T/E School Board Candidate Question #3: Utilizing Public Participation & Input

Here is the full list of candidates running for T/E School Board – See Question #3 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 Iten 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 #3: The participation and input of the T/E School District community is important. If elected, how do you propose involving residents and utilizing their expertise (budget, finance, literacy, etc.) in the process

Doug Anestad Response:

I would like to ensure that the public has a much greater say in the running of the school district. I understand that the reason we have such a great school district is because of our parents and community.

I have frequently witnessed the school board backing the administration and, at least initially, ignoring feedback by the parents or the community. I have seen this pattern many times, such as with the fences around Valley Forge Middle School, concerns from parents over curriculum, and the $1.3 million accounting error.

If I am on the school board, I will take input from the parents and community very seriously. I have demonstrated this repeatedly by supporting parents and community members in trying to implement change. I support adding parents and community members to district committees in order to give the public a more direct voice in the running of the district.

Michele Burger Response:

I have made it my top priority to gather community input PRIOR to making final decisions, meeting one-on-one with parents and taxpayers to listen to their concerns and ideas for improving the internal practices as well as the athletic and educational programs across the district. Currently the community is able to share their input and expertise by attending committee meetings, emailing individual Board members and/or the entire Board, and participating in focus groups and sub-committees. The Board approved the Administration’s request to begin a Strategic Planning process this year that will give all stakeholders an opportunity to offer their unique perspectives and expertise to guide the district. If re-elected, I will continue to listen to my constituents both publicly and privately, utilize resources provided by: educational leaders, Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania School Board Association, as well as do my own “homework” prior to making final decisions

Roberta Hotinski Response:

I value the input of our community and believe the best way to capture it is generally through the public meetings of our committees, since everyone is invited to participate.  Recent successes in this area include community involvement in reapportionment of our voting regions and parent advocacy for later start times and changes to the reading program that resulted in concrete changes in our educational program.   We are also encouraging dialogue with parents through the district’s curriculum committee, which will provide a forum for education and discussion around literacy and other concerns.

Right now, the district is also undertaking a strategic planning effort that involves community members and parents in defining a vision and goals for the future.  I would encourage anyone interested in contributing his or her expertise to involve themselves in discussions and to serve on action teams that will be taking place in the spring.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

Much of my work has focused on including youth, family members, and professionals as equal partners.  I have been a community organizer, children’s advocate, and facilitator.  I have organized parents, community leaders, and youth to bring pressure for changes in education, budget priorities, and legislation.  I am committed to revamping the Curriculum Council with meaningful, experienced parent involvement to meet current specific goals related to literacy and for other curriculum areas in the future.  There are a number of ways we can increase community, family, and youth involvement including the way this is/has happened with the Strategic Plan, School Start Time Survey, and Elementary Redistricting Committee.  I have begun looking into the research and practices of how school districts around the United States involve citizens in the budget process.  I will make myself available to have further discussions on this topic.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

The participation and input of the T/E community is always welcome, and our current Board decision-making process allows for public input at many levels.  In addition to multiple public comment periods at monthly Board meetings, the Board allows for relatively unrestricted public comment during committee meetings. Also, members of the community are free to e-mail the entire Board at SchoolBoard@TESD.net, e-mail Board members individually, or contact us by some other means.  At each of these opportunities, members of the community can offer insights based on their expertise.  Outside the Board process, the District employs a committee structure that allows for public input on various aspects of District operations.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, over the next year, the District will develop a new strategic plan, and opportunities for public input in that process include forums, focus groups and action teams.

Nicholas Lee Response:

I believe T/E has the highest concentration of intellectual capital of any school district in the country. Our residents are pillars not just of the region’s but of the nation’s business, legal, and educational communities. We must be committed to partnering with our residents to provide the best educational results for our T/E families. If elected, I would re-initiate an initiative recently voted down by the School Board to form a Literacy Committee. As a high school teacher, I’ve seen a steady decline in reading and writing skills in our youth. If our national political scene or modern media is any indication, our country appears to be growing less literate and less thoughtful by the day. Our T/E School District community needs to get out in front of this decline and commit to providing the best educational opportunities in the field of Literacy for our students.

