budgeted for the fences would not only complete the fundraising, but go way beyond it. I just looked it up, and for $80,000 we could purchase 200 iPads for the students at retail cost. The school district gets an educational discount so they could get even more.””””

    What’s more shocking than spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fencing that no one wants, is parents sending out letters soliciting money for IPads for the schools.

    When a District is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on fencing, millions ($4.5M, that will cost $6M to repay) on a single Maintenance Building, $3M on the NOC house renovation that for the purpose of storing IT equipment (really?) $7M on the purchase and renovation of office space for Administrative staff who receive outlandish raises and bonuses every year, then parents should be paying NOTHING extra for anything.

    There has been a paradigm shift over the years, slowly seeping into the collective consciousness of District Parents. We started believing we work for the School District instead of the other way around.

  5. The safety expert gave his preliminary report. I was not remotely surprised when he sided with the school board on the fence issue. I was not impressed with his intellect nor logic for the need for the school board’s/his fences.

    First, all the reasons he gave where generic and not specific to Valley Forge Middle School. He gave reasons that had nothing to do with Valley Forge Middle School. For instance, he stated that fences are used to mark boundaries so that you can tell when someone is on school property. At Valley Forge Middle School, this is completely unnecessary due to roads creating visual boundaries on three sides and the fourth side is so far back that if you see someone, they are on school property.

    Secondly, his characterization of the comments from the community were as dismissive of the community as the school board’s past NIMBY comments. He stated that we didn’t talk about his talking points. Of course we didn’t. We weren’t given them before the meeting. In addition, he incorrectly stated that the community didn’t see how fences could ever be useful. That is not what the community said. The community said that they didn’t see how these new proposed fences would increase student safety.

    Thirdly, the expert conceded that the fencing would not increase security by stopping a shooter. This was the reason given over and over again by the school board. Even their paid expert concedes that the new fences would not stop a school shooter.

    Fourthly, when the community asked if either past clients have declined his recommendations or if he has ever not recommended fences in the past, the expert refused to directly answer the questions.

    The school board continues to make statements that are not factually correct. There were multiple mentions about the Request For Proposal (RFP) for this consultant. There was no RFP. Art McDonald handpicked this guy. The hiring of the consultant did not go through the normal RFP process. His hiring was done in complete secrecy.

    What was the point of asking for community input if it was just going to be ignored? Ninety nine percent of the community that came to the meeting did not see a need to have additional fencing. This meeting was supposedly in place to get community input. Even after this overwhelming input, the expert ignored it when coming up with his plan.

    I think this highly educated community is sick and tired of being treated like we don’t understand things. If the school board truly thinks we don’t understand something, take the time to educate us.

    I think that this issue will be a good litmus test for who on the new school board will work with the community and who will continue the divisive and disdainful behavior towards the community. Does the school board side with its hand picked expert or with what the community has loudly and clearly stated it wants?

    1. It should be noted that with the exception of Jim Bruce, all school board members attended the meeting. Thank you to Liz Mercogliano for speaking out in support of the residents, for questioning the continuing expense of safety consultants, etc. Liz took issue with the singling out and labeling special needs children as the ‘runners’. It was gratifying that newly elected school board members Michelle Burger and Ed Sweeney are standing behind their campaign promises for transparency and citizen engagement! Michelle asked for the preliminary report to be available on the website — however, the Chair pointed out that this information was proprietary to the consultant so it is doubtful that the District will comply. Ed want to understand why the focus on safety at VFMS was narrowed to just fences. School board member Virginia Lastner responded that the consultant was asked to focus only on fencing. I am mystified where along the process that the safety review at VFMS became ‘fencing only’ — I thought that for $15,500 there was to be a thorough overview and analysis of safety at the school and recommendations for various improvements/options. Disappointing

      1. Just to say here – how can the report possibly be proprietary to the consultant when the TE taxpayers have paid for it? Another example of the b-s fed to taxpayers who are trying to contribute to the way that out school district is run.

        1. Good point Ray.

          New Board Members,

          Know what is going on around you, have the courage to say no when it’s easier to say yes, put an end to justifying bad decisions, do not protect colleagues’ bad decisions and bad behavior out of misguided loyalty, stop hiding behind policy when you know what choice serves the best interests of the tax payer and the students, and don’t use your position to punish those who disagree with you.

