T/E School District News: 3.91% Tax Increase, District to Correct $1.2M Accounting Error & School Board Member Resigns

The five-hour marathon school board meeting last night lasted until 12:30 AM, albeit the audience was kept waiting with a 30-minute late start.  For those community members who stayed the course until the end of the school board meeting, thank you!

Although I was unable to attend the meeting, I received multiple updates throughout the evening followed up with several phone calls today. The significant takeaways from the evening included the (1) 2019-20 tax increase decision of 3.91%, (2) the Board vote for the District to take responsibility for the accounting error and to correct the Annual Financial Reports (AFR) with PA Department of Education (although sadly all Board members were not in favor of “doing what’s right”) and (3) the announcement of the resignation of a school board member.

Luckily, we have Ray Clarke providing comments on the school board meeting until he left at 11 PM (following the 3.91% tax increase vote). At that point, Mike Heaberg picks up the commentary until the meeting finally ended at 12:35 AM.  See their remarks below — thank you both!

From Ray Clarke:

– Dramatically larger attendance than a typical meeting, which multiplied the persistent disregard for the community’s time when the meeting started half an hour late

– A long plea from the rugby club for Varsity status, but notably none stayed for the Budget discussion which might have suggested funding limitations

– The Board based its discussion around just the 3.91% tax increase, not all the other options (2.8% or 4.33%)

– The Board agreed to amend the 3.91% budget motion with an investment in the new elementary reading program as a $300,000 one-time “below-the-line” expense, contingent on a number of conditions. This did not satisfy parents who are advocating for parent involvement in selection of any new program

– The amended motion passed 7-2, with Kate Murphy and Ed Sweeney allied for a lower number. Todd Kantorczyk and Roberta Hotinski reluctantly went along with a lower number than they would prefer, the former (correctly) noting that budget and actual deficits cannot continue, while the latter continues (inexplicably) to want to move the following year’s – potential – exception forward into the coming Budget year.

All Board members seemed to agree that the Budget process is broken.  Board President Scott Dorsey wants to separate the budget from the routine Finance process. He spoke forcefully about his outrage at this and the $700,000 expense surprise revealed at the last meeting.  He warned of “someone paying the price” for any similar issues in the future.

– The District’s Solicitor (reportedly with financial experience, not Ken Roos but from the same law firm, Wisler Pearlstine) advised the Board that Annual Financial Reports to the state CAN be corrected, provided that there are new audited statements and if certified by a new auditing firm or individual.  The Business Manager reported logistical, cost, PDE and outcome risk issues with this, although to the audience it seemed that those were grossly over-stated.

– A wide cross-section of community members spoke compellingly in favor of the District basing its decisions on the correct financials, about the pattern of behavior that has got us to this point, and about the need for process and personnel changes

– Unfortunately many had to leave at 11pm after the budget vote, but the AFR revision discussion continued.

Mike Heaberg picks up the commentary on the school board meeting at this point, including the Board’s acknowledgement of the administration’s accounting error and subsequent vote to correct the District audits, the Annual Financial Reports (AFR) and resubmit.  Thanks so much Mike!

From Mike Heaberg:

– After the Board acted on the consent agenda, other action items, and “final” public comments, Ed Sweeney made a motion to begin the process of correcting the District audits and Annual Financial Reports for 2016-17 and 2017-18.  Kate Murphy seconded it.

A long Board discussion ensued including input from the District’s Solicitor, Business Manager, Superintendent and the public. At one point, Todd Kantorczyk made a motion to table action until a future meeting – the next scheduled is August 26. On a roll call vote, his motion failed 5-4.  After more discussion, the vote was held via roll call. It won 6-3.  Voting in favor of correcting the audits and AFRs were Ed Sweeney, Kate Murphy, Scott Dorsey, Michele Burger, Heather Ward, and Tina Whitlow.   Todd Kantorczyk, Roberta Hotinski, and Kyle Boyer voted against correcting the audits and AFRs.

– At the very end, about 12:15 AM, Heather Ward announced she is moving out of the District and resigning from the Board effective 6/16/19.  The Board has not sorted out the replacement process. Heather made gracious comments and her colleagues offered thanks and praise for her service to the District.

The 2019-20 budget process was one for the books with final changes and decisions coming in at the eleventh hour (or in this case 12:30 AM!).  I am appreciative that in the end, school board member Ed Sweeney had the resolve and courage to push forward for correction of the District audits and Annual Financial Reports.  I thank him and the other five Board members (Kate Murphy, Scott Dorsey, Michele Burger, Heather Ward and Tina Whitlow) for “doing what’s right” and voting to correct the District audits and AFRs but simply do not understand why the other three Board members opposed the action.

Over many months, much time and energy was expended by the public in urging the Board to do “what’s right” — I’m left wondering why it took months of meetings, emails and phone calls (many by resident financial experts) plus an official letter of complaint to the PA Dept. of Education to finally achieve this goal.

In my opinion, there is an imbalance in power and control in the school district administration. All roads lead back to (or through) Art McDonnell, the Business Manager and the 2019-20 budget process debacle was a direct  result of his actions.  The Board (and the District’s taxpayers!) are ill-served by this business manager and we deserve better!  When is enough, enough?

