Tredyffrin Township At-Large supervisor candidates Elva Bankins, Louis Horvath, Trip Lukens & Sean Moir respond

Supervisor Candidates for Tredyffrin Township, At-Large
Elva Bankins (D)
Louis Horvath (D)
Trip Lukens (R)
Sean Moir (R)

The Tredyffrin Township Supervisor candidates were asked to answer the following question in 500 words or less.

Please identify a specific character trait that makes you an effective leader. Give an example(s) of how you have utilized that personal characteristic in previous leadership position and, if elected, how residents will benefit from that particular trait.  Be specific.

The four candidate responses follow below in alphabetical order according to last name. If your question and/or comment is for a specific candidate, please refer to that individual by name so as not to confuse the reader. Voters will select two of these candidates on November 3 for the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Elva Bankins (D

Communication & Active Listener

With 20+ years of experience in corporate management, technology start-ups and non-profit board leadership, I bring an ability to communicate by actively listening and understanding the needs of others.  A small business owner and certified leadership coach, I am a communicator who believes in an open and transparent approach to decision-making and resolving issues.

One example of how I utilized my communication and active listening skills within several disparate groups was in my leadership role with a career services firm. The firm’s purpose was to assist employees who were downsized or “laid off” with their job search.  As the general manager, I served several different constituencies with varied and conflicting interests.  For example, there were two types of customers; one was my corporate customer who paid for their employee’s services and the other was the effected employee who utilized the services.  Additionally, there were many full-time, part-time and contractors who worked for the firm. My responsibilities were extensive. I managed the budget process (P&L), facilities, operations, sales and customer satisfaction. My communications and listening skills while working with multiple constituents were critical to the success of this multi-site operation.

At the request of our corporate customers, the firm opened an office location in the Westlake’s Office Complex in Berwyn, PA. I had continuous meetings with the realtors, our firm’s controller, telecommunications reps, movers, etc., and our employees to ensure a smooth and successful new office opening. While communicating and listening to many constituents, I held costs under budget for the move, ensured customer satisfaction and maintained open and transparent communications throughout the process.

How will this trait benefit Tredyffrin Residents?

If I am elected to the Board of Supervisors, Tredyffrin residents will benefit by getting a communicator who is an active listener. A 22+ year resident of this township, the Board will gain a business professional who can listen to multiple constituents and who will work tirelessly for successfully outcomes. If elected, my vision is to foster closer relationships with our residents and companies that conduct business in Tredyffrin to build a closer sense of community.  As a communicator, I bring compassion and a responsible and prudent approach to decision-making while seeking new ways to ensure that we are focused on building a foundation that solidifies the future of Tredyffrin Township and our residents.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Louis Horvath (D

Character traits that best describe me are my lifelong determination to achieve competency, serve others and be a person of the highest integrity.

I am from a humble background. I grew up in the coal region of Western Pennsylvania as the son of a coal miner and a cleaning lady who were not able to attend high school. My roots have provided me with the values of humility, respect and service to all people.

I began my devotion to service at the age of 15 when I entered the Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. My original intention was to serve others as a missionary in South America. But after graduating from college, I decided to seek a different vocational direction. I completed my graduate studies in Community Health at Temple University and embarked on a rewarding career in health care and education.

My professional career started as a clinician counseling people with alcohol addiction and their families. As I grew in my understanding of the disease, I developed a comprehensive program that improved successful outcomes in meeting patient needs.

My career grew in senior management by enhancing medical services in hospital settings; coordinating mental health services at three organizations; and serving the elderly and special needs children through care management and home care services.

With over 25 years of successful leadership experience in managing health services, addressing and responding to the special needs of the community and listening to their concerns,  my journey as a health care administrator and university educator has equipped me with the knowledge, skills and competency to serve the community as a Township Supervisor. They include:

  • Managing employees and benefit administration
  • Monitoring large budgets and capital improvements
  • Improving information system;
  • Leading growth and change in multiple organizations

For three years now I have been fully committed to motivating and guiding students at St. Joseph’s University to become future leaders. I tell my students they will achieve as leaders through determination and by remaining true to themselves and their highest values.

I am an individual committed to the ethical principles of autonomy, which entails respect for others, social justice, and having the courage to do the right thing in the right way. A person of high expectations of self and others, I would like to serve in the best interest of the community. I do my research and homework and base decisions on facts and truth. My interest in service is rooted in my family background, my career in health services and in higher education.

Finally, my strength lies in my spirituality and integrity.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Trip Lukens (R

Consensus Builder

I am a proven consensus builder.  For the last eight years, I have served Tredyffrin Township as a member of the Planning Commission.  For four of those years, I was elected by a bipartisan group of my peers to serve as either the Vice Chairman or Chairman.

