Apply Now — Vacancy on Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, District 1 (East) and Region 3 Vacancy Filled on T/E School Board

A vacancy on Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors was announced at its meeting this week. The vacated position of Township Supervisor in District 1 (East) was held by long-serving supervisor Paul Olson, who recently sold his home and moved from the township.

A Republican, Olson was first elected as a Tredyffrin supervisor in 1976 and has served 43 years, losing only one election.  Committed to serving the community, Paul was involved with many organizations, including the Red Cross, Tredyffrin Library, Surrey Services and the Carr School in Mt. Pleasant, to name a few.  On a personal note, the ongoing support of Paul (and his wife Andrea) to historic preservation was much appreciated by myself and the other members of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust Board of Directors. As an elected official, he truly understood the importance of our local history and its preservation!

The Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors will make an interim appointment to fill the District 1 (East) seat. Persons interested in being considered for the appointment must be residents of District 1 (East) and voters of the E1, E2, E3, E4, E5 or M2 voting precincts. The Board of Supervisors will accept letters of interest (with resumes) through Friday, July 26 addressed to Tredyffrin Township, c/o Murph Wysocki, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors at Tredyffrin@tredyffrin.org.

The Personnel Committee of the Board of Supervisors (3 supervisors) will interview the candidates in a public meeting on Monday, August 5 at 7 PM at the township building. The Personnel Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors and the Board will vote on the appointment at its next meeting, on Monday, August 19.

It will be curious to see what happens with this supervisor appointment – will the Board of Supervisors, which currently holds a Democrat majority (4-2) honor the long-held Republican seat and appoint a Republican candidate? Or would the Board stick to the party line and appoint a ‘D’ to fill the vacancy?

The District 1 (East) seat is on the November ballot, making the vacancy an interim appointment. Although Julie Gosse (D) and Raffi Terzian (R) are the endorsed candidates for the seat in the November election, all residents of District (1) and registered voters (E1, E2, E3, E4, E5 or M2 precincts) are eligible to apply for the interim appointment.

Perhaps not wanting to appear partisan, the Board of Supervisors could appoint an ‘Independent’ registered candidate and make history – the township has never had an ‘I’ as a member of the Board of Supervisors. Of course, that assumes a registered Independent in District 1 (East) applies for the position.  Over the last few years there have been many new people moving in to the township — applying for the interim supervisor position would be a great way to get involved in the community!

On the same night as the Board of Supervisors officially announced its vacancy on the Board, the T/E School District Board interviewed and appointed to fill its Region 3 vacancy – if you recall, last month Heather Ward (D) from Easttown resigned from the school board after serving 18 months of the 4 year term, stating that she would be taking a new job and moving out of state.

Ray Clarke attended the July 15 school board meeting and offers his comments on the interview and selection process and notes from the regular meeting.  Although the school board agreed at its June meeting to correct the $1.2 million accounting error, it is noted that a month later the issue remains open.  As has been stated repeatedly, there is a process with the PA Department of Education to make the necessary correction so the question from the public, remains WHY hasn’t it been done? The District’s Business Manager Art McDonnell was missing from the meeting – certainly not working on fixing the District’s accounting problem, guess it summer vacation for him. Remember folks, McDonnell received a new 5-year contract (with a raise!) starting July 1.

School Board Meeting Comments from Ray Clarke –

 The TESD Board of Directors held special meetings on Monday; first to interview candidates to replace Heather Ward and second an official Board meeting to select one of them.  Six Easttown residents applied and all presented themselves well, having relevant (but different) experiences and skills, with a good general understanding of the issues confronting TE and the role of the Board.  In the formal Board meeting, three of the candidates were nominated and in the first round of voting Mary Garrett Itin was selected in a party line 5-2 vote (Tina Whitlow was out of the country). She has a social work and child mental health background and spoke of favoring a fact-based, objective and transparent approach. Kate Murphy and Ed Sweeney nominated applicants with legal and financial backgrounds who I thought might have been very well equipped to hold the Administration to account, but they were the sole supporters of their nominees.

The need for that oversight was starkly demonstrated in response to public comment during the remainder of the board meeting.  Many different tacks were taken in an attempt to ascertain any information about actions taken in response to the Board vote to correct the Annual Financial Report filings with the state.  All approaches elicited the same response: we’re working on it (in some unspecified manner) and you’ll find out more in the next scheduled Board meeting on August 26th.