    2. “””””The school board continues to make statements that are not factually correct. There were multiple mentions about the Request For Proposal (RFP) for this consultant. There was no RFP. Art McDonald handpicked this guy. The hiring of the consultant did not go through the normal RFP process. His hiring was done in complete secrecy.”””””

      When my first child entered high school years ago, I also experienced and witnessed officials making statements that were incorrect, not true, and very misleading. When I asked a friend whose third and last child was friends with my first born child, she said, “They say one thing and do another.”

      It shocked me that this treatment of students and parents so ingrained in the system, was the accepted method of communication in a District with so many highly intelligent and involved parents.

      Thanks to Liz, Michele and Ed. I hope things will change for the better very soon. Virginia, Scott, Doug and Kevin are up for re election in 2 years. It will be here before you know it.

    3. “””””””””What was the point of asking for community input if it was just going to be ignored? Ninety nine percent of the community that came to the meeting did not see a need to have additional fencing. This meeting was supposedly in place to get community input. Even after this overwhelming input, the expert ignored it when coming up with his plan.””””””

      This is a matter of being honest. This behavior is a form of hostility and indicates a power struggle. Calling the officials out is essential.

      It’s important to keep a paper trail like you are doing. This keeps the information and interactions factual, when they deny not fulfilling responsibilities or pretend to be innocent any time flaws are discussed.

  6. So the district feels a fence is more important than central ac in all of the elementary classrooms?
    Did the board sit in an actual classroom in say late August or early September when some rooms were as hot as 98 degrees? Imagine trying to keep kids happy and sitting still?

    Where is the logic that a fence is suddenly needed over keeping all of our students cool and comfortable.
    Not to mention with state of the art opportunities.
    It is one thing to charge students to park or play a sport or even an instrument. It’s another to continue to do crazy things with our money.
    As stated above, 99% of the people don’t want the fence. Get over it.

  7. The vote on the fencing takes place with the new board. Five of the nine school board members were just elected and the fencing will probably be one of the first votes they will take. How will the newly elected Michele Burger, Ed Sweeney, Todd K, Roberta H. and Kate Murphy vote on fencing at Valley Forge MS?

  8. Since the community has put a lot of effort into this subject, I wanted to provide some perspective as it relates to our continued frustration with the current SB.
    Let’s go back for a moment—
    Monday, April 20th, During a standing room only SB meeting, regarding the fencing issue, an Easttown SB member referenced the safety study—saying teachers wanted to have a fence along Valley Forge Rd (VFMS) to help “delineate” the school boundries when the students are out for lunch and recess.
    Thurs. May 14th-David Miller (President of Chester Assoc.) Mark Levine and myself met with Peter Motel, Scot Dorsey & Kris Graham of SB. We presented a picture of Wayne Elementary School with a white, pvc,picked fence in front of the school. We said that it would provide the “delineation” that was requested–And fit in with the landscape of our neighborhood. We left the meeting thinking we were all on the same page—nothing was said, to make us believe otherwise.
    Friday, June 12th-The Facilities Meeting. The SB made it’s BIG announcement that it would NOT proceed with VFMS fencing and would hire a safety expert.—since it is so complex and different compared to other schools. The SB “wanted to get it right”. SB members promised the public that the public would have input. A RFP would be issued.
    NEVER HAPPENED.
    Instead, SB hand picked a safety consultant from Cleveland, OH for $15,500 to provide an opinion regarding fences at VFMS—not safety. The SB directed the safety consultant (who is an expert regarding gangs at schools-per his website) on the scope of work. Only the SB and administrators walked the grounds with the consultant. It was obvious what the SB wanted and obvious what the safety consultant delivered.
    Weds, Nov 18th, Fri Nov 20th
    What was the purpose of a two hour meeting with the public and safety consultant? Parents, PTO members, concerned citizens lined up for two hours to express their concerns. The only thing I heard from the consultant on Friday in reference to the meeting was him mocking the public with the remark that the reason for the fences being 5-6ft height were so that someone’s grandmother couldn’t scale it. (referring to a remark made on Weds night by a concerned citizen who said his 84 yr old grandmother could scale the current fencing). I was sitting in the front. (I’m sure the consultant was kidding).

    However, it appears that arrogance attracts arrogance.