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  1. What a change in board attitude! A half year ago board members were compliant servants of whatever the administration proposed. Now they are empowered to ask questions, draw conclusions and set direction regardless of whether that direction agrees or disagrees with the administration’s. Great!

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  2. Thank you for the update! You are right, enough is enough! Since the board is finally awake on the administration problems, when will they take action on the staff problem? Did I read that McDonnell has a new contract starting?

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    Pattye Reply:

    Yes, The Business Manager has a new contract which starts on July 1 at $209K/yr which includes yearly bonus and raise plus Cadillac benefits. This community deserves better!

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  3. Pattye, Carol, Ray, Neal, Mike and Keith,

    Thank-you so much for your determination and persistent attention to this matter.

    Please keep up the great work and don’t ever hesitate to post comments that will help taxpayers like me understand what is happening in our District.

    Pattye,

    Will you be shutting CM down for the summer? I know you have in the past. I hope not. Please keep it going.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks. There is a very important meeting coming up on Tuesday, July 9 which will require everyone’s attention! The Zoning Hearing Board has the scheduled continuance of Catalyst’s digital billboard appeal at Tredyffrin Township municipal building. An important meeting — we need a standing room only crowd to send loudly and clearing that the community does NOT want a digital billboard in Paoli!

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Great but I’m wondering if many people will show given its July 9th and smack in the middle of summer. It will help to keep posting notices so folks will remember to go.

    I attended the May meeting. On my way, the weather was so treacherous I almost turned around at the downed street light closest to the Township Building. I was shocked to see how many people showed up. It was amazing! I loved it! My child attended with me and it was a great life experience and her first step into the world of politics. Lots of questions! The wheels were turning.

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  4. There is so much money in the district’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) that a fund could be set up to end taxation forever. It’s our money and we should take it back. The explanation for this is at http://taxretirement.com/
    It will be of great interest to actuaries and mathematicians.

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  5. How does the business manager get a new contract based on his malfeasance? He should be fired!!!!! Not given a new contract & certainly not an increase in salary.

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    Pattye Reply:

    It really is amazing isn’t it — and it’s a 5-year contract! Starting salary of the new contract is $209K/yr plus annual increase and bonuses, making McDonnell’s contract worth over a $1,000,000 of taxpayer money. We really do deserve better!

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    Anonymous Reply:

    No one in TE gets fired for anything.

    Teachers know children are sexually assaulted and do nothing. They receive raises. The one who double dated with her husband and the 15 year old victim retired with full benefits.

    The Board is afraid of Art, the Administration and the teachers union.

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    Doug Anestad Reply:

    Actually, the lowest level staff do get fired. They fired the entire football coaching staff because something happened in the locker room when there was no rules concerning that. An administrator who covers up large accounting errors and then repeatedly lies about it? No problem. Huge double standard.

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    Pattye Reply:

    And although not “fired” — let’s not forget that the District’s aides and paras were powerless in saving their jobs a few years back.

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    Very good point Pattye. Yes, the school board treats the lowest paid as expendable while treating the highest paid as untouchable demi-gods. And yes, the paras and aides were fired with the option to be hired by a new company with worse benefits.

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    It is amazing that someone who covered up a $1.2M accounting error, lied about it the next year to continue to the coverup, lied about it a second year to continue the coverup, then lied about the fact that it could be corrected is still employed by that same group.

    I find it interesting that the people who are paid the most (administrators) seem to be the employees of the district with the lowest level of expectations.

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    Will O Reply:

    Can’t hurt to keep pushing for investigation with consequences.

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  6. The unfettered total control that the school board has to go beyond the cost-of-living always is obscene. Pricing elders out of their ability to stay in their homes is NOT on their agenda.

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  7. Although the meeting video is on line https://www.tesd.net/Page/15905, I can’t say that it is must see TV for the casual observer.

    A couple of observations now that I have seen the midnight session, though:

    1. We should be enormously grateful to Mike Heaberg and Doug Anestad for nevertheless persisting, and for forcing the Board to call the question of correcting the AFRs. (Also specifically to Doug for calling out this year’s bond issue as equivalent to taking $1 million of your taxes and setting fire to it).

    2. The unquestioning acceptance of the need for a “six figure investment” for a NEW auditor to conduct COMPLETE audits of the two years with eight mis-coded invoices is bewildering. Doug pressed the issue; it was never even addressed, let alone answered.

    3. Vice-President Burger spoke compellingly about Special Education, state funding and resident trust in the district’s financials. ALL THREE ARE PART OF THE SAME ISSUE. If residents had faith in the numbers, were given a detailed, clear and accurate analysis of needs, trends, other district benchmarks, and so on, then we could surely be mobilized to demand resources from Harrisburg.

    Thank goodness for the six Board members who voted to get this issue behind the district as soon as possible. We should now look to the Board leadership to take direct ownership (perhaps through an independent counsel?) and get this done efficiently before the Board reconvenes at the end of August.

    Of course, restoring trust goes beyond just fixing the financial statements, and the window for action is the same end-August. It’s time for an Executive Session to discuss a “Personnel Matter”.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Ray. Having watched the Board meeting, I would suggest that those interested specifically in the last comment period and the Board vote to correct the District audits and AFRs, should fast forward to 3.08 time stamp on the video.