During my eight years of service, I have worked with individuals with competing interest to craft compromises that have worked well for the township.  I have been active in advocating for our communities.  I was involved in drafting the Township’s Comprehensive and Historic Preservation plans.  I have worked to modernize the Township’s zoning ordinances.  Those efforts continue as I work to address problems that remain within the Zoning Code which have allowed for excessive density in some of the Township’s Zoning Districts.  I have worked diligently to reduce the impact of Storm Water throughout the Township.

My ability to build consensus and to be a bipartisan leader is illustrated by the fact that three former Democratic candidates for Supervisor chose to contribute financially to my campaign to become a Tredyffrin Township Supervisor.

The makeup of the next Board of Supervisors will have members of both parties.  The Township will be best served by having a Supervisor with a history of working with people of differing points of view.  Given my eight years of service on the Planning Commission and my professional experience in real estate and finance, I believe I am uniquely qualified to serve as a member of the Board of Supervisors.

As a father of three young children, I know how important it is for the Township to provide and support top notch police and fire departments, great municipal parks, and excellent libraries. Tredyffrin Township is a wonderful place to live and I consider myself blessed to be able to raise a family here.  Departing Supervisors Mike Heaberg, Kristen Mayock, and J.D. DiBuonaventuro have provided a history of delivering an excellent level of service from the Township with a proven history of excellent fiscal management.  I intend to continue this legacy.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Sean Moir (R

Consensus Builder

As a member of Tredyffrin’s Park Board for the last ten years, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of projects that directly affect the daily lives of township residents.  Sometimes these involve virtually unquestionable community improvements – like the new scoreboard at Wilson Park – but sometimes the projects also require community buy-in.  In these latter cases it’s important to have the ability to act as a consensus builder.

Over the last year I’ve been working on an initiative to establish a safe and convenient access to the Chester Valley Trail from D’Ambrosia Park.  This has required working closely with neighboring residents, Supervisors, Park Board members, Public Works, township staff, the Friends of the Chester Valley Trail, Chester County Parks and Facilities, and the adjacent landowner, to develop a mutually agreeable solution for trail access.

When I first approached the Supervisors about this idea in early 2014 there was some concern about neighborhood reaction, so I was asked to contact the residents to discuss the idea.  I invited a group of neighbors to attend a Park Board meeting where I presented a possible plan for the D’Ambrosia trail access.  There were about a dozen residents in attendance and they expressed their concerns primarily about increased traffic and privacy issues.  After demonstrating how we could address these issues, we called for a vote and the neighbors unanimously and enthusiastically agreed to support the project.

After various follow-up meetings on and off site with residents and township staff to discuss possible trail alignments, we developed a plan that was approved by the Supervisors.  I also met with representatives from the Friends of the Chester Valley Trail, as well as Chester County Parks and Facilities to formalize a connection agreement.  Since this access requires crossing a small section of private property, I contacted the property owner, and managed to foster an agreement between his attorney and the township solicitor.

The project is now in the construction phase, and should be open to the public next spring.

This particular example demonstrates that even the most seemingly simple of public projects can require buy-in from a vast array of stakeholders, any of whom could cause an initiative to stall out.  It is critical in these cases to always respect the wishes of all parties involved, especially residents who don’t necessarily have an official role in municipal projects.  Only then, through thoughtful consensus building and perseverance, can a public project succeed.

As a Park Board member, I have demonstrated the ability to bring people together to accomplish many objectives.  Not only with trail access, but I did it with the Conestoga Road sidewalk project in 2009, the scoreboard at Wilson Park last year, and I’m currently working with the Audubon Society’s Tredyffrin Bird Town chapter to create a bird sanctuary at Westover Park in Devon.

As Supervisor I would apply the same consensus building approach to bigger projects whether they involve the parks, libraries, infrastructure, stormwater, planning, or public safety.

Tredyffrin Township District 3 West supervisor candidates Heather Greenberg and Yolanda Van de Krol respond

Supervisor Candidates for Tredyffrin Township, District 3 – West
Heather Greenberg (R)
Yolanda Van de Krol (D)

The Tredyffrin Township Supervisor candidates were asked to answer the following question in 500 words or less.

Please identify a specific character trait that makes you an effective leader. Give an example(s) of how you have utilized that personal characteristic in previous leadership position and, if elected, how residents will benefit from that particular trait.  Be specific.

