T/E School Board Candidates Question #1: Public Accountability

Here is the full list of candidates running for T/E School Board – See Question #1 and the candidate responses below (in alphabetical order by last name).

T/E School Board Region 1 Candidates
Roberta Hotinski (D) Incumbent, unopposed
Todd Kantorczyk (D) Incumbent, unopposed

T/E School Board Region 2 Candidates (2 seats available)
Doug Anestad (I)
Michele Burger (D) Incumbent
Stacy Stone (D)
Ed Sweeney (R) Incumbent

T/E School Board Region 3 Candidates
Mary Garrett Itin (D)* opposed by Nicholas Lee (R)
Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) opposed by Sue Tiede (D)

*Mary Garrett Itin was appointed to the T/E School Board in July 2019 (to fill the seat vacated by Heather Ward) to serve through the December 2, 2019 School Board Reorganization Meeting.

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QUESTION #1: Public accountability requires that our school board provide oversight of the school district. Do you see room for improvement in this area and if so, what would you change. Please be specific.

Doug Anestad Response:

I do not believe that the school board has been providing the necessary oversight of the school district. Over and over again, the administration has either not given the school board information in a timely manner or has outright deceived the school board into believing things that were not true.

The response from the school board has been to give the superintendent a satisfactory rating and give the business manager a pay raise and bonus. It is unacceptable for the administration to deceive and lie to the school board.

As a school board member, I would not sit silently by as district administrators keep important information from the board or deceive the board through lies, half-truths, misdirections, and straw man arguments. Anyone who has been watching the school board meetings already knows that I will speak up to tell the truth when the administration is not doing so.

Michele Burger Response:

Serving on the Board of a top ranked district might lead one to believe that the need for oversight is minimal. Not true. I will advocate for improvements specifically in the areas of financial planning and the budgeting process as a whole, user-friendly documents and communication regarding the district’s infrastructure and capital improvement schedule, effective communication to all stakeholders regarding the financial challenges of increasing enrollment and unfunded state mandates, and the need for providing data to teachers and parents when evaluating the effectiveness of the instruction that students are receiving. I have publicly advocated the hiring of an independent financial advisor in order to develop a long range plan for future financing of capital projects. I requested a monthly report of special education expenses which the administration implemented this year. I amended this year’s district goals to include that the Superintendent provide the Board with a new goals and objectives format that will be measurable.

Roberta Hotinski Response:

There is always room for improvement. One area I believe we need to work on is a data-driven approach to district management in all areas, but particularly to ensure that our educational program is working well for all students.  The new student data system will help us on that front by allowing us to easily view district-wide performance data, and I look forward to applying that information to understand and address literacy and equity issues.

I have also supported improving our annual goal-setting process by including measurable goals and metrics for success, and I have proposed that our committees take a more active role in developing district goals.

Finally, I advocated to expand the district’s strategic plan to address not just the educational program, but also operations and sustainability, to ensure that the board is taking a long-term view of those issues.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

Good governance and well-run organizations require that we are all accountable.  Strengthening accountability has been a focus of my work since joining the School Board.  I request detailed information to make decisions.  Additionally, we need improved transparency and communication for the community to understand and have input.  When I make a proposal, I work to be as specific as possible for real discussion and defined next steps.  I see room for improvement in the following areas: 1. Ending each meeting with the review of the agreed upon action items with due dates and reviewing progress on action items at the beginning of each School Board meeting. 2. For our District Level Goals and any applicable changes, we need to define outcomes and utilize data and assessments to evaluate and refine goals as needed. 3. Inclusion of letters received by the Board in the agenda.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

School Board oversight is comprised of two major components: providing direction to the District consistent with the District’s mission statement and what the Board feels is in the best interest of the community; and obtaining information the Board feels is necessary to provide this direction.  The first point depends on the views of each individual member.  For the second point, during my four years on the board, I feel that lines of communication between the Administration and the Board have been very good, and I have been provided with information I felt was necessary to provide informed direction.  But there are always opportunities for improvement, and during my tenure we have implemented new practices to enhance information communication, including regular administration reports on special education spend, a new policy concerning unpaid invoices, and supplemental administration reports on significant initiatives including elementary redistricting, delayed start times and reading instruction.