    In re-watching the lengthy discussion on Ed Sweeney’s motion to correct the $1.2 million accounting error, it was remarkable to listen to some of these Board members. Elected to lead by example, certain Board members simply refused to vote in favor of “doing what’s right” — I just couldn’t understand their reasoning. Fortunately for the community, the 6 members of the Board choose to do otherwise, with both Kate Murphy and Michele Burger speaking of the need to restore the public’s trust. Correcting the accounting mistake is the right first step.

    There was no time parameter set for the process to correct the District audits and AFRs and resubmit to the PA Department Education. Since it is not particularly in the Business Manager’s best interest to get behind this “do-over”, I hope that Superintendent Gusick will take the lead on oversight and make certain that the process to correct the $1.2 million accounting errors is done efficiently by the District — the public needs updates and a full report when the process is completed.

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Pattye,

    Thanks for the suggestion to view the School Board Video June 10, 2019 at the 3:08 time stamp. To add context to the discussion at that point, I suggest taxpayers/citizens reading this comment rewind a bit more to view the lawyer (Doug references) obfuscate, deflect and talk all around the simple, direct, accurate statement Ed Sweeney makes about this whole thing at 3:08 time stamp which is:

    “””””””The manual is pretty clear. There is a process called a revision. It’s different than the process of correction. That it can be done. It could have been done long ago, it could have been done a year ago and it could have been done 2 years up to now. I see nothing that gives a penalty.””””””””

    Ed then asks for more public comment and Doug at the 2:57:29 time stamp turns to the camera and passionately says “Im going to talk to the public”. A voice then directs him to talk to the Board, not the public. Please listen to the video as Doug starts to explain this whole mess in terms lay people can understand, when s voice interrupts and tells him he can’t talk directly to the public, he must direct his attention to the Board. As Doug accurately states, there is nothing preventing a citizen from directing their attention to the camera to address the public directly.

    You can bet, in the near future, there will be a new item in the Policy Committee agenda, forbidding citizens from looking directly into the cameras at Board Meeting public comment discussion time to address the public.

    DO NOT LET THAT HAPPEN

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    Doug Anestad Reply:

    You have no idea how pissed I was at that moment in time. There was a constant stream of lies coming from the lawyer. Too many to cover in five minutes. When Scott Dorsey didn’t seem interested in the truth, I decided then at least the public should know even if the school board didn’t care. To be fair, some on the board do as demonstrated by Ed Sweeney pushing for the truth on multiple occasions.

    I am so tired of the administration and the law firm lying to the public and to the school board. It needs to stop.

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Pattye,

    You make a great point when you say:

    ————“”There was no time parameter set for the process to correct the District audits and AFRs and resubmit to the PA Department Education. Since it is not particularly in the Business Manager’s best interest to get behind this “do-over”, I hope that Superintendent Gusick will take the lead on oversight and make certain that the process to correct the $1.2 million accounting errors is done efficiently by the District — the public needs updates and a full report when the process is completed.———“”””””””

    The Administration operates only in their own best interests. There is a HUGE disconnect in what they say they will do ( to get what they want) and what they actually do. (After getting what they want)

    I attended the Education Committee meeting last week. I might write about it at a later time but Scott, Michelle, Tina, Kyle and maybe Kate and Todd (they left early, not sure they were still there when this came up) know what I’m talking about.

    Scott really knows because I e-mailed him about it years ago.

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Doug,

    Enormous thanks to you for persisting and getting the Board to vote in favor of correcting the audits and AFRs
    Thanks to Ed Sweeney, Kate Murphy, Scott Dorsey, Michele Burger, Heather Ward, and Tina Whitlow for voting in favor of the proposal and in favor of taxpayers you serve.

    Todd Kantorczyk, Roberta Hotinski, and Kyle Boyer voted against correcting the audits and AFRs.

    I don’t understand Todd, Roberta and especially ex-teacher Kyle.

    I saw a head line the other day showing the face of a woman stating:

    “I Know Trump Lies, I’m Voting for Him Anyway”

    Okay, what do you say to that?

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  8. I am extremely grateful that the board decided to correct the AFRs. They deserve credit for that. I watched the administration go all out to stop the board from doing exactly that including making many statements that were deceitful at best or straight out lies. Ed Sweeney deserves an ovation for pushing something through that you could tell that the board didn’t really want to take up.

    The board doesn’t seem to understand that the issue with the Business Manager, Art McDonnell, is not going to go away. It is painfully obvious that the board members have never been managers of staff. If they were, they would never have kept someone on in their company who behaved like Art has.

    Art has been misleading the board for many years. He is not going to stop. They don’t seem to understand that. Who would want an employee like that for 5 more years?

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    Pattye Reply:

    Not only the problems with the business manager continue, three school board members continued to believe him. And with the resignation of Heather Ward, who knows where her replacement will align. Those in the community who have paid attention have watched the “less than stellar” behavior of the business manager for years but yet here we are — and he’s about to start a new contract on July 1. It sure seems like he’s untouchable, doesn’t it?