Both aspects of the meeting then led to a round-about discussion of the ways to include qualified and motivated community members (such as the Board applicants) more directly in Committee deliberations.  As a specific example, involved parents continued to advocate for their participation in the direction of the reading curriculum and spoke of insights from a recent academic conference. Ed Sweeney moved to include the general question of Committee make up as part of the strategic planning process, but in the end it was agreed (Kyle Boyer excepting) to consider the issue in the first Policy Committee meeting of the new academic year (perhaps a quicker forum).  There are different approaches (eg voting/non-voting) and pros and cons to this, and it is a question well worthy of discussion.

Notably, at the end, the Solicitor reported that an Executive Session was held last week to discuss collective bargaining.  The teacher contract is up for renewal at the end of the coming school year.  In the new normal of budget deficits and cost pressures the usual issues of process transparency and compensation/program trade-offs may be more contentious than usual.

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13 Comments

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  1. I’m not sure the answer to better decisions is to include community experts on school board committees. If school directors were open to diverse viewpoints couldn’t they just take public input at meetings (committee or business meetings), debate it and include it if merited? I’m thinking about the recent accounting debacle. The community experts provided excellent information, but it was ignored by board members. Maybe the first step is just to have board members demonstrate appreciation of public input before putting someone from the public on a committee. Otherwise, the board would just ignore input from the new committee member as well as input during the pubic comment period.

    I’m also concerned with the information that a non-elected member of a committee would be legally entitled to. I’m thinking of contract negotiations, personnel matters and legal matters. Once the information is disclosed to a non-elected member it becomes public information. Once a member of the public is included in an supposed executive session it is no longer an executive session.

    [Reply]

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Hello Keith,

    Ray writes:

    in the first round of voting Mary Garrett Itin was selected in a party line 5-2 vote (Tina Whitlow was out of the country). She has a social work and child mental health background and spoke of favoring a fact-based, objective and transparent approach. Kate Murphy and Ed Sweeney nominated applicants with legal and financial backgrounds who I thought might have been very well equipped to hold the Administration to account, but they were the sole supporters of their nominees.

    I agree with Ray that Kate Murphy and Ed Sweeneys nominated applicants might have been a better pick given their financial backgrounds and the clear need for expertise in this area given the accounting debacle last year.

    As an ex School Board Director, could you provide fresh insight on why Kate and Ed were the only two Directors to nominate people with the right knowledge and direct experience to fill the seat?

    What does this decision say about their true motivation to hold the Administration accountable for illegal accounting errors? Did you listen to community members who brought serious information like this before your Board?

    How do Board Directors get so easily induced into working for, protecting and guarding the Administration. They all say the same exact thing when running for the office: The new Board Member favors a “fact based objective transparent approach.” What does that mean? Todd, who is running unopposed, calls for transparency too. Is that a joke Todd? They all call for transparency when trying to get elected, then do exactly the opposite when elected. Please don’t talk about confidentiality and security. The degree of effort that citizens like Pattye, Carol, Doug, Ray, Mike and Neal have to engage in to get them (besides Ed and mostly Kate) to do the right thing is beyond excessive.

    No offense to Mary, I’m sure she’s a very nice person but we don’t need another teacher, minister or social worker on the Board. We need people with financial backgrounds who have the knowledge and experience to confidently stand up and confront tough issues and hold Art and his supporters accountable.

    Does the Administration take part in the nominating process? Do they recommend their choice for who fills the seat to the Board before the vote is taken?

    Thank-you Ed and Kate and thank-you Keith for your expertise and opinion.

    [Reply]

    Pattye Reply:

    It really is remarkable the routine buzz words that candidates use on their campaign literature — T-R-A-N-S-P-A-R-E-N-C-Y is a favorite as is open dialogue with the residents. It should NEVER take constant requests, emails, phone calls, right-to-knows for the public to find out information from our elected officials but yet, sadly it does. These comments are for the school board directors — I find that the Tredyffrin Twp staff to be open and responsive, as are many of the members of its Board of Supervisors. The difference between the two elected bodies is striking!

    [Reply]

    Liz Mercogliano Reply:

    I agree Pattye.
    There should be an easier way to be heard than forcing “right to know” and public disputes.
    Share information that is appropriated so neighbors can participate.
    Work together to support our kids.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Ray asked, “As an ex School Board Director, could you provide fresh insight on why Kate and Ed were the only two Directors to nominate people with the right knowledge and direct experience to fill the seat?