    For when I reminded the board of the May 14th meeting and showed the picture of Wayne Elementary School with the white fence in front, the SB Chair dismissed the example and said “that’s Radnor’s School District”—as if we can’t apply Radnor’s ideas to our schools. Yet, we can apply 5-6Ft cyclone fences to our landscape. Where is the empirical evidence for that?

    Finally, a Green Hill resident incorrectly commented during Friday’s meeting that the SB President, Kris Graham, won the most recent election. To put the record straight—and this is important since a lot of people came out to vote specifically against the fence issue:
    (these are all public records)
    Michelle Burger 2,527 31% Against the VFMS Fence Issue
    Ed Sweeney 2,310 28% Against the VFMS Fence Issue
    Alan Yockey 2,189 Against the VFMS Fence Issue
    Kris Graham 2,055 18% FOR the Fencing at VFMS
    To put it into perspective-It was a General Election—(Not Presidential, when more people vote)
    Yet, M4-Green Hills, Brookmead had a 37.8% turn out (ordinarily, 28-30% for General Election)
    Furthermore, Chester County only had a 26% turn out. Clearly, voters were motivated to vote in our area. All candidates who were against the VFMS Fence Issue, did better than the sitting SB President—in a school district, we are constantly reminded by the SB, is ranked #2.

    Why? Why did the sitting President come in 4th place and lost by 10%?

    That is something for the rest of the school board to figure out.
    Obviously, it’s apparent to the voters.

    (To be fare to Kris Graham—she was the only sitting SB member up for reelection this cycle. Otherwise, It can be argued more SB members would have experienced the same fate).

    It gives me no pleasure in pointing out these facts. If anything, it is my hope the SB will listen to the taxpayers. Friday’s meeting provides little hope.

    NB-It has to be noted that the only person who voted for the fence during Wed’s Meeting is an Easttown resident—She is Not a Tredyffrin resident. I make this clarification because it highlights an ongoing issue between our towns and who is controlling Tredyffrin’s schools.

    1. Dear Mr. McHugh,

      THANK-YOU for this accounting of events. I love timelines. They make everything crystal clear. Too often, tax payers and parents get little bits and pieces of information out of context and unconnected to the bigger story which limits citizens grasp of the topic. Proper background information is critical for citizen engagement in the thinking and decision making process.

      Developing a long range chronology of events also reveals the anatomy of SB operations; the tactics our SB Directors use to operate under when meeting with tax payers:

      incorrect information, confusion, mock and ridicule, saying one thing and meaning another, etc.

      You ask:

      “”What was the purpose of a two hour meeting with the public and safety consultant?””

      The purpose was to—- give the appearance—- that the SB works with citizens to make decisions that effect tax payers and parents.

      Decisions are made behind closed doors, by a few people, and all else is an orchestrated show. Just after she was elected, Virginia Lastner told me that very thing, they don’t make a secret about it. She said, “Don’t come to board meetings, decisions are not made at board meetings, votes are taken at board meetings on decisions that have already been made.” She then told me to attend committee meetings, which I did, where I was mocked and heavily ridiculed by the facilities chair, the then Supt. and other Board members. To obstruct me right from the start, the Facilities Chair rolled his eyes, sighed at district employees and angrily stated that I was at the wrong committee meeting. The committee meeting that he suggested I attend, was cancelled. I’m not generally shy about expressing my opinions, but that was intimidating. It’s no wonder so few citizens attend meetings.

      Term limits are the answer. I believe the Facilities chair has served on the Board 16 years. It was crystal clear to me that day that he had developed a very chummy relationship with the then Supt., and that both of them felt very comfortable talking to tax paying citizens any way they wanted to and that there was no system in place for citizens to go to for relief.

      I got the sense other Board members were afraid of the Supt., didn’t want to upset him and so often said things that made no sense just to keep his approval. One or two Board members just didn’t care and knew next to nothing about what goes on in the schools. One stated to me, “It’s a volunteer job, O.K.?”

    2. **NB-It has to be noted that the only person who voted for the fence during Wed’s Meeting is an Easttown resident—She is Not a Tredyffrin resident. I make this clarification because it highlights an ongoing issue between our towns and who is controlling Tredyffrin’s schools.**
      Did that Easttown resident happen to be Dr. Motel’s wife? LOL
      I think that he has a list of things he was determined to get done during his time on the board and this is one more thing to check off his list. It would be interesting to see the total amount of our tax dollars that have been wasted on all the knuckle-brained Facilities items during his tenure.
      Ray, any figures?