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Thank-you to Heather Ward for your hard work and positive influence on this Board. I and others are so sorry to see you go. You are a great role model for young and old and your actions demonstrate that age doesn’t matter when it comes to attributes like character and just plain doing the right thing. It’s not easy to stand up and vote what you think is the right thing to do when powerful people around you are not doing the same thing. It must be confusing for you. It’s confusing to me.

    At the end of the 4+ hour meeting, Board Members did a great job saying kind words to and about Heather.

    At the 4:31:26 Todd K kindly says,

    “Heather, you’ve served with dedication, honesty and integrity. For that, we appreciate that. I will share other thoughts with you outside this setting.”

    I agree Todd, she’s served with dedication, honesty and integrity. It’s nice when Board Members do that.

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more Doug, about Ed Sweeney deserving a standing ovation. He’s been standing alone and speaking out for years with no support from anyone but himself. Below is a post about Ed from October 2016:

    ———We not only need to exercise term limits for Directors serving SIXTEEN YEARS IN OFFICE, to prevent against pet projects like $6M maintenance buildings, we need to exercise term limits for consultants and vendors too.

    The Architect, the Lawyer and the Business Manager have been in the district too long, they are very comfortable talking to Directors (especially new ones) in a way that makes an observer feel that the Directors work for them instead of the other way around.

    Ed Sweeney asked very good, well thought out questions about the proposal and timing to replace the turf. The consultant was short, condescending and indignant to Ed’s questions which I thought were great and showed that Ed has the very best interests of the tax payers in mind when in these meetings. Thanks Ed.——-

    Also goes to your point Doug about who really runs this District.

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  9. I just watched the video and realized that I forgot that the motion to table the vote on correcting the AFRs was pushed by legal. Todd Kantorczyk was finished speaking and then legal chimed in with “was that a motion”?

    I think that something is going on with the law firm. I think that they are in bed with Art and are trying to protect him. I am more and more convinced of this as I listen to what they say.

    The lawyer made quite a few statements that just seem ridiculous on the face of it for people who understand audits. Why would he make such statements? The law firm does not seem to really care about serving the board and is more interested in serving the administration. The sad thing is is that I believe that some of the board members are still falling for these false statements.

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    Doug Anestad Reply:

    One example was legal inferring over and over again that you needed another firm to find material issues. He would have stopped at that except that Ed kept pressing and he finally admitted that, in fact, you don’t have to have material issues in order to change the audit.

    The language choice over and over again kept inferring things that are just not true. Why? What agenda were they pushing? Why does the board still have confidence in them?

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  10. Doug,

    Thank-you for all your passion and hard work. I look forward to reading about your experiences and thoughts about Board Meetings you attend and participate in.

    When referencing specific moments in the meetings, especially when you are looking back at the video for clarity, could you please State the time stamp so citizens can go to it immediately and follow along with what you are describing. Given that Board Meeyings can be close to 5 hours long, it’s difficult to rummage through the time line to find the spot you are talking about.

    I am a citizen who appreciates and views the video for review. Thanks

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    Doug Anestad Reply:

    Thanks and I will include timestamps in the future if I am referring to the video.

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  11. Just got finished watching the entire meeting (left that meeting at 11 and I was away for several days).

    Observation #1- Our Attorney.
    Keep your comments to the legal questions you were asked. “It IS possible to amend your State financial forms but there’s a process”…job done! While I appreciate your (Admin inspired) opinion that the District shouldn’t take on this work now because your Controller is leaving, it’s important to point out that WE can run OUR District; thank you. You can keep your answers to the narrow questions you are being paid to answer!

    What about the most important question?: Is the District currently in VIOLATION of Act 1 by using false numbers to get additional taxing authority? Now, THAT’s a question worth asking. As far as your attempt to make the process almost impossible to complete…get some information before coming to the meeting. Did YOU speak with our Auditor? Could HE do the amended Audits? We’ll never know since no ONE has asked them.

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  12. Observation #2- Finance Chair Kantorczyk

    In 12 years, this is the first time I’ve seen a Committee Chair rebuked so totally by a majority of the Board. He pushed for a tax increase just under 5% but was rejected by the Board. He ran a Budget Process thoroughly condemned by the Board. He may have the dubious distinction of being the LAST Finance Chair to control the Budget Process if Pres. Dorsey gets support for that initiative. Clearly the Board was unhappy with the process and the lack of meaningful discussion of the actual Budget. Still, he backed the Admin for months delaying the proceedings and not allowing any actual discussion of the Budget. Who can forget his- “we have a CLEAN Audit so there are no mistakes, HARD STOP”? (my words from memory-not a direct quote). He NEVER called the Auditor himself, NEVER sought clarification from PDE but backed the Admin from the beginning (even when there statements were proven false). His final rebuke was in the Board’s vote against his attempt to continue the delay by tabling the Sweeney motion. “We need clarification from the PDE”….MAYBE the Finance Chair should have gotten some of that information sometime over the last 3 months!!! Do the job!

    I know that important Board Chair’s are historically given to those in re-election mode (in election years) BUT this process has to stop too. Get SOMEONE with financial Acumen to run Finance. HARD STOP!