The two candidate responses follow below in alphabetical order according to last name. If your question and/or comment is for a specific candidate, please refer to that individual by name so as not to confuse the reader. Voters will select one of these candidates on November 3 for the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Heather Greenberg (R
District 3 – West

Leadership and Financial Management

Thank you for the opportunity to help voters learn more about me in advance of this very important Tredyffrin Supervisor election.  Having held leadership roles in both my professional and community service experience, I believe there are several leadership traits I possess which have contributed to my success.  Perhaps the one most relevant to the role of Supervisor, is my financial management.  By this, I include the following: ability to process financial information, build operational plans around that data and communicate to relevant stakeholders.  I apply critical thinking to solve problems and provide long term strategic planning.

After graduating from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of commerce, I joined Arthur Andersen LLP in their audit division.  I began working with emerging stage businesses building, managing and optimizing their financial position to drive business growth. In these environments, I worked with business owners and entrepreneurs helping them understand how their financial data was critical in understanding the drivers of their operations and profitability.  Working with finances at the ground level and building up from there, helped me develop expertise around financial management.  I learned how to ask the critical questions, uncover what the data was revealing about their business and suggest ways to improve their financial environments.

Eventually I lead a high tech start up which was on the cutting edge of implementing telecommuting programs.  As their Senior financial executive, I built financial forecasts/budgets which lead to over $60 million in capital investment.  I was able to achieve these results by presenting a commanding and compelling financial plan to some of the top private equity firms in high tech.  I charted a plan for growth, funded the investment, and then ran the finance and accounting department, presenting financial results to investors and Board members.

Most recently, my financial management experience has been utilized assisting an early stage company in the renewable energy industry, trying to expand into international markets.  With two years of operations already, they had never employed a financial position.  Over the last 9 months, I corrected prior financial statements, created the company’s first cash forecasting model, created an annual budget, created and presented investment presentations to local investors, and renegotiated our bank line of credit to accommodate the needed capital investment.  With my ability to understand how financial information drives operations, I am able to manage and optimize operations, both current and future.

I believe all this financial management experience would be a huge value to Tredyffrin residents in making sure their taxes are optimized through value creation.  I have done this for the last two decades in the private sector and would like to bring that experience to a community that has been the backdrop to three generations of my family.  As Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Heaberg retires, the Board and community loses his critical financial expertise.  I would like the opportunity to continue his strong financial leadership and am confident I have the skills to do that.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Yolanda Van de Krol (D) 
District 3 – West

Hard work and leadership

I have always worked very hard for what I have. My parents emigrated here from Europe after their country was devastated in WWII. They came here with nothing except good educations and a strong work ethic. They passed along to me the importance of working hard scholastically and professionally. I strived to be an excellent student and started working at the age of 12 to save for college. Hard work has resulted in many opportunities to lead. I have learned that leadership is about taking on the hard issues with transparency and plenty of dialog to build consensus.

I have been in banking for over 20 years. In that time hard work has led to more challenging roles. My jobs often required me to take leadership positions on two different levels. First, I needed to work collaboratively within organizations to educate staff in environments generally not accustomed to internal cooperation. Secondly, I needed to bring in business by working with small and medium businesses to determine their needs and provide them with financial services to help meet their goals.

My service on the Tredyffrin Township Libraries Board – Tredyffrin Public Library and Paoli Library – is another example of hard work combined with leadership.  As a working board member, my commitment went well beyond monthly meetings. I spent two years learning before taking over as President for four years. I was able to help Tredyffrin and Paoli libraries navigate through some tumultuous times – the $7MM addition to Tredyffrin Library at the same time the recession hit and local, county and state funding sources cut back on their financial support. If that wasn’t challenging enough, the one and only director of the libraries retired so we had to embark on a director search for the first time in 37 years. Those issues and more required that I work closely with township personnel and the Board of Supervisors. My experience on the Libraries Board gave me firsthand knowledge of the budget process and personnel responsibilities at the township level.

Over the years my willingness to work hard has led to positions requiring leadership skills. And I have learned that good leadership means tackling the important and often difficult issues, understanding the complexities of the issues, keeping people informed every step of the way and soliciting input to craft the best solutions. I have already served Tredyffrin residents on the Libraries Board. I am running for Western District Supervisor to serve the best interests of all the residents of the township.

Tredyffrin Township District 1 East supervisor candidates Paul Olson and Tory Snyder respond

Supervisor Candidates for Tredyffrin Township, District 1 – East
Paul Olson (R) Incumbent
Tory Snyder (D)

The Tredyffrin Township Supervisor candidates were asked to answer the following question in 500 words or less.

Please identify a specific character trait that makes you an effective leader. Give an example(s) of how you have utilized that personal characteristic in previous leadership position and, if elected, how residents will benefit from that particular trait.  Be specific.

The two candidate responses follow below in alphabetical order according to last name. If your question and/or comment is for a specific candidate, please refer to that individual by name so as not to confuse the reader. Voters will select one of these candidates on November 3 for the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Paul Olson (R) Incumbent
District 1 – East


My name is Paul Olson and I am running for re-election as Supervisor in the Eastern District of Tredyffrin Township.  My wife, Andrea, and I have lived here since 1969 and we raised our family here.