Nicholas Lee Response:

I would demand that our T/E school administration provide a clear and transparent budget each and every year. The recent $5.5 million budget discrepancy and the accounting error that cost our district $1.2 million are glaring examples of disorder in our financial household. Community Matters has done a great job documenting both of these cases (as well as the recent tax increases) on this website and I believe the T/E taxpayers and parents are frustrated and angered with the status quo. Governmental agencies should not fear financial transparency nor should a school district avoid providing a balanced budget for its taxpayers.

Kate Murphy Response:

Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that we do need to improve our oversight.  I’ve made several efforts through my position as chair of the Policy Committee to do this, including changes to our superintendent’s responsibilities with regard to payment of invoices and more public engagement though a proposed Literacy Committee.  But your question is a difficult one because each board member represents only one of nine votes.  And frankly, the style and quality of oversight depends on how the members of the board go about doing their jobs.  In this regard, my strength is the time and energy I put into working with other board members to exchange our thoughts and build coalitions within the board.  I do not think a dissociated and dissonant board is effective—we need to work together, and I intend to continue taking every opportunity to do that.

Stacy Stone Response:

T/E consistently ranks among top districts in the Commonwealth and nation; however, there is always room for improvement.  The duty of the administration and school board is to adhere to sound fiscal practices while ensuring that our students get the best possible education. One area needing improvement is district goal setting, both process and product. The board recently requested inclusion of “success indicators” for each goal, but the administration’s first attempt resulted in the insertion of rather vague statements. Additionally, the process to date has been to delete the previous year’s district goals from the website prior to the first board meeting of the new school year without any public review. We need specific, measurable goals and objectives as well as a public process—beginning in the spring rather than the fall—that reviews the District Goal Completion Report to inform development of appropriate goals for the next school year.

Ed Sweeney Response:

Absolutely yes!

First, revamp the budget process.  I have submitted a comprehensive Financial Reform Program developed by knowledgeable citizen volunteers to the Board for consideration.  Key points:

  • The Superintendent is accountable to give the Board the most accurate financial picture possible
  • The administration must submit a balanced budget without use of fund balance
  • TESD is challenged to win the award for budget transparency in Pennsylvania
  • The appointment of a committee with 6-12 volunteers of exceptional financial backgrounds to give the Board advice.

Our goal: “real time” knowledge of the financial status of the district to make decisions. Second, all options must be on the table to obtain the goal, including personnel change. Third, we need to partner more with parents and knowledgeable citizens to get diverse viewpoints.  Common sense ideas like a Literacy Committee need to be implemented. Fourth, the ongoing Strategic Plan Process is an excellent opportunity to effectuate change.

Sue Tiede Response:

As a member of the T/E School Board, I would work with the other members of the Board to provide effective oversight of the district by adhering to the principles of the non-profit Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The PSBA describes the role of the Board of School Directors in the following way: “School boards are most effective when they concentrate their time and energy on using the authority delegated to them to govern at the strategic level, determining what it is the community’s schools should accomplish, enacting policies that implement those goals, hiring professional staff to accomplish them and allocating the resources necessary to make all of that happen.”

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18 Comments

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  1. Agree with Doug, Kate, Ed and Nick.

    Read their answers and notice the similarities, and commitment to taxpayers, transparency and accountability.

    Their answers are directly in line with what our Distruct needs.

    [Reply]

  2. Todd Kantorczyk wrote:

    “I feel that lines of communication between the Administration and the Board have been very good, and I have been provided with information I felt was necessary to provide informed direction.”

    Mr. Kantorczyk was the Finance Committee chairman and the apologist for all the misinformation provided to the public by the business manager. With Mr. Kantorczyk providing [supposed]oversight of district financial affairs the public should be worried. Very worried. Here is a short list of “informed decisions” that Mr. Kantorczyk felt were just fine.