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    Pattye Reply:

    Any one of the school board directors could have called the District auditor or the PA Dept of Education for that matter. The members of the school board are elected to serve the community — they are supposed to be ‘our’ oversight. I would have needed clarification from the auditor and/or PDE and not simply rely on the words of the business manager.

    Although there was a 6-3 vote to correct the numbers and resubmit, there was no timeline/process as to when it will happen. The Board doesn’t meet for 2 months — will there be a special meeting with the financial update? Will it happen at the August Board meeting? Or, will it take the public continuing to ask at meetings to get the correction done. Here’s a concern — the very person who made the accounting errors (business manager) appears to be the person tasked with making the correction? I bet this isn’t a high priority of his! But then again he has a new 5-year contract starting on July 1, so he’s got nothing to worry about, does he?

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Neal and Pattye,

    Thanks for your comment. I think that it will probably take the public continuing to ask at meetings to get the correction done.

    A person with experience in school district accounting was talking about this at the education committee meeting last week. She said that the CCIU should have kept sending the District invoices each month after they had not received payment. If the CCIU continued to send invoices (which makes sense, why wouldn’t they) how were the invoices lost for months? Did the CCIU really send the invoices once and forget about it? Doesn’t seem right.

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    Pattye Reply:

    I agree — these 8 invoices didn’t just miss one month of nonpayment — they went month after month without payment and I agree you would think that they would have sent reminder bills! And it’s not like the CCIU has the budget of Amazon so not having that much money in a given month would make a difference! How could $1.2 million of unpaid invoices go unnoticed and unchecked? Yet when the CCIU Director was questioned at a school board meeting about the invoices, his response was that they “knew T/E was good for the money”! All of it so very strange!

  13. Observation #3- Supt. Gusick

    Where’s the leadership here? The Superintendent in the Board’s employee, everyone else works for him. Where’s the disciplinary action? Your Business Manager had you sign a STATE AFR from that was knowingly incorrect but you state (by your signing) that it IS accurate. Is THAT acceptable??? Special Education costs are out-of-control; do you have the right people assuring that we spend that money efficiently? The Admin announced late last month that Spec. ED. expenses were up another $700,000 FOR THIS YEAR! Is that acceptable 11 mos into the fiscal year? Get this under control. You ARE in charge.

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  14. Observation #4- It’s NOT done

    SOMEONE (not in the Admin) pick up the DANG phone and talk to the Auditor. He’s under contract TO THE BOARD and no one else. He knows a lot, is waiting for your call, and may have some stuff he needs to tell YOU. He’s not going to call you and talking to him through your intermediary has produce NO information. They may well be the solution here. Don’t listen to the lawyer tell you that you have to have another audit with another audit firm. The lawyer HASN’T talked to your Auditor either. You’d be asking him to make a change to your Audit that falls BELOW the MATERIALITY threshold; I’m pretty sure he can help you correct a mistake. THEY have done NOTHING wrong…use your resources and experts already under contract. If they were never told of the timing mistake…you NEED to know that. You could find out that your have a rogue employee/employee’s…you’d need that information. If he did know, then why isn’t it in their Management Letter to you? There is a LOT he needs to tell you….

    Pick up the DANG phone.

    [Reply]

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    It is unfortunate that either the school board is refusing to do its own independent (not through administration) research on these issues or has decided to keep the results of any such fact finding secret. All that talk of transparency while they run doesn’t seem to mean much once they are elected.

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Neal,

    I picked up the phone and called the Auditor. I got his voice mail and left a message asking him a couple of questions and for a call back. I hope I get one. Thanks.

    [Reply]

  15. So am I correct that you are saying that the CCIU sent the invoices ONE time and let 5 to 6 months go by with no payment and no communication with the District? And had it been another District “not thought of” as highly as TE by the CCIU Director, he/she would have followed up? What kind of a relationship is this? This is no way to conduct financial interactions, I’ve never seen anything like it.

    TE Administrators /Teachers can do and say anything they want to do and say with absolutely no fear of consequence, even when they’re found out.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Yep, you understood correctly. It was the oddest comment made by the CCIU Director – the CCIU was there doing their yearly update and it was the Director’s last T/E meeting as he was retiring. Strange way to run a business!

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    While we might expect the CCIU to issue a late payment alert, the responsibility for the late payment lies with the Business Office. Any large organization should have invoice tracking software (accounts payable) as once an invoice is received it might need multiple approvals and a double check to make sure the payment goes to the vendor. There should have been an automatic internal alert that the invoice was “lost”.

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    Taxpayer Reply:

    Keith,

    I get the sense some commenters may believe the invoice wasn’t “lost” at all. I’m getting the sense taxpayers may think Art “lost” the invoices on purpose to justify VIOLATING Act 1 by using false numbers to get additional taxing authority.

    Neal and Keith,
    How is it possible that $700,000 of additional special ed cost could be unknown until now? Trust is so broken. Was it possible this was the beginning of another ploy for additional taxing authority in the future? The Board needs to hire someone to check Arts work. Or just get someone who can do the work correctly for less than $209,000 per year and counting.

    Or, someone on the Board could simply pick up the DANG phone and call the Aufitor.

