Michele Burger

T/E School Board Candidate Question #4: WHY Should We Vote for YOU?

The days are counting down to Election Day on Tuesday, November 5. There are 10 school board candidates for the T/E School Board and 6 seats available — do you know who you are voting for?

The saga of the elusive correction of the District’s $1.2 million accounting error continues. On my Community Matters post from yesterday I included the October 16 letter from Edward Furman, CPA from Maillie LLP which details their position. The Furman letter was subsequently added to the District website, ,although not easy to find.

It has been 4+ months since the school board vote of June 11 which directed the District to correct the District audits and Annual Financial Reports for 2016/17 yr and 2017/18 yr with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Based on the Furman letter, it is obvious that as of October 16, the business manager has not moved the process forward.

Given this recent information from the auditor leaves the public with more questions than answers about the District’s financial management. As a result, the upcoming election of 6 school board directors takes on increased importance!

I thank and appreciate that all 10 T/E School Board candidates (and earlier, the 8 Tredyffrin Township and 4 Easttown Township supervisor candidates) responded to my questions and hope that voters take the time to read them!

It is appropriate that the fourth and final question which I asked the school board candidates is as follows.

Question #4: What differentiates you from the other candidates and /or board member? Why should you be elected or re-elected?!

 Doug Anestad Response:

One of the biggest things that differentiates me from the other candidates is my experience in both the private sector and the education field. I was in the technology field for a decade before being a public-school teacher for a decade. I have since returned to the private sector for the last six years. This diverse experience allows me to see issues from both sides.

The other thing that differentiates me is my history of speaking out for the parents and the community and trying to give them a real voice. If elected, I will not automatically think that everything the administration does can’t be improved.

I will do everything I can to give the parents and the community a real voice. This includes having them be members of committees and asking follow-up questions from the public instead of letting them speak and then ignoring their suggestions.

Michele Burger Response:

As a 21 year resident and parent of 3 district graduates, I have had the privilege of serving my community in various capacities, working in a non-partisan way to preserve the excellent public education that makes our community a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. If re-elected, I’m planning for the future by advocating for an independent financial advisor, conducting a comprehensive evaluation of ALL district infrastructure, and supporting reading instruction based on “the science of reading” with data-driven interventions. My accomplishments to date:

  • Controlled wasteful spending (e.g. protecting taxpayers’ investment by saving $1.2 million on the security camera system without compromising student/staff safety)
  • Gathered community/expert input PRIOR to making decisions
  • Moved committee meetings to evenings
  • Held Open House regarding proposed high school expansion
  • Healthier start times
  • Air conditioning for elementary schools
  • Laptops for 7-12 grades

BUT, there’s more work to be done!

Roberta Hotinski Response:

I have spent my entire professional life working in science and higher education environments.  I have served on the Board for four years, as education chair since January 2018.  I have advocated for the following changes and helped make them a reality:

  • Healthier school start times
  • The Conestoga high school expansion
  • Elementary school air conditioning
  • Laptops for students in grades 7-12
  • Increased transparency through preservation of Board documents on the web (previously  maintained for only 1 year)

During that time I’ve also been involved in the negotiation of three district contracts that were concluded with no disruption to the district.   I’m an experienced leader who studies the issues and listens to the voices of all stakeholders, and I would be honored to serve another 4 years as a director for Region 1.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

As a licensed social worker, I bring a unique set of skills to the School Board.  I am passionate about improving student wellness and safety.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 10-24.  Over 20% of children and adolescents in the United States experience mental health challenges impacting their academic success, functioning, and relationships. Oftentimes our students who are doing the best are struggling and don’t want to let us know.  Through my work, we have added explicit goals related to student’s social-emotional learning and mental health into the District Goals.  I am a skilled facilitator and trainer, and I have 15-years of experience working in difficult situations where trust, accountability, and transparency are challenged and developing collaboration. We can provide education excellence for ALL of our students and improve our budget process.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

Each current Board member brings unique strengths and perspectives to this role based on individual experiences and views.  But one thing I have learned during my first term is that while from time to time I may disagree with individual Board members on a question, we all share a commitment to public education in our community.  This job requires the dedication of many hours, not just in meetings, but also outside of meetings reviewing materials and preparing to be able to make important decisions that affect our entire community—all on a volunteer basis.  Regarding the question as to why I should be re-elected, as an unopposed incumbent, I would say that over the past four years I have dedicated the time and energy to do this job and maintain the high standards for our public schools that our community deserves, and I am prepared to do it again.