    – the lost CCIU invoices
    – placing expenses in the wrong year so as to justify a 6% tax increase
    – falsely claiming the AFR couldn’t be corrected
    – failing to notify the board of a $5M unplanned surplus
    – guiding the board to take out a loan they didn’t need at a high interest rate which will cost the district millions

    [Reply]

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    The “surprise” surplus was $6.5 million off from projections as of June – the last month of the fiscal year. How can you be 11 months into a fiscal year and have your projections that far off? Answer – you know the numbers are bogus, but are presenting them to scare board members into passing the largest tax increase you can. Three board members not only fell for it, but to this day don’t even seem to realize the manipulation occurred. This is the pattern every single year. How can they not see it?

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  3. Doug,

    They see it.

    It starts with the School Board. If the School Board allows it, Art will do it, again and again.

    4 more years of Todd and Roberta who are running unopposed.

    Maybe this is why Scott changed his party affiliation to I.

    As President, he should remove Todd from chairing the finance committte.

    Keith is right. We should be very worried.

    [Reply]

    Doug Anestad Reply:

    I have to disagree that all of them see it. Three of them do not see it. This is shown by both their words and actions. If they saw it, they would have been comfortable with voting for less than the 6% tax increase the administration was pushing for. If they saw it, they would recognize that the information they were given needs to be improved instead of saying they were given the information necessary to make informed decisions. If they saw it, I wouldn’t have one of the three school board members giving implied threats to me at the last school board meeting for speaking the truth.

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  4. One thing that should be implemented in T/E (and probably all public schools districts) is to have parent’s feedback on teachers and administrators. This would be one of the most direct ways to get a real handle on what is going on in classes and how issues might be handled by the administration. Students are evaluated, commented upon, tested, graded throughout their time in school; those in direct contact with the students in real time and actual usefulness should have a similar scrutiny.

    [Reply]

    It’s supposed to be about students/taxpayers Reply:

    Mallam,

    There is no accountability for teachers or Administrators.

    Policy is written by the Administration and designed to protect them and to punish kids, parents and taxpayers.

    When teacher and Administrstor abuse is reported, you can count on one or all of the following:

    1.) they deny it without investigation
    2.) they tell you “it’s not my job”
    3.) they tell you to report to the building Administration.
    4.) when you do that, they don’t respond to you.
    5.) or if by chance they do respond, they tell you the evidence you’re showing them right before their eyes doesn’t say what in reality it says.
    6.) they tell you they care about students and teacher performance and watch while teachers continue to engage in bullying behavior. It is maddening.

    [Reply]

  5. Mallam,

    A few more responses you might receive after reporting teacher and Administrstor abuse.

    —-“that’s too bad”

    —“you didn’t fill out a form”. True, I didn’t.

    —“the 4 to 5 teachers you e-mailed (describing their abuse and it’s affect on your child) aren’t going to respond to you. It’s true, they didn’t.

    — and this is the best……….they do it more.

    —-they run smear campaigns and start destructive rumors about your child.

    —they write and say, “thanks for the clarification.”

    —they use programs designed for at risk children as a tool to bully Intimidate, humiliate and tear at the self worth of highly fundtioning kids they want to target.

    [Reply]

  6. To-It’s supposed to be about students & taxpayers…
    You may want to document, build your case, hire a competent lawyer.

    Unfortunately , that’s the only thing they respond to. As a whole, I’ve had good experience with TE…but, like any place, there are a few bad apples who are cowards and hide behind their Union. I’m not anti union, I’m anti coward.

    They only respond when they are stood up to, the bullies, with your competent lawyers.

    [Reply]

    It’s supposed to be about students/taxpayers Reply:

    Hold’n Out

    Thanks for the suggestion but It’s not only me and my child. Teachers, one in particular, bully and intimidate students because they know they can. They know the worst thing that can happen to them is a nice paid vacation in the form of a suspension.

    The problem is the culture. There is a casual acceptance for this kind of behavior because it goes unchecked and is accepted at the highest level. There are no consequences. Employees are protected and shielded from responsibility. It’s is a self sustaining force because parents and students are afraid to speak out because they are trained to understand that speaking out gets them nothing but punishment and retribution. They feel powerless so they do nothing and become part of the problem that only grows bigger as evidenced by our budget woes, our busing woes, and our growing budget that rewards employees for very bad behavior.

    The entire system needs to be dismantled and a new culture needs to be created with a foundation built on honor, character, integrity, and honesty.