The character trait that has served me well is persistence.  “Persistence is omnipotent” and through it we are able to achieve many worthwhile goals in life.  This is my firm belief.

In my thirty-seven plus years of service to the citizens of Tredyffrin as a Township Supervisor, I have overseen significant changes in this community and I have always been determined to provide quality services at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer.

Through the years, I have always been a dedicated worker.  Now, as an employer in a small family-owned company, I have come to understand and appreciate the importance of the following values:

  1. Team involvement (There is no “I” in team);
  2. A ‘Stick-to-It’ attitude; and,
  3. A ‘Never give up’ approach.

All three are critical, not only in the work-a-day world that most of us experience, but in the Public sector as well.

As one of the co-chairs of the Tredyffrin Library Capital Campaign which supported the expansion of the Strafford Library, I helped to raise more than four million dollars in private money for that project. Persistence and perseverance helped us to achieve that success.  I have worked to bring people together on numerous issues and I have always cared deeply about doing what is best for the community.

Since 2007 I have been a member of the Surrey Services Board of Directors.  I am fortunate to be able to work with this wonderful organization which provides such important services to our older citizens.  Our community is blessed with individuals who give of their time, talent, and treasure for volunteer organizations and volunteerism helps make America the great country that it is!

If re-elected, I will continue to be persistent and steadfast in my efforts to make Tredyffrin an even better place to live and work and play.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Tory Snyder (D)
District 1 – East

Forward-looking Leadership

“In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

While it is difficult to identify one single trait that has made me an effective leader, I would say that one of my strongest traits, and one that distinguishes me from my opponent, is that I am forward looking in my decision making.

I grew up in the western end of Tredyffrin Township and attended T/E schools. I saw the development of Chesterbrook Shopping Center as the new exciting place to shop in the late 1970s and witnessed its vacancies 30 some years later. I saw the old Wilson farm become Wilson Farm Park and watched Berwyn Paoli Little League create the field of dreams complex.  I have chosen Tredyffrin as my home as I became an adult and parent because I know where we have come from and I can see where we can go as a community. I am invested in Tredyffrin Township and I will contribute to its long term strength and success.

This perspective is essential to taking actions that make sense for Township residents today without burdening Township residents in the future. I believe that this lack of forward thinking among some of our elected officials has resulted in the Township’s moving too slowly and missing out on a number of opportunities to broaden our tax base and provide more amenities for Tredyffrin residents.

Many of my actions first as a member, and then as Chair of the Planning Commission, reflect this philosophy. I always ask what will be the future implications of a decision.  One specific example that I can point to recently is when the developers of the new assisted living facility in Paoli came to the Township with their proposal. While the project had broad political support as proposed, many of the neighbors voiced valid concerns with the project. I shared many of their concerns. As a Planning Commissioner, I was able to add limitations to the Township Code so that this project and any future projects would be presented to the Township in a more appropriate form.

While not all of the provisions that I suggested were adopted, including a greater amount of open space and a better density standard, I believe that it was my specific leadership and direction that resulted in a better project which met a number of resident concerns and set better standards for future projects.

As a Tredyffrin Township Supervisor (1st District, East) I will be one of the seven people who set policy for our Township, who are elected to govern and to address the needs of all residents in the community.  I would like to serve the people of Tredyffrin as a member of this Board, bringing my forward looking leadership and perspective to keep our community strong in the future.

What one specific character trait makes an effective leader? Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates respond


In August, the TE School Board candidates were asked to answer the following question in 500 words or less:

Although there are many important issues facing the TE School District, what one issue will you focus on should you be elected?  As a school board director, what in your background, experience or education prepares you to help with this specific issue.

All ten TE School Board candidates replied and their responses appeared on Community Matters in August.

Earlier this month, I sent the following email to the Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates:

On November 3, voters in Tredyffrin Township will go to the polls to select four supervisors — two At Large, one 1st District (Eastern) and one 3rd District (West) seats are available.  To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know ‘you’, the candidate.

People bring varied backgrounds and qualifications to the job of township supervisor; and as voters, we need help in making the right choices on Election Day.  As a result, I am asking each of you to respond to the following statement:

Please identify a specific character trait that makes you an effective leader. Give an example(s) of how you have utilized that personal characteristic in previous leadership position and, if elected, how residents will benefit from that particular trait.  Be specific.

Your response should not be a political campaign plug or a laundry list of your accomplishments. Your response needs to (1) focus on a specific personal character trait and (2) an explanation of how that trait will benefit the residents.

All Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates are invited to send a response.  Your statement (word doc format) should NOT exceed 500 words and is due no later than October 15, 2015.  Your responses will not be edited and will be provided to the public via Community Matters.  Your participation is completely voluntary and all candidate responses will appear on Community Matters during the week of October 19.

I heard back from all eight supervisor candidates and their responses will appear on Community Matters in alphabetical order (by last name) on the following schedule:

Tuesday, October 20:
District 1 East: Paul Olson (R)  (incumbent)
District 1 East: Tory Snyder (D)

Wednesday, October 21:
District 3 West: Heather Greenberg (R)
District 3 West: Yolanda Van de Krol (D

Thursday, October 22:
Supervisor at Large: Elva Bankins (D)
Supervisor at Large: Lou Horvath (D)
Supervisor at Large: Sean Moir (R)
Supervisor at Large: Trip Lukens (R)

This exercise should be viewed as another tool in the supervisor candidate selection process by us, the voters.  In the next few days, please review the candidate responses and you decide if they understood the question and answered appropriately. Who will you support on Election Day?

League of Women Voters Debate for Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidates & TE School District Candidates — Saturday, Oct. 24.

meet-candidates.jpg (1)The League of Women Voters of Chester County will host “Meet the Candidates” debates in anticipation of the November 3 elections. In Tredyffrin Township, the debates will be held on Saturday, October 24 at the Township Building, 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn. The Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidate debate is 10 AM – 11:30 AM. The TE School District candidate debate is 12 Noon – 1:30 PM.

The debates, which are open and free to the public, are structured so that community members are able to ask candidates any questions they may have regarding policy or goals. People who attend the debates can write their questions down on an index card, which will then be given to the candidates.

Rather than a debate structure which many will recall from presidential debates, the League of Women Voters forum allows each candidate a set amount of time to answer each question.

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidates:

• District 1 East: Paul Olson *
• Supervisor at Large: Sean Moir
• Supervisor at Large: Trip Lukens
• District 3 West: Heather Greenberg
* Incumbent

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has endorsed the following candidates:

• District 1 East: Tory Snyder
• Supervisor at Large: Elva Bankins
• Supervisor at Large: Lou Horvath
• District 3 West: Yolanda Van de Krol

The Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidates for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director:

• Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Neal Colligan
• Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Neil Kling
• Tredyffrin, West – Region 2: Kris Graham*
• Tredyffrin, West – Region 2: Edward Sweeney

The Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has endorsed the following candidates for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director:

• Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Roberta Hotinski
• Tredyffrin, East – Region 1: Todd Kantorczyk
• Tredyffrin, West – Region 2: Michele Burger
• Tredyffrin, West – Region 2: Alan Yockey

In addition to the Region 1 and Region 2 seats in Tredyffrin Township, Region 3 in Easttown Township has one seat available. Republican candidate for Region 3 is Kate Murphy and the Democratic candidate is Francis Reardon.

“Feeding Thousands” sponsored by St. Luke Lutheran Church in Devon a successful event! Thanks to volunteers and community organizations!

St. Luke Lutheran Church in Devon organized “Feeding Thousands” on Saturday, October 17 (the week of World Food Day).  Groups of 10-12 people from the community were invited to participate.  All that was needed was volunteers to package the meals and a contribution of $500 to provide the ingredients and supplies.

In the past, St. Luke’s has distributed the food through Philabundance and Chester County Food Bank.  According to their website, St. Luke’s is also exploring the possibility of sending some of the meals to Liberia to continue relief efforts after the recent Ebola outbreak.  The church is committed to making sure that every meal is donated quickly and effectively to get the meals to people who are facing hunger.

A variety of local organizations and groups participated in St. Luke’s Feeding Thousands event, including members of the Chester County Chiefs of Police Association and the Chester County Fraternal Order of Police. On behalf of the participating police officers, Tredyffrin Police Supt. Anthony Giaimo, sent a note to me that they were honored to participate in a program to end regional hunger.

Supt. Giaimo explained the process for the event … that the Feeding Thousands volunteers assisted in packaging meals, loading boxes and other duties in a production line. Groups worked in one hour segments, keeping pace ensuring that all needed meals were packed.  At various times during the day, St. Luke’s workers announced the number of packed meals, which numbered in the thousands.

In addition to an update on Feeding Thousands, Supt. Giaimo offered the following … “I wanted to pass this along with the added comment that donations of food this time of year are extra especially important for those who are without food or not having enough food.  It is incredible that just in our region, families need to balance the ability pay for heat and rent with the ability to eat or eat well.”  Well said!