Kate Murphy Response:

The district would benefit from more input from the community — whether subject-matter experts or concerned parents and citizens. That’s why I have strongly advocated for a literacy committee.  We have seen glimpses of how partnering with all stakeholder groups within our community can lead to good outcomes.  A few examples are the District’s Ad Hoc Reapportionment Committee (to rebalance our voting regions) and the District’s Diversity Committee (to facilitate the understanding and promote tolerance of cultural and individual differences and to promote inclusive curriculum at all levels).  I think this sort of approach would be beneficial in other areas as well, and we ought to be exploring the possibilities.

Stacy Stone Response:

Tredyffrin and Easttown townships are fortunate to have very well educated and engaged parents and community members with a wealth of skills and experience in many areas, including financial management, information technology, mental health services, and all curricular areas.  I welcome these community members as partners in improving our District and pledge to bring together parents, teachers, students, administrators, board members, and other experts to ensure that our children have the instruction they deserve and require to become lifelong readers and learners. To that end, I believe all school administration committee meetings—not just school board and board committee meetings—should be open to the public, announced on the TESD website, and should include parents and community experts appointed by the board in addition to members appointed by the administration.

Ed Sweeney Response:

I have been a firm supporter of a Literacy Committee built on the model of the Diversity Committee.  It would be a great forum to exchange ideas.  A great District needs to be open to new ideas and must not be “top down.”

I would use our “Strategic Plan” process to wholly revamp the types of committees the Board has and who serve on them. I would recruit members for the committees that not only have expertise, but a diversity of views.  We need a Finance Committee and an Accounting Committee.  While I would greatly prefer the Board to revisit the issue of a Literacy Committee, I would push for Everyone Reads TE to have strong voices on the Curriculum Committee.

I have proposed on several occasions having an expert volunteer, an outside “voice,” to be appointed by the Board to sit with us in regular sessions and on subcommittees.

Sue Tiede Response:

I believe that parent and community involvement is one of the greatest strengths of the T/E School District. As a district employee for 14 years, I was always grateful to the hundreds of community members who committed their time, talent and energy to support our students at every level and in many ways. For example, the District is currently developing a new Strategic Plan. Input from a diverse group of stakeholders is vital to creating a plan that will ensure the District can meet the needs of students in the future. Throughout my career I have welcomed involvement from parents, teachers and the community as we identified what was best for our students. As a member of the Board, I would look forward to continuing this dialog through public meetings and other avenues.

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13 Comments

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  1. The parking lot is not necessary and it seems to be a convenience for the builder and an additional expenditure to pad the contract.

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  2. We neighbors and taxpayers of CHS learned at the last Township Meeting that the parking lot is primarily a way to make the HS expansion easier for the Contractor(s). Not one of us object to needed classrooms and other educational improvements. The school board shows a complete lack of caring to our neighborhood with this proposed unnecessary new parking lot. This will create more traffic to an already chaotic and dangerous traffic pattern. In addition, nobody satisfactorily addresses our storm water concerns. No to the Parking Lot Expansion! We don’t want a reduction of spaces, we don’t what it at all. The school board/ township should pause and re think what is actually needed, once our Trees are gone it will change our green space forever.

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  3. WHAT??? Just read this on Michelle Burger’s website. The School Board had critical information from their auditor that “raises many questions” about our District and they did NOT release that at the last Board meeting before the election. THAT’s playing Politics…yet, they all run on transparency!!!

    The District had financial irregularities which we have all read about in CM….I’m guessing this could be related. Burger wanted to Fire the auditor and blame the financial Fraud issue on them…seems like she still does. BUT-let’s all see the BIG letter and stop playing “I know something you don’t know”.

    Burger for SB Facebook post:
    Recently, the School Board received a letter from Maille (the auditing firm for the Board) that raises many questions for me. As a member of the Finance committee, I want the community to be aware of the contents of the letter. Therefore, the letter will be available at the district office for the community to review. The auditor will be at the Monday, November 11th Finance committee meeting. I want the opportunity to ask Maille questions regarding the contents of this letter and their previous letter to the Board.
    Last spring, I was the only Board member questioning whether we should/could break the terms of their contract and hire a new auditor. It was too late in the year to find a new auditor and this is the last year of their contract. With that said, Maille needs to be held accountable (no pun intended) and answer all questions at the Finance committee meeting.