    [Reply]

  7. Whole-sale change to this system of Governance is needed for a start. The Board doesn’t even create its own Agenda…rather, they fall into an Agenda provided for them BY the Administration. Important action issues (which the Public wants to discuss) are moved to the end of LONG meetings…often after HOURS of tedium. The information they are provided is likewise provided (in a format of their choosing) BY the Administration.

    The Admin should be in a CFO role while the Board SHOULD be setting THE Agenda and REQUIRING the information THEY need in decision making. This District works in a TOTAL role reversal….the Admin decides the Agenda and the Board provides the required Votes (tax increases, capital expenditures, some educational programming). BUT-they (Board) only get the information GIVEN to them by the Admin designed to produce the intended voting results.

    Been this way for years…someone needs to become a LEADER and make some whole-sale changes IMHO. The “well that’s not true, we’re making a little progress, and I think everything is fine” is NOT working. Yes-we’re a high rated District but that’s slipping too. We may be failing our kids in Literacy and driving up Spec Ed costs as we try to hide that data. We’re have the highest tax increases in the County over the last decade and we may have violated Act 1 by filing incorrect reports with the State over a two-year period. We have multiple lawsuits filed against the District for not protecting our children.

    Point to ONE recent success??? Vote for agents for change, radical change. Pick strong people with the willingness to work.

    [Reply]

    Easttowner Reply:

    Neal says:

    ——-This District works in a TOTAL role reversal….the Admin decides the Agenda and the Board provides the required Votes (tax increases, capital expenditures, some educational programming). BUT-they (Board) only get the information GIVEN to them by the Admin designed to produce the intended voting results.——-

    This is brilliantly stated by Neal and couldn’t be more true. Meetings are orchestrated by the Administration to achieve outcomes they want to achieve.

    Newly elected Board Members will attend “training classes” “taught” by the Administration. How many of you give your bosses training classes where the information you’re training your boss on is dictated by you, and your boss sits there, asks no questions that counter what you are “teaching “ them and everything you’re “teaching them” benefits you? How nice would that be? Then at meetings where the protocol is the same: you dictate the agenda, your boss asks no questions, the initiative gets passed and you benefit. Then you get thanked and granted yearly raises on top of your overpaid by 3x’s salary.

    There is no other system like this one anywhere except maybe Lower Merion. And I think that’s the plan. We’re following right in their $125,000 yr teacher salaries path.

    [Reply]

  8. You forgot to ad #7 to your list: they fail to recognize, stop, and report teacher-student illegal romantic relationships, even when the student skips a core subject dozens of times via a pass written by a decades-older abusive teacher of a fringe, unnecessary subject (yes, it’s abusive when the student is under the age of consent) another teacher & her husband double-date with the teacher-student couple as if it’s all normal.

    Seriously, the T/E Board, Administration, and teachers obnoxiously rush to tell everyone how *they* are the reasons the T/E district is rated so high and the students perform so well. Too often they disregard or deny–often very rudely–that the PARENTS are a huge part of the equation as to WHY the students perform so well. The PARENTS of TESD students are heavily involved in school activities, volunteerism, donating money to programs, and ensuring their children are getting their homework and projects completed at a high level of performance. If their kids can’t learn from the teachers, the parents hire tutors. Compared to other school districts, the TESD PARENTS are very highly educated, many from extremely prestigious school. These PARENTS are highly motivated. It is the norm, rather than an anomaly, that the stay-at-home parents are so highly educated, often from Ivy League schools, and many with post-graduate degrees. They regard their most important job to be the exceptional education of their children–and boy, are they achieving their goals! The TESD PARENTS pick up where the teachers and administrators leave off. All the “complaining & noise” that the TESD teachers and administrators want to shut out comes from the valid parental observations about where the administration and teaching practices are insufficient and need improvement. TESD should treat its PARENTS with a lot more respect and a lot more appreciation, and give credit where credit is due.

    [Reply]

  9. Frustrated T/E Parent #1,

    It’s not only abusive when the student is under the age of consent, it’s illegal. If you read the law suit against the District you would see the names of many many teachers who not only knew about the abusive illegal relationship, but asked the “couple” to bring them back ham sandwiches after returning from lunch together. One teacher named is the head of a student club entitled SADD, students against destructive decisions.