 Police photoMembers of the Chester County Chiefs of Police Association and the Chester County Fraternal Order of Police

School fencing is important school safety issue to TE School Board — Why not same level of safety concern for 5th grader?

stopped school bus

 During one of the two comment periods of the TE School Board meeting on September 21, District residents Mr. and Mrs. John Alexander asked the school board directors for assistance with a busing situation pertaining to their son Jackson. The Alexander’s, who live on Valley Forge Mountain, had previously attempted resolution through email and phone calls to the District but were unsuccessful. After their passionate appeal at the school board meeting, the District’s business manager Art McDonnell intervened to say that this was a bus schedule matter and any school bus policy changes need to go to the Policy Committee the following month. The Board concurred with no further discussion.

Although I may not have fully known the specifics of the situation, it was obvious that McDonnell understood the Alexander’s request.  A couple of days after the school board meeting, John Alexander called me.  After speaking with him, I asked that he provide me with a summary of the situation for Community Matters —

Our son, Jackson, is taking a school district shuttle bus from VFMS to VFES to ride the elementary school bus home two days a week, so that he can participate in 5th grade band and chorus as after school extracurricular activities since both my wife and I work outside of the home. The problem is that even though the elementary school bus passes right by our house twice on its route, the school district’s procedure is to only stop at the closest current elementary school stops. This means that Jackson has to get off almost a half a mile away at the nearest established elementary school stop and walk back to our house which unnecessarily increases his risk of being hurt or otherwise harmed, especially since there are no sidewalks on Valley Forge Mountain.

We had hoped that a simple phone call and/or e-mail requesting the bus to let him off at his old elementary school bus stop from last year would settle the issue and be a Win-Win situation since there would be less risk of danger to our son and the School District wins because there is less risk of an incident for which they would be liable while not impacting other students & families in any material way.

Our bottom line – It seems like the school district is more concerned with minimizing disruptions in their bureaucratic process & procedures rather than taking simple & reasonable steps to increase the safety of a child in returning to their home from school. Shouldn’t student safety be paramount and outweigh bureaucratic processes when reasonable alternatives exist? Now, we are faced with waiting for the Policy Committee to review this in the middle of next month with no guarantee of a favorable decision/ruling.

John Alexander

Over the last couple of years, the school board has focused much attention on school safety, including trying to convince residents that ‘fencing schools’ is the answer to keeping our children safe.  Yet, here we have a 10 year old boy walking ½ mile from the school bus on Valley Forge Mountain to his home, after the bus passes his house twice on the route.

The District is endangering a child and risking liability to allow this child to walk this distance and on roads without sidewalks! This makes no ‘safety sense’ whatsoever! The Alexander’s have been told that to change the bus route for them could mean that other families may want similar changes. However, when Alexander pressed McDonnell on how many ‘other’ families have ever had a bus schedule situation which required a change, he was given no response. The bus route included a stop at the Alexander’s house for the 2014-15 school year. As Alexander states, “Shouldn’t student safety be paramount and outweigh bureaucratic processes when reasonable alternatives exist?”

Beyond the obvious safety aspects of this situation, where is the open communication between the Board and this TE School District family.  Jackson is the youngest of the Alexander’s four children, so the parents fully understand how the school district works and are not seeking preferential treatment.  According to John Alexander, he had previously inquired about the existing “bus policy” cited by Art McDonnell; however, it was not provided. Rather than showing leadership and finding a reasonable solution, the school board accepted the business manager’s approach to “kick the can” to the Policy Committee meeting next month.

The Alexander’s have to wait a month to take their reasonable request (and simple solution) to the Policy Committee. To be clear, the Policy Committee can only hear the policy request and make recommendations. At best, the Alexander’s will have to wait until the next school board meeting for full board discussion. However, most policy changes, take more than one Policy Committee for recommendations so who knows how long this “simple family request” will take for resolution?

I do not understand “why” all school district roads seem to lead to Art McDonnell, the business manager. Beyond the expected business/financial related aspects of his job description, McDonnell is the keeper of the gate for the District’s communications and the Board’s emails from residents, the Public Information officer and the Right-to-Know request recipient. We learned at the last school board meeting that McDonnell ‘hand-picked’ the school safety consultant (without issuing an RFP) and now we find that apparently he is in charge of the District’s bus schedule!

I have sat through many regular and committee meetings of the District and have witnessed an alarming trend…many of the Board’s discussions/decisions seem to defer to Art McDonnell!  In my opinion, the decision making powers of Art McDonnell seems to extend well beyond the normal and expected business manager boundaries.  As of July 1, the District hired a new Superintendent; so where’s Dr. Gusick’s voice on these issues?

As residents, we didn’t elect Art McDonnell to govern the District – we elected the School Board. Plan to support those school board candidates in the upcoming election on November 3rd who will do their homework and govern with independent thought! We need effective leadership!