      1. Debbie – the District architects have many categories for Facilities expenditures, but unfortunately “knuckle-brained” is not one of them. One of the most egregious to my mind is the $5 million maintenance and storage building shoehorned into a narrow space, on unsuitable soils, on a congested road, when there’s a perfect 4 acre spot at the old ESC, being saved for an elementary school that the demographers tell us is un-needed and would require 25 acres anyway.

        1. Thanks Ray. I’d also like to add I fear for the Old Lancaster Rd. neighbors of this maintenance building. These unfortunate folks are going to see their houses dwarfed by the scope of the maintenance building design but more importantly, their homes sit below the grade of the maintenance building. The neighbors had basement water issues before the construction started — I can only wonder the future holds for them!

    3. Mr. McHugh, hope you didn’t give up your day job because your statistical analysis leaves a lot to be desired. Only 35% of registered voters in your region came out to vote. 5% of those didn’t even vote for a school director and over 52% voted straight party lines. No school board member (in any of the TESD regions) got individually marked by more then 9.5% of the registered voters. The only thing you can say by analyzing all the information is that the people that do take the time to register to vote, don’t come out to vote, but when they do they are more apt to vote the easy way by voting straight party line or only for certain offices. Now looking at all issues that could affect why a person was voted for: fencing is certainly 1 thing, the maintenance building, the paras/aides, superintendent selection, teachers contract or any of the other decisions that were made by the school board in the last few years. Also, it is well known that when there is multiple selection for a position that the order they are on the ballot plays a part. More Dems voted straight line then Reps in your region so that tends to lead to conclusion that would have given Borger/Yockey an advantage. The incumbent was not able to go house to house campaigning due to an injury (this is probably the biggest factor). And, I question that she even cared due to the lack of signs I saw (Ed Sweeney had as many signs for himself as there were for Sweeney/Graham). So, your elementary analysis is so flawed that you probably would have failed if you were one of my students. I would imagine that your timeline is as flawed as you don’t even go back to the start of the fence issue.

      1. Todd,
        I think the School Board would give you a gold star for doing their homework assignment.

        If you re-read my posting, I mention that it would be helpful for the School Board to analyze the votes.

        After all, We, The Voters know why & who we voted for.

      2. No matter how many people come out to school board meetings, send emails to the school board, vote, or come to safety consultant meetings, some people are always going to demean and belittle the community each time they speak up.

        The community is getting really tired of that.

        No one could have came to the safety consultant meeting on Wednesday night with an open mind and left believing anything except that the the community is solidly against the fences. Those with closed minds will continue to belittle the community.

        1. Doug,

          The community as you put it, at least 95 % doesn’t know or doesn’t care. The only concern appears to be on the part of those people who have property adjacent to the school who for the most part, have a problem with the aesthetics. Unless one of you is a bona-fide expert, your complaints will be regarded as uninformed. You’ve all been heard. It’s time to move on. Just because you don’t get your way, it doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work or that there is no process. Honestly, it seems all you want to do is complain for the sake of complaining. Let it go.

        2. CommunityCitizen, according to you, elected people should never listen to the public because a majority of people are hardly ever invested in any one particular issue.

          I don’t believe that this is how democracy should work – although this was the prevailing modus operandi at the old school board.

          I have talked to many, many parents. Not one of them thought that adding the fences would increase the safety of their children. I guess they are all uninformed and should be ignored also.

          The PTO president of the school spoke at a public meeting. She does not live adjacent to the property. I guess she is uninformed also.

          This attitude is exactly what has been wrong with the school board for so long. I believe that our community is filled with highly educated people who are not all uninformed.

          Just to be clear, the old school board was pressing the case for the fences using logic for close to a year that the person they hired said was not a valid reason. If anyone was uninformed, it was the old school board, not the public.

          That is the general case. You were specifically implying that I am uninformed when it comes to school safety.

          I was a teacher in Philadelphia for a decade. I worked at a neighborhood high school with serious safety concerns. There was one or more guns found at that school most of the years that I taught there in addition to knives and other weapons. I have seen first hand the effectiveness of many of the safety ideas that people are discussing and that have been implemented at the T/E schools.