    I was told by a District Employee, that not one teacher knew about the “romantic relationship.” If that’s true, why were teachers named in the law suit? With evidence that they knew. Why didn’t the District fight the allegations in court if it’s not true?

    The real questions are why weren’t the teachers who knew fired or prosecuted? How much money did it cost the District in law suits? What about the hazing scandal? How much did that cost taxpayers? And the other sexual assault case. Kids and employees knew about that one too. When kids reported, they were told to “mind their own business.”

    We need a complete overhaul of the system. We need LEADERSHIP.

    [Reply]

  10. Neal and Easttowner are spot on. The administration has their agenda and does everything it can to get the rubber stamp of the Board.

    Kate Murphy is running for re-election and has been a leader on the Board, one of a few members that ask questions, push for better information from the administration, and understand the Board’s ultimate responsibility for policy, budgeting and taxing decisions.

    Her opponent is Sue Tiede, a former TESD principal as well as Director of Personnel. I was already concerned by her close ties to the Superintendent and Business Manager. Her answer to the question above quoting the PSBA, “School boards are most effective when they concentrate their time and energy on using the authority delegated to them to govern at the strategic level, determining what it is the community’s schools should accomplish, enacting policies that implement those goals, hiring professional staff to accomplish them and allocating the resources necessary to make all of that happen.” This mindset seems to be the Board sets big fuzzy goals, lets the administration run the District as they see fit, and raises taxes to pay for what they want. A recipe for an administration directed school district, as compared to one led by the Board. The majority of the Board has adopted that thinking over the past few years and the results are not pretty.

    Further, each candidate in Pennsylvania is required to submit a Statement of Financial Interests for the prior calendar year, in this case 2018. On Sue Tiede’s disclosure there are three “Direct or Indirect Sources of Income” – T/E School District, CCRES (a major vendor of staffing to the District) and Wisler Pearlstine (the District’s law firm). Potential conflicts of interest abound. Between these conflicts and her close ties to the District’s administration and teachers how can she possibly be an independent voice we need on the School Board?

    Suffice it to say, I will not be voting for Sue Tiede.

    [Reply]

    Easttowner Reply:

    CAG,

    Thank-you for this information.

    You say:

    On Sue Tiede’s disclosure there are three “Direct or Indirect Sources of Income” – T/E School District, CCRES (a major vendor of staffing to the District) and Wisler Pearlstine (the District’s law firm). Potential conflicts of interest abound. Between these conflicts and her close ties to the District’s administration and teachers how can she possibly be an independent voice we need on the School Board?

    She can’t be an independent voice we need on the School Board. Stacy Stone is also an ex teacher running for the school Board. Unlike Sue, at least Stacy goes to meetings and stays until they are completed. She is a nice person who knits baby blankets during meetings. I have often stated I don’t believe ex District employees should run for the School Board. The conflicts of interest are too great to overcome. When talking to Stacy she often comments on how hard teachers work and how hard they have it. I don’t know of another group or segment of employees in the private sector who can get away with complaining about their work like teachers do. And IMHO, teachers have it great!!! Especially in TE. I think the conditions of their employment have shielded them from real world reality. Private sector workers don’t have job security. They can be fired. They don’t have 16 weeks off per year, golld standard health care, and retirement that ensures they are millionaires. I think that Stacey will represent the best interests of teachers and that is the last thing we need.

    I would vote for Ed Seeeney and Doug Anestad if I wasn’t an Easttowner

    [Reply]

  11. Yes, and this is exactly why there needs to be an accountability to the students and parents. An official annual feedback on teachers and administrators should help achieve a badly needed re-balance on how the district functions.

    [Reply]

  12. Mallam,

    An annual feedback report would have to be created, facilitated and analyzed by the very people the report would be about. Not going to happen.

    5 year Director Scott Dorsey can’t get the Administration to implement a proper Diversity Committee. He definitely won’t be able to get them to self report on an annual feedback survey.

    The Administration and teachers rule this District. They don’t ever admit wrong doing and blame it on taxpayers, students and parents…..even when iron clad evidence proves otherwise. They are protected and shielded at the highest levels. This will not change until Board Directors demand it. It starts with the Board.

    [Reply]

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