Next round on Valley Forge Middle School fencing project: TE School Board hires safety consultant

Fencing April 2015

What’s that proverb about a “bad penny always coming back”?  After last week’s TE School Board meeting, that could be a fair description of the Valley Forge Middle School fencing project.

Residents who attended the District’s June 12th Facilities Meeting expected the fencing discussion at Valley Forge Middle School to finally end.  But instead, the public learned that after many, many meetings and months of legal bills for the District (i.e. taxpayers), the Chesterbrook Civic Association and Green Hills homeowners, Board President Kris Graham’s proposed hiring a safety consultant for the Valley Forge Middle School.

The Board has repeatedly cited the 2013 safety report by Andy Chambers (the former Tredyffrin Township Police Chief) as the rationale for building fences around the District’s eight schools. However the public was not provided input for the safety study and the Board, citing safety reasons, never permitted the public to see the report.

Although District residents have not read the Chambers’ safety report, the Board claimed that its safety suggestions included fencing all schools. Taxpayers paid (“not to exceed $11,500”) for the safety report two years ago, so did the Board decide to spend more money on another study (to focus specifically on VFMS).  During the Facilities Committee meeting the Board was quick to point out that the District would send out a RFP for the VFMS safety consultant, which they admit was not done before they hired Chambers in 2013.

During the committee reports at the June 15 regular school board meeting, Dr. Motel (chair of the Facilities Committee) presented the following update,

The Facilities Committee met Friday, June 12 at the district offices on West Valley Road and the meeting was open to the public.

We discussed again the possible installation of additional fencing at Valley Forge Middle School. The committee has decided after many meetings of which this issue was discussed to obtain a second opinion from an additional safety consultant who will review the Valley Forge Middle School site specifically and make recommendations as to whether or not additional fencing at the site is advisable and if so what it should look like and where it should be placed.

The process will be an RFP will go out this summer for a school safety consultant. The selection of the safety consultant will begin at the next committee meeting in public with public input. I want to clarify that this means no new fencing will be installed at Valley Forge Middle School this summer.

Fast forward three months to last week’s school board meeting and the safety consultant discussion – a discussion which was troubling on many levels:

  1. Initially the hiring of the safety consultant appeared as part of the school board’s consent agenda but was later removed to allow for discussion.
  2. Contrary to what the Board previously stated on at the Facilities Committee meeting on June 12 and at the June 15 School Board meeting, no RFP was released.
  3. The Business manager Art McDonnell contacted three safety security companies and asked them for a proposal.
  4. McDonnell ‘picked’ the company, National School Safety & Security Service at a cost of $15,500.
  5. No District signed contract for National School Safety’s services. Responding to Board and resident questions, McDonnell suggested that a contract was not necessary and pointed to the company’s proposal on the TESD website. (The proposal is found on pg. 177 of the Sept. 21 school board agenda}.
  6. Residents asked the cost of the other 2 safety security companies. McDonnell did not have the exact figures but thought one was around $4,000 and the other $20K.
  7. National School Safety’s proposal contains no dates for the deliverables. Their consulting fee of $15,500 is for pre-visit phone calls and review of existing documents, 3 day visit which includes 1-1/2 days of interviews and site visits, 1/2 day of debriefing and presentation to committee and written report of recommendations.
  8. No public meeting on this topic is included in the company’s proposal.
  9. McDonnell stated that earlier fencing correspondence, emails, etc. would be given to the consultant. However, when further questioned on this topic, McDonnell acknowledged he was not sure how long the District kept emails!  (What is the policy on email retention?)
  10. When pressed on the need for the safety consultant to receive public input on fencing, etc., McDonnell referenced a proposed public meeting for Thursday, Nov. 19 with a preliminary safety report from the consultant to be given on Friday, Nov. 20 at the 2 PM Facilities Committee meeting.
  11. What is the value of resident input if the public meeting is held less than 24 hrs. before National School Safety delivers their preliminary report at the Facilities Committee meeting.
  12. Several residents and Board members questioned McDonnell regarding the ‘scope’ of the consultant’s work without the benefit of an RFP. How would the company know the District’s expectations?
  13. In the end, the Board offered that residents could send emails about the fencing project to and they would forward to the safety consultant. For the record, Art McDonnell is the public information person and all emails to the school board must go through him first.

I have attended many school board and committee meetings but the discussion to hire a safety consultant for Valley Forge Middle School had to be one of the most troubling I have ever witnessed.  The decision to hire the safety consultant lacked process …there was no RFP outlining the District’s expectations as the Board previously stated  – no dates for deliverables – no contract – no resident input provision, etc.  Even with all the questions and uncertainty the Valley Forge Middle School security consultant, the Board voted 9-0 to hire National School Safety & Security Services at a cost of $15,500.