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  4. I am disappointed and underwhelmed by these responses. The community has many well qualified, engaged, interested citizens, and historically the Board and school administrators have done as much as possible to isolate themselves from the public and community input as possible. An example was the fences at Valley Forge middle school. Those pushing this expense were clearly caught off guard by the public’s strong opposition. Instead of reevaluating the fence installation, they doubled down on trying to validate the need and value for this expense and inconvenience.
    The majority of the Board down to the administers continue to believe they always know better than the well educated and knowledgeable community. They could not be more wrong on many topics and issues. So what would I like to see in response to this question for the upcoming election? Very simply, get out to the community and solicit opinions and needs. Hold open public meetings independent of the formal Board meetings etc to engage in open ended feedback. Start a formal feedback from parents about interactions with administrators and teachers; they pay the bills, they are the target customers of the school product, and should be more accountable accordingly. Granted, not everyone will be satisfied all the time. But perhaps some of the growing conflict between the public’s perception of the effectiveness of those charged with the total package of our schools will be improved. Right now, it could use better confidence from me.

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  5. For the record, Board Member, Ed Sweeney, was the only TESB member who requested President, Scott Dorsey, to make the auditor’s letter public at Monday’s, 10/28/19, School Board Public Meeting.

    It should be obvious to anyone observing, Michelle Burger, VP and up for RE-Election is playing politics with her Facebook posts and her “accounting” for the auditors letter.

    Is this is how Ms Burger and her running mate, Stacey Stone, plan to be transparent?
    Wait for six months to receive the auditors letter…on Oct 16th.
    Sit on it. Do not share with the public at next school board meeting on 10/28/19.
    Then, use your inside leverage as VP to inform the public at the Build meeting that YOU will make the letter available to the public.

    TE parents and taxpayers should be disgusted!

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  6. Dear Incumbent Candidates:

    It sounds like good optics to tout the Public Comment opportunities during school board meetings, and to SAY you welcome community input, but it’s what you DO with that input that really matters to voters. As a taxpayer in the neighborhood adjacent to the high school, and a parent who has spoken publicly about issues within YOUR control (incumbent school board members), I am appalled that in the days leading up to elections, you would preach about the Transparency during your tenure and how you appreciate community input.

    The concerns of our community members regarding the proposed new parking lot and its associated storm water and traffic safety issues, along with the deforestation you are planning, have been largely ignored…All while school board members pat themselves on the back for the “sustainability” of this project. I’m sure the CHS building expansion will be remarkable, but the parking lot component has not been justified, and will negatively impact an entire neighborhood… A neighborhood of residents who would REALLY appreciate a School Board that was receptive to the ideas and expertise of local residents/taxpayers/voters.

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  7. The school district has given lip service to “transparency “ but has dismally failed to successfully communicate with the taxpaying voters in the neighborhood surrounding CHS. Instead, it has taken a laser-like focus on the destruction of hundreds of trees, ignored remediation of Stormwater issues, and not addressed major traffic and safety issues. Smart community members have offered creative solutions which appear mostly ignored because the board doesn’t want any slow down of the plan. Instead it’s take the easy way out…destroy all the trees, ruin property values, and ignore concerned, informed citizens’ requests to re-examine the plan. Decisions to add another parking lot have largely ignored the neighbors input, relied on incomplete parking data, and kept bordering neighbors in the dark with detailed information on trees and walls in the area. Now we see RED DOTS on nearly every tree in the woods—but conveniently facing east so bulldozers will see them, but no one from the street can see. And, the plan is to use the area as a construction zone while the expansion is underway. Sneaky and disgusting. DO NOT TEAR DOWN HUNDREDS OF TREES FOR AN UNNECESSARY PATKING LOT.

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    CHS Neighbor Reply:

    Amen! It’s a complete disgrace.

    [Reply]

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