    I have called lawyers working for the District in the past. Would the Auditir talk to a citizen if a citizen called him?

    [Reply]

    Neal Colligan Reply:

    TPYer,

    No idea how $700,000 in costs is identified only in the 11th month of the fiscal year. In addition, the Budget for next year changed for an additional $500,000 of Spec Ed expenses…also incredibly late in the process. To be fair, some contracts (and therefore associated expenses) for individual students are signed/approved during the fiscal year. STILL-someone has to try to project this expense growth.

    Most importantly, the District needs to assure that these expenses (approaching 18% of the TOTAL budget) are being efficiently and effectively reviewed and managed. As Ray mentioned in his comments to the Board-it does not seem that the Board realizes or understands what makes up the Spec Ed spending category. This is not fully their fault-the Admin can’t even correctly account for these expenses even IN THE FISCAL YEAR that we’re currently in. This would be a great summer project for the Board/Admin to tackle. Like this year-it may continue to be the largest portion of the tax increase as we move forward.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I emailed the auditor and did not receive a reply. That’s what I expected as he works for the board not the public.

    Also I don’t think Art lost the invoices on purpose. He doesn’t come out much further ahead in taxation by doing so. Ray or Neal could chime in with a number. I’m guessing around a half percent ahead by losing the invoices.

  16. It explains a lot. When entity’s like the CCIU allow TE to pay whenever they want to pay without so much as a phone call, when the lawyer ( who’s supposed to work for the Board and taxpayers) spends his time, energy and our money protecting and working for Administrators, covering up for them, and when not one Board Member will pick up the DANG phone and call the Auditor and take 5 minutes to ask the right questions that will straighten out this mess, taxpayers are in big trouble and have no chance.

    [Reply]

  17. Thanks Neal,

    As I said, I attended the Education Meeting last week. Chris Groppe head of Sp. Ed. gave a very good presentation. Here are some of the numbers:

    The number of Special education students increased to 1,137 in 2018-19, from 1,043 in 2017-18.

    Regarding “Type of support Totals,” audience members commented most on the 62% increase in emotional support from 2017-18, to 2018-19. The next highest increase from the same years was Learning Support at 24%, followed by Autistic Support at an 11% increase from 2017-18, to 2018-19.

    It was a packed house. Gaging from the comments, most citizens were parents of Special Ed students. They know their stuff. They are smart, knowledgeable, very well spoken…….respectful but make no mistake about it, they hold Chris, the Administration and the Board accountable. They make no bones about it. I believe that everything they say is true and their arguments are compelling…..and cost money. They band together, come together as a group and speak out. Their voices are heard.

    Hold’n out accuses one of them of petitioning for bonuses for the Administration in exchange for services for their children. I don’t know whether this is true or not, if it is true, it’s wrong, but she is so knowledgeable and well spoken, I’m not sure the bonuses would be s big factor anyway and I don’t believe a petition calling for bonuses or not would make any difference. I believe the Administration would get their bonuses no matter what anyone says.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Many thanks to Taxpayer for the alert about the Education Committee discussion of Special Education.

    It would be nice if any new information had actually emerged in the three months since the accounting debacle first came to light on March 11th. But no: the same student counts and the same number of students in each cost range in 16-17 and 17-18. Even though eight invoices were coded to the wrong year. Invoices that contain both dollar amounts and student counts. Did the number of students in the >$75,000/year range more than double between 16/17 and 17/18? Probably not, but there it is, page 13. I made the mistake of printing the slides – definitely not worth the paper I used.

    And then there’s the variability of student counts from one page to another, depending I think on the source of the count. In looking at the change from 16/17 to 17/18, which is more relevant: the 21 student increase on page 9 or 128 student increase on page 13?

    So, we gather that the number of student with IEPs increased at 1%/year from 10/11 to 17/18, and then 9% in the current year. Why? (BTW: the increases Taxpayer notes are counts, not percentages: the increase in emotional support was 62 students, or 36% – still a large number, of course – but learning support was up only 4% while autistic support was up 17%).

    I wonder if the district has the capability to delve into the numbers to get useful information? Let’s take some of that $209K Business Manager salary and hire a $60K/year analyst. For example: the distribution of disability category, by grade, over time. Our demographer’s classic cohort analysis might then be useful. Are we going to revert to the typical 1% enrollment growth rate or is 9% the new normal? Is the growth going to be at the median cost/student or is it skewed high? And then: What could the district do differently if it understood the cost drivers?

    But until the accounts are fixed and trust is restored we are all wasting our time.

    [Reply]

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Ray,

    Thank-you for pointing out about the more than doubling of students costing $75,000 and above from 2016-17 to 2017-18 on page 13. Where do these numbers come from? What criteria does Mr. Groppe use to come up with this number?

    Because the chart right below on page 13 says that the District only entered into 3 agreements with parents for tuition reimbursement costing &75,000 and higher.

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  18. And Hold’n Out

    You seem upset that this group banded together and supported Kyle Boyer for Director. Again, don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was legal so no foul. I don’t believe any teacher current or ex teacher should be allowed to run for the School Board. I like Kyle Boyer, Can’t help it, I watched him stand up and alone in a room going against angry powerful people in support of students so I know where he stands there. But if you note, he votes with, in support of and in favor of the Administration even when he knows they’re wrong. Extremely disappointing.