Where’s the P.R.O.C.E.S.S.?  The public is repeatedly told that the ‘real work’ goes on at committee meetings. Really?

11th Annual Historic House Tour a Success!

Deilwydd rs

Deilwydd, c.1915

Thanks to everyone who helped make the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s 11th Annual Historic House Tour a success!  On Saturday, September 19, eight private homes historic homes and gardens, dating from the Revolutionary War era to the 20th century, opened their doors to the public. Over 500 tickets were purchased for the house tour — the Trust’s annual fundraising event, which raised almost $30,000 for the Living Historic Center in Chesterbrook.

The 2015 house tour featured a select group of remarkable historic homes in Tredyffrin, Easttown and Willistown Townships. Volunteer docents were placed throughout the homes to discuss aspects of the architecture, historic preservation, restoration and creative modern interpretation for 21st century living.   Old friends spent the day together and new friendships were forged – all while stepping back in time and learning about the rich history of the community and the families who had lived in these houses.

The Trust is deeply grateful to the owners of the historic homes featured on the 2015 tour. They not only allowed visitors to come in their homes – they enriched the experience by sharing information and stories about the historic structures.  What a truly delightful group of old house owners on this year’s tour – the effort and time spent on details by each homeowner was remarkable. Historic house-owners are very special people, and our house tour participants were no exception.  In addition to the private homes on the tour, visitors enjoyed a stop at the Diamond Rock Schoolhouse, an octagonal one-room school house dating to the early 1800’s.

The event is a community event and would not be possible without our generous sponsors, the support of our volunteers and especially without those who so graciously opened up their historic homes to the public.

The 11th Annual Historic House Tour sponsor list:

11th Annual Historic House Tour sponsors list final

Update on TE School District Finances and Tredyffrin Township declares State of Emergency for Pope’s visit


Tuesday night marked TE School District’s first Finance Committee meeting of the new school year.  Although I was unable to attend the meeting, my friend Ray Clarke did attend the meeting and shared the following notes from the meeting.  Thanks Ray!

The TESD Finance Committee opened the 2015/16 season with a relaxed session on Tuesday night.  The meeting was attended by candidates Berger, Colligan, Kling, Hotinski and Kantorczyk.  A few highlights from my perspective:

Budget Process

– Finance committee approval of the Preliminary Budget is due in just three months.  After some discussion about teeing up review of opportunities in the district’s self insurance of its health plan and potentially of some special education risks, Doug Carlson requested that the Administration present the Committee with full district budget scenarios that start with expenses managed to revenues with no tax increase.  Hopefully we’ll get more than the standard operating procedure showing a $6 million deficit.

– By the way, somehow in an environment of last 12 months US inflation of 0.2%, the Act 1 index is 2.4%.  Half of the index is the increase in the Federal school employment cost index, showing how contract awards get baked into future taxes.

Current Financials

– August YTD expenses/encumbrances are up across the board, total up 12% versus last year, driven by special ed instruction up 32% (over $3 million) YTD.  I don’t recall the explanation for this but I didn’t hear any immediate concern that the overall 5% budgeted expense increase would be exceeded.  One number that does stand out for the full year budget is the $770,799 (11%) increase in the Administration budget.

– For those of use that liked to do a quick scan of the month’s check register from high to low, the task has been made harder by a switch to reporting the check register by pay period in alphabetical order.  This seems arbitrary; when asked why, no reason was provided.

– The actual results for last year are still months away, awaiting the external audit.  The Business Office is working through the encumbrances and deciding what should be released; an interesting exercise, no doubt.

Department of Unintended Consequences

– Restricting part-time employees to 27.5 hours has caused a significant shortfall in the number of teachers/aides available to support the after-school homework clubs, and this is becoming a real problem with the clubs usually starting up in October.  Part of the program is funded by FLITE, which is not able to contract with employees of our out-sourcing company, CCRES.  The District is looking to advertise specifically to hire homework club leader and assistant positions at $28 and $17/hour, which FLITE would apparently be able to continue to fund.


– Kris Graham brought up the need to fully air condition all of the elementary and middle school buildings in the light of the current heat wave.  She did not offer a cost estimate for this.

Residents also learned on Tuesday that the Tredyffrin  supervisors voted to declare the township a state of emergency for the upcoming Pope’s visit, citing expected traffic and congestion. According to Police Supt. Giamio, there will be over 16,000 train riders during the pope’s visit and that the highest number are expected to use the Paoli station!  Yikes!  As an aside, I am glad about my decision to move the annual historic house tour up a week to Saturday, Sept. 19 ( to accommodate the Pope’s visit.

We should plan around the Pope’s visit as if the weather people were predicting a blizzard — get to the grocery store and don’t forget your medication before the storm hits (or rather, the Pope lands).

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