          I have more first hand knowledge of school safety than the safety “expert” that was hired without going through the RFP process.

          I want to make the schools a better place for the children and the community.

          If you consider that complaining, it doesn’t surprise me. Belittling and name calling are the tools of people who can’t argue the merits of their case.

        3. Mr. Anestad, You are not the community! You do not speak for the community though from watching you in action you would like to. The TESD community composes ALL of Tredyffrin and Easttown townships. You should follow your own words about “belittling” others. You sent out a flyer with a picture of prison like fences around VFMS which you knew wasn’t close to what was being proposed so does that mean you lied about it? Mr. McHugh sends out a timeline that starts in April (Shining Light responds about how good it was to see a timeline) when he knows (or should know) that the question of fencing at All the TESD Schools was recommended by a COMMUNITY Safety committee 3 years ago. This is how you get people thinking your way, by lying and covering up most of the facts about the situation. My opinion is that you are just a wanna-be.

    1. I have had a few people contact me regarding the latest criminal charges against Tredyffrin Township’s former public works director Scott Cannon. To clarify, the dumping episode occurred during former township mgr Mimi Gleason’s watch not since the hiring of Bill Martin. Cannon was dismissed after Gleason left the township but I do recall she was attended the Board of Supervisors meeting the night the supervisors made the announcement.

  9. Ms. Watson, the last time I checked it is Tredyffrin Easttown School District (if you haven’t kept up with news, it is now rated as #1 school district in the country). That person has as much right to vote anyway she wants as you do. She might be paying more school taxes then you are. When was the last time you spent any time volunteering for anything other than yourself? You migh hate everything the school district does but my real estate is now worth more than it was because the past school board directors have worked hard to help get the district to the high reputation it now has.

    1. Dear Mr. Salem, I well know that anyone can vote their choice and I do. I was commenting on part of what Pat McHugh had written in his comment.
      I’m not sure what you mean by “volunteering for anything but myself” ??? I’m not sure what spurred a personal attack. I don’t believe I even know you.
      While my 5 children attended the T/E Schools as they were growing, I volunteered for MANY, MANY, MANY hours, including as a Cub Scout Leader, Cookie Mom for Girl Scouts, too many PTO committees to count, Conestoga Generals Board Member and Fundraising Chair,CHS Track and FIeld Booster Club, Devon Elem. PTO Board member and as PTO President.
      My husband and I were raised here and attended T/E Schools. I’m glad for you that your real estate value is up, if that’s what is most important in your life. For those of us who have lived our entire lives here, some things cannot be measured by a rating in a publication or based on a price tag. Some of us see the more subtle changes that are happening and don’t like the direction the district is heading. I put people ahead of dollar signs always.
      The number one reason that our school district has the high rating it does, is not due to the School Board, but all the highly educated, attentive and proactive parents in our district. We expect nothing less. I’m hoping with a new superintendent and some new board members, things will be righted.
      With all that is going on in the world, your comment seems very petty. Have fun counting all your money.
      To all my Community Matters friends, Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

      1. Debbie,
        Kudos to you for your commitment to your family and to our community!

        I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment as to why the TE School District consistently ranks so high—PARENTS! Dedicated parents like yourself who are invested and committed to quality education.

        Anyone who attends the “Curriculum Night” at our schools will see the auditorium packed with parents who take interest in their children’s education and development. My wife and I witnessed this firsthand at VFES—First grade and the auditorium was PACKED! Truly impressive with the participation and engagement shown by our parents. (We are also blessed to have dedicated students, faculty, staff and volunteers).

        It is unfortunate that others on this blog have chosen to go into attack mode against these same concerned parents. Instead of partnering with us, these pundits would rather make snarky, negative remarks and pontificate on how superior they are over concerned parents.

        Parents, who would rather see our money spent on educational items like IPADS (a current focus of the PTO), rather than on expensive facilities spends like the $480,000 fencing project and $4.8Million Maintenance Facility, chosen by the School Board.

        As with your example, in our home, we try to partner with educators to bring out the best in our child and actively participate in the civic process to be positive agents of change.

        It is my hope more members of our community would participate like yourself and not play pundit.