    This is only speculation:
    I wonder if the Democratic Party leadership in TE has become too powerful and dictates which candidates with which ideology are chosen. I wonder if TE is going the route of Lower Merion. LM has a large majority of D voters. If you don’t have the endorsement of the D party you don’t get elected. Those who get endorsed are those who are beholden to the views of a small group of party leaders. Thus, at the Lower Merion School Board meetings there are no debates, each vote supports what is recommended by the administration and literally there was only one vote (8-1) that was not unanimous in the last two years. Spending is a virtue, taxes are raised to the max and the word “efficiency” is not in their lexicon. Those citizens expressing a different point of view are ignored.

    In contrast, the Unionville political environment during the years I was involved with the school board (2000-2015) was “hands-off”. Both the R & D parties might endorse a candidate, but that was about it – there was no financial backing; no help canvassing and no help at the polls. Each candidate was pretty much on their own to raise funds and get their message across to voters.

    Our board had a majority of people with business backgrounds; no clergy, no social workers and one educator (we had hundreds of them at hand if we needed an educator opinion). The board itself was non-political. There were impassioned debates about contracts, taxes, capital projects and curriculum with close votes. The voting was not along political lines. I’m a lifelong R (hate to admit that now that the party has been sullied by Trumpites) but I backed and lobbied for a D that I thought would be a good replacement when I resigned. She’s still there 4 years later doing a great job.

    [Reply]

    Resident Reply:

    Agree with Keith Knauss. Furthermore, the Democratic leadership is concerned with one thing and only one thing…….getting D’s elected/appointed to the Board. Right or wrong, good or bad, integrity, character or doing the right thing has no merit. It’s about fighting for an all D Board. I know D’s who have NO IDEA what goes on with this Board, how they operate or how the decisions they make affect every citizen in this District yet they work hard to elect people they know nothing about. It’s the party that matters most, not the person.

    Liz Mercogliano Reply:

    KK,
    Thank you for your comments.
    You make great points on the public participating in meetings and on committees.
    A Non-elected community member could be excluded from personnel or other private matters. And there could be a non disclosure agreement between the person and the District.
    There have been surveys and public participation in superintendent hiring and budget sessions, so I think it would help to include the public.
    I do think the public should be included as stakeholders.
    It is also unfortunate that the partisanship tears it’s ugly head.
    I agree with Pattye that an “I” would balance the Boards in a positive way!
    Like Bernie Sanders a lone “I”, it would be a healthier discussion.

    [Reply]

    Taxpayer Reply:

    Liz,

    You say:

    :::::There have been surveys and public participation in superintendent hiring and budget sessions, so I think it would help to include the public.:::::::

    There was no public participation in Supt. hiring. Rich was groomed for the job the moment he was appointed to the Curriculum position. He shadowed Dan Waters every minute of every day the last year of Dans reign.

    Surveys are a sham, a pretense to act like taxpayers have a say, and I believe public participation in committee meetings are supposed to be a sham too but wonderful, smart, determined citizens like you, Pattye, Carol, Neal, Mike, Ray and Doug follow through and don’t let that happen.

    Good luck to you in your quest for a BOS seat.

    [Reply]

  2. According to Chester County Voter Services, the East district has 6140 registered voters and the West district has 9029 voters (Middle has 7356). If we are going to have districts that are not proportional, is it appropriate that a candidate must live in a particular district? Should we be re-evaluating district boundaries to make them more equivalent in population?

    [Reply]

    Liz Mercogliano Reply:

    Thank you!
    Yes, balance the numbers.
    Another development (NV homes) is coming in with new residents. About 90 units which will continue to create disparate numbers.

    [Reply]

    Bert Cullen Reply:

    A little more information. Voting precincts are called E-1, E2, M-1, M-2, W-1, W-2 etc based on a (now abandoned) system of dividing the township. In 1992 (probably with the latest census data), the township created Districts 1-3 and allocated M-2 to District 1 (East) and W-4 to District 2 (Middle). The result was that all Districts had 9,500 residents +/- 500. This may need to be re-addressed after the 2020 census numbers are in.

    [Reply]

  3. Bert,
    The Board of supervisors has supervisors at large so would this be helpful for the School Board?
    Should School Board do the same?

    [Reply]

    Bert Cullen Reply:

    Liz,

    I don’t know the history of the West/Mid/East system of breaking down the township into districts. With a township as small as we are and all sharing the same schools, I’m surprised that we have such a system.

    [Reply]

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