    This is America and we can band together to get the people elected we want elected. We should do the same thing these people did, band together and get Directors elected who serve taxpayers.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Heather Ward has resigned from her T/E School Board seat, Region III — applications accepted until 12 Noon, June 28. Region III consists of all of Easttown Township and Tredyffrin Precinct E-1. For application details, click here: https://www.tesd.net/Page/15906

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  19. The auditor may have some explaining to do as well here – in a normal audit, the auditor will compare line item expenses for the current year to the current year, looking for items that are higher AND lower than previous years, and then look for an explanation from the business manager for each one. The missing $1.2 mln in costs for the Special Ed category should have stood out and been questioned. So would be interesting to know if this discrepancy was raised by the auditors and what answer they rec’d.

    [Reply]

  20. Thanks Keith,

    Maybe the Auditor didn’t reply to your e-mail because you don’t live in this District. If you post his e-mail address, I’ll try. What questions did you ask? I’ve called Attorneys who work for the District concerning matters in the past. They take my calls. An Administrator told me I could call a District Solicitor once. I didn’t but it seemed like a no big deal thing.

    [Reply]

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I’m out of town and don’t have access to Mr Furmans email address. It’s on the certification page of the AFR along with his phone number. Maybe Doug or Ray could post it.

    [Reply]

    Ray Clarke Reply:

    Here you go:

    Auditing Firm: Maillie, LLP, P.O. Box 680, Oaks, PA 19456-0680
    Auditor Contact Name: Edward J Furman
    Auditor Phone: 610 935 1420
    Auditor E-mail: efurman@maillie.com

    [Reply]

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Thanks Ray,

    I hope he gets in touch with me.

    I e-mailed Chris Groppe Director of Special Ed in TE asking him about the variability in student counts from page to page this morning. He hasn’t gotten back to me. Wouldn’t hold your breath. I e-mailed him 3 x’s last week, asking him to further explain his “intervention” program. I had specific questions. Would take him a minute to respond. Crickets.

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    Normally, I would not post a contractor’s contact information. However, this is far from normal. Either the auditor did not tell the school board about $1.2M of misstated financials or Art lied about telling the auditor. The school board has not told us which one is the case or whether or not they even bothered to ask the auditor. The contact is Edward Furman and his email address is efurman@maillie.com. Please be polite in any correspondence. It is possible that they are the fall guys for Art and are innocent. It is possible they are part of a conspiracy to conceal the truth from the school board. At this point we don’t know so please assume the former and not the later for now.

    [Reply]

  21. And Ray, more than one parent in the audience asked about the huge year to year increases. They seemed disturbed and concerned about it too.

    Director Groppe talked about the 1 or 2 autism cases he had when he started 25 years ago, compared to the 75 today. He doesn’t know why.

    I am amazed at your idea that these numbers may be made up and not real.

    Not only did the $75,000 and above cost range double from 15 to 36 students from16-17 to 17-18, the graph shows that it almost doubled in the $50,000 -$74,000 cost range too from 26 students to 51students from the same time period.

    Since checks for these amounts are not cut directly to parents for reimbursement, how do we know these numbers are accurate? We don’t.

    THANK-YOU Ray. TE taxpayers are so lucky to have you.

    [Reply]

    Carol Reply:

    Following up to Taxpayer and Ray’s comment:

    After reviewing these same Spec Ed #’s presented in March, I had similar questions. At the April Finance meeting I asked if these numbers needed to be updated to reflect actual experience. (The delayed accounting for the $1.2 M “error” could have explained the reduced number of students with >$50K and >$75K in costs in 2016/17 and the doubling of these students in 2017/18.) Todd responded with a very emphatic “No” – these numbers are accurate – the presented numbers don’t need to be updated.

    What??? This made no sense since he also claimed that the $25M total expense was correct.

    Also, the June presentation in the Edu Committee (pg 9 bar chart) provides a new number of Spec Ed students with IEP’s for 2016/17 – 1022 vs. the 1033 reported in March – has any explanation been given for that one change?

    We’ve been asking for an accurate, detailed analysis of Spec Ed since January/February. Please, we need everyone to keep the pressure on and get the Board and Admin to work on this now – this summer – along with the corrected AFR’s.

    [Reply]

  22. Thanks for the context Carol. I am not aware of the numbers for January through May. The June meeting was my first exposure to Special Education costs consideration.

    The unexplained change in the number of Special Education students in 16-17 is very strange. The actual number of students is not variable and should not change no matter what….$1.2M mistake or not.

    The more I learn about this, the more fishy it gets….doesn’t inspire confidence.

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  23. Remember committee creation and membership is completely up to the board president. Want a new finance chair. Dorsey can assign one. Want a new special ed committee. Dorsey can create one.

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  24. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. We don’t have a separate special ed committee. It falls under the education committee. Roberta Hotinski is Chair of the Education Committee. Roberta is a very good facilitator. Very calm, and even keeled. She keeps the meetings flowing. She doesn’t ask the Administration any questions that go against what they are presenting.