        Wishing you, your family and our community a safe & Happy Thanksgiving.
        Sincerely,
        Pat McHugh

  10. Elected officials should listen. When they don’t, they should be held accountable. The place to do that is in the voting booth. I don’t know what led to Graham’s defeat. You all thought things would be better with Dorsey. How did that work out for you? You guys all complain about the same things year after year, with the same result. That’s insanity.

    Arguing the merits of the case? In your tirades against fencing, you haven’t made a single persuasive argument. You’re mad because don’t see it your way. That’s not belittling you. That’s simply calling out a fact.

    You’re emotional about. Not exactly a good place to argue from.

    1. Community Citizen.

      There is no shame in expecting and believing that candidates will follow through on what they say will do before they are elected. When they don’t, it’s shame on them, not tax payers who believed in them and their message.

      No one was more shocked than me when Scott voted for the outsourcing company after he was made the representative to the CCIU. My guess is that Scott will take Jim’s place as Board Director FOR cciu representing TE.

      I attended the debate 2 years ago sponsored by the League of Women Voters to hear Rep. Virginia Lastner talk about rising taxes, ballooning PSSER’s obligations and the need to represent tax payers and students. No one was more shocked than me when Virginia and all of her colleagues voted for a $22,000 per year raise for an Administrator, no questions asked, bringing his pay higher than the highest paid Governor in the country on a 5 year contract.

      So we have Administrators who make more than the highest paid Governor in the country, (not including the Supt.) a $4.8M maintenance building that will cost $6M to repay, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on fencing that NO ONE wants, consulting fees to justify the bad decision, ETC. when Aides and Paras are outsourced, The TENIG President votes for a $3M pay cut for her members right before she accepts a position working for Administrators, (that really got me) ARCH (according to their website) depends on 100% funding from Community Members, parents send out letters soliciting funds for Ipads, athletes in the middle school share 5+ year old worn out uniforms, students swelter in 90+ degree heat in May/June, Aug/Sept., parents pay activity fees, students pay parking fees, and the list goes on.

      PARENTS SHOULD NOT PAY EXTRA FOR ANYTHING. PARENTS SHOULD HAVE A SAY IN THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS. ADMINISTRATORS SHOULD NOT MAKE MORE IN PAY THAN THE HIGHEST PAID GOVERNOR IN THE COUNTRY.

  11. Attended the public meeting and completely agree with Anestad. I am a parent and one of my kids currently attends VFMS. The fences are a complete waste of money and they solve no safety issue. Everyone who attended the meeting had the same message.

  12. B. Collins,

    I don’t know about now, but 3 years ago there were no community members on the safety committee. Committee meetings are orchestrated by Administrators who set the agendas, control the narratives and where confidentiality is used as an excuse to withhold information from the public.

    Information disseminated describing the safety committee said there were community members on it but that wasn’t true. I e-mailed the head of the Safety Committee asking him about this discrepancy and he did not answer my question regarding the matter.

    I learned from an Administrator who came to the High School in Oct. 2015 to give a presentation about the new “wi-fi” system at the HIgh School that a tech committee exists. When I asked who was on the committee, I was told that membership was limited to teachers and Administrators. I have been calling for parent participation on this committee ever since and was told that “the committee has no decision making ability.” Does that make sense to anyone?

    Decisions are made by a very few and citizens, tax payers, parents and students have little to no say in the process.

    I hope this changes Dec. 7th.

  13. At the debate, described by me above, two years ago, Kevin didn’t say anything that runs counter to what he has voted for or favored in the last two years. He stated that the District is fine, things run smoothly, employees do a great job, students and tax payers are well represented, communication is transparent, etc.

    He has never been disrespectful, unkind, or intimidating to me.

    His law firm is in a financial relationship with the District which I believe disqualifies him from serving, and although the vote to approve that relationship is slipped and hidden in consent agendas, he doesn’t deny it when called out about it. It could be a reason for his go along attitude concerning District Matters, I don’t know, but Kevin doesn’t misrepresent himself by saying one thing and doing another after winning.

    Doug Carlson didn’t say much which made it difficult to understand his views. Although not much was known about him, given that he is a Republican and works for a very conservative firm, I have been very surprised by his actions. But, like Kevin, he didn’t say one thing and do another, so unlike others, I have no problem with Doug.

  14. I am in favor of the fence. I don’t think that the fence needs to go all the way out to the edge of the property and I believe that the district has to honor its commitment to the neighbors. But, having a fence does provide some security.

  15. SL you are factually wrong about the safety committee. Also you should look up the definition of committee. Most committees don’t have decision making authority. They research areas and come up with recommendations for the “Bosses” to make the decision. I have been on hundreds of committees and have initiated hundreds of committees as a boss. First thing is to determine what is the goal of the committee and then you put together the committee with the people that have the expertise to come up with appropriate recommendations. This is how the business world operates. For TESD, the school board directors, who are elected by the taxpayers, make all the major financial decisions. They utilize the superintendent who utilizes his administrators who utilizes the teachers who utilizes input from students & parents. Taxpayers and citizens have many avenues to provide their opinions and ideas. Just because a person’s opinions are not followed doesn’t mean they have “no say in the process”. This is what has made this school district as good as it is so hopefully it doesn’t change (maybe a tweak here or there).

    1. This may be how the business world operates. Schools are not businesses Employees are paid to listen to you. Students are not. Schools are tax payer funded. Businesses are not.

      Parents are tax payers and citizens who pay for the decisions that Board Members make.

      Not only should parents be on the tech committee, students should too.

      Parents and students should constantly be reminded of the dangerous and life changing consequences of logging on to a school Wi-Fi system that is not secure or private.

      As it states on the Tredyffrin/ Easttown Secondary Student Network Acceptable Use Agreement, under Supervision and Monitoring on the 2nd or 3rd page of the “Agreement” located at the bottom of the page:

      As stated in Regulation 6190, “Since network storage areas are SCHOOL PROPERTY, network administrators may review and delete files and communications to maintain system integrity and insure that users are using the system responsibly and n accordance with acceptable network use guidelines. Users should not expect that files stored on District servers will always be private or secure.”

      That means school officials can go in student accounts any time they want and view their data, view their google downloads, etc.

      Is everyone O.K. with this?

  16. THANK YOU for putting air conditioning for the elementary school into the conversation! My children have been sent home DEHYDRATED because there is no air conditioning. We have been close to hospitalizing a 6 and 8 year old because the school board prefers to waste over $15,000 on a worthless consultation with absurdly limited scope, while they could easily get simple window airconditioners for the rooms and actually provide the care we are paying our tax dollars for!

  17. One will find that paying for “simple window air conditioners” would be a terrible investment and just wouldn’t work.

  18. Why is it a terrible investment that wouldn’t work?

    I think the bigger point is that tax payer dollars go to fund things that don’t serve the public or the children they are meant to support. It’s getting scary. In your newspaper it states:

    http://www.unionvilletimes.com/?p=27711

    The end game is clear. The judiciary wants the monies generated by county offices appropriated back to it in order to support its massive bureaucracy. That the AOPC not only wants control of the filings, but of the accounting, cashiering and credit card processing of the county offices illuminates this goal. If the state judiciary centrally controls the software, then it effectively controls the day to day operations of the offices. This runs afoul of the separation of powers ensconced in the state constitution.

    The courts have bristled at the suggestion that they, like so many Pennsylvania families, do more with less. As of mid-August, the AOPC employed more than 250 people in its IT department alone, expending more than $6.5 million dollars in fringe benefits, $ 4.3 million in pension contributions each year and $ 18.4 million in salaries. By bringing systems currently managed by outside vendors in house, these costs will only expand. By working with existing technology, many of these expenses could be reduced or redirected to underfunded programs. AOPC should scrap this monumental waste of scarce public resources.

    Public officials already make way more than workers in the private sector who pay their massive salaries and growing pension obligations. There i no accountability and the problem continues to get worse. The bigger they are the bigger they get.

  19. Window AC units are a poor investment because –

    1) students sitting near the units cannot hear the teacher
    2) students near the units are cold
    3) window AC units do not let in the required “fresh air” to mitigate the build-up of CO2 (drowsiness)
    4) window units are energy inefficient
    5) window units would require additional electrical service to each classroom

    In general, it requires several million dollars to AC a school and it’s usually done in conjunction with an upgrade to an ageing HVAC system.

  20. I would rather see $2M spent on air conditioning for students, who desperately need it to be able to function properly when temperatures hit 95+ degrees, than see $6M spent on A MAINTENANCE BUILDING, or hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on fencing no one wants and all the rest that does not benefit students, tax payers or parents in any way.

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