    ERB Testing 2018 overview started On page 15 of the agenda packet. I make no secret that I don’t like the Board and the Administration making our kids take these not required, unnecessary, stress inducing, $80,000 tests every year. The Director of Accountability (funny) said the results weren’t as good this year because other suburban schools they compare scores with only let their gifted kids take the test and the ERB’s had some sort of other problem in reporting this year. The previous Supt., Dr. Waters, was on the Board of Trustees for the ERB’s, wow! Revealed in a meeting years ago that he made kids suffer through taking these unnecessary tests because he wanted to get their test scores early so he could track them and trend how our schools would rank in the years to come, as the kids matriculated through the District. Kids aren’t robots, their brains aren’t fixed, but when these teachers get an ERB test result when your kid is 7, do you think it will affect the way they treat your child in class? Of course it will.

    I brought up these points and more and when I did, I got the sense Roberta was almost apologetic to the Administration for asking The Administration to add ERB reporting on to the agenda. She said, “oh I suggested we add ERB reporting on to the agenda.” I said from the audience, “I’m glad you did.” Most others in the audience commented that they didn’t like ERB’s either.

    I sent an e-mail to the Administration asking if Dr. Waters or any of them are still or currently on the Board of Trustees for the ERB’s or if any of them currently have any affiliation with the ERB’s except as a customer and he did write me back saying that Dr. Waters name is not on their website as being a member of the Board and that none of the Administration is currently on the Board.

    [Reply]

  25. Just noticed on the TESD website under Upcoming Events ..July 15 at 630 pm
    Special Board Meeting at TEAO..no description or agenda yet.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks for the information. Although I would love if this special meeting had to do with correcting the District’s $1.2 million accounting error (which the Board agreed to do at its last meeting!) I bet it has to do with the announcing the replacement for former school board director Heather Ward.

    [Reply]

  26. To Taxpayer:
    Upset?
    Personally, I admire parents who advocate for their kids. I do the same. In fact, my sister did the same for her autistic son, my nephew. During the process (different schooll district), she discovered that placing him in a school that offered smaller class sizes and specific learning plans, focusing on his strengths, was a much better fit for his needs. Now, it cost my sister and husband more than they planned and they drove their Dodge minivan for ten years, but it was worth the sacrifice for their son.

    So, two years ago, when Mr Boyle and his supporters were saying they wanted more Special Ed funding, we all agreed Special Ed. needs support. But a number of us simply asked how much additional funding was required and how do you measure the results—fair questions, right? Well, our questions were met with us being called the R-Word, racists. The dialogue was shut down.
    Now, you don’t have to take my word for it—-it’s documented on this community blog—-go back two years ago and read—-consider it summer reading.

    Now, I do find it ironic that the same issue that was avoided two years ago, is front and center within the current budget mess. Forcing some of the questions we had during the campaign, to be addressed now. Once again, everyone I know, either has a relative with a special need or knows someone with a special need—and we all support them—-the question remains, how much money makes for an effective program? And how do you measure the results?

    I’m just glad to see our fellow neighbors who are attending these meetings and asking difficult questions, are not being labeled insensitive or worst, racists.

    [Reply]

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Hold’n Out,
    Thanks for your comment. I think you mean Mr. Boyer, Kyle Boyer, who is a School Board Director, not Mr. Boyle who is the Senior Class Assistant Principal at CHS. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’ve been out of the loop the past few years and am just now ramping back up. . I am not famialiar with the meeting you reference where you and others were called racist because you asked what sounds like reasonable questions regarding how tax dollars are spent. Could you please be more specific about the timing of the community blog post 2 years ago discussing this topic. I don’t mind spending time reading comments that will help me understand the current state of affairs but I know that I won’t spend hours rummaging through old threads to try and find what you are talking about.

    And if what you say is true, then yes I agree with what you say.

    [Reply]

  27. I’ve worked with a lot of school districts in my profession and T/E has the most blatant top-down corruption that I have ever encountered. Art and his cronies should be ashamed of themselves.

    [Reply]

  28. We have Pattye, Carol, Doug, Ray, Mike and Neal to Thank and Ed Sweeney to acknowledge and thank for not turning a blind eye to, and Kate and the rest of the Board who finally, seemingly begrudgingly doing the right thing and voting against Art and his corruption and for the public and our tax dollars. It’s concerning that some Board Members still to this day support Art and his corruptive ways.

    It’s concerning that citizens must work so hard to ensure that public officials hold employees who are the stewards of our money, accountable for the way they handle our tax dollars. Extremely concerning.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    I appreciate your comment but it should be pointed that Art McDonnell started a new 5-year contract on July 1 — I believe that the contract was approved and signed in January of this year by the current school board. And although I am willing to believe that perhaps [at the time of the contract signing] the board did not know about the $1.2 million accounting error (and subsequent cover-up!) by McDonnell, they certainly knew about it months before his new contract was to begin. In other words, the school board had it in their ability to rescind the contract — and if you read the details of his contract, they would have been well within their rights. There is another post coming out today and it should be mentioned that at Monday’s school board meeting, the public learned that there is NO movement on correcting the $1.2 million accounting error.

    [Reply]

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