Nicholas Lee Response:

I offer a unique perspective as an educator without any personal ties to the T/E School District administration or teachers union. I studied at the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University and at Saint Louis University’s graduate School of Education. I believe a healthy TE School Board should have a limited number of experienced educators on its team, but I also believe that the majority of these educators should not have a history teaching in or administering in TE schools. As a private school educator in Wilmington, DE, I bring knowledge and expertise concerning the educational needs of today’s students and families, as well as an understanding of the demands and strains on current teachers.

Kate Murphy Response:

My voting record demonstrates areas where I’ve differed from others.  First, delayed start times.  I liked the idea but wanted to hold off while we studied the options and carefully weighed the costs against the benefits.  Second, the proposed literacy committee.  I thought the committee would be a good mechanism for educating parents and taxpayers, supporting teachers in their work, and helping kids.  Third, the budget.  After lengthy discussion of the delayed payment of invoices and the troubling history of projected deficits and actual surpluses, I lost confidence in the budget process.  I advocated for a tax increase consistent with the cost of living adjustment.  I’m proud of these votes but even more proud of the work that went into them: studying the issues; discussing them with board members, administrators, and community members; and carefully weighing the options.  If re-elected, I’ll keep pushing for what’s best, even against resistance.

Stacy Stone Response:

With reading specialist, special education instruction and supervision, and Deaf education certifications as well as Wilson Reading System training, along with more than thirty years of experience as a teacher, supervisor, and consultant in public, private, and parochial schools in Pennsylvania and Illinois, I will bring a broad view of education to the board. Specifically, my background and experience make me uniquely qualified to advocate for and monitor the provision of literacy instruction that includes systematic, explicit phonological awareness and phonics instruction in K-2 classrooms in T/E. Finally, as a 33-year Tredyffrin resident and parent of two grown children who attended T/E schools, I understand parents’ concerns and will keep them in mind as I work hard to preserve and improve our district’s educational programs and services to prepare ALL of our students for the future.

Ed Sweeney Response:

For the past four years, I have had success as a challenging and reforming yet more conservative voice on the Board. TE needs to lower our yearly tax rate and have financial accountability, real time financial reporting, and partner with parents.  My record shows that I have tried hard to effectuate these needed changes.  I will take a minority position if it makes a necessary point that makes the community think more deeply on an issue.  I have been successful at working to find the votes for a middle ground position.

My vision as a TE School Director to maintain and improve the high quality of our School District is:  (1) be a world class school district that prepares our students for College and life and (2) maintain an affordable community where middle class voters, single income families, and retirees can live without being taxed out of the district.

Sue Tiede Response:

I have spent my entire professional career in education. As a teacher, school counselor, elementary principal and district-level administrator I have had the privilege and the responsibility of working with children, parents, teachers and community members to provide students with an unrivaled public-school education experience. As a proud parent of three Conestoga graduates and the grandparent of five young students who live in the T/E District, I am deeply invested in ensuring our first-rate schools continue to be the cornerstone of this vibrant community in which we live.

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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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T/E School Board Candidate Question #2: Financial Management

Here is the full list of candidates running for T/E School Board – See Question #2 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 #2:  The school district has acknowledged some lapses in its financial management. What in your background or experience will ensure that the performance is improved going forward?

Doug Anestad Response:

My experience as a project manager in charge of million-dollar projects gives me the experience necessary to understand how budgeting should work and how accountability should happen. I have also been a member of multiple community boards including the president and secretary of my HOA, treasurer and secretary of the Chesterbrook Civic Association, vice president of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, and member of the Tredyffrin Environmental Advisory Council.

As a member of the community, I have already given multiple suggestions to the school board to improve the accuracy of the budgeting process to help avoid the annual “fall surprise” that turns projected deficits into surpluses.

I would push to hold the business manager accountable to his budget projections.  This would ensure that there are not any last-minute surprises, as has happened in the past, when the actual numbers ended up being drastically different from the projected budget.

Michele Burger Response:

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and have been responsible for the budget associated with managing a sales force. I served as PTO president for three years at Valley Forge Elementary school and was responsible for ensuring that fundraising revenue and event expenses were properly accounted for. As an elected representative charged with the responsibility of financial oversight, I will continue to listen and gather expert advise from community members with a background in school budgeting and finance. I will continue to attend Pennsylvania School Board Association sponsored workshops that focus on improving financial planning and budgeting processes. Regarding the management of capital expenditures, I have a track record of saving a significant amount of money on proposed projects by ensuring that the project is a necessity, not a “nicety”.

Roberta Hotinski Response:

I would not agree that the “district has acknowledged some lapses in its fiscal management.” My  experience on the board has indicated that there is a need for improvement in the administration’s communication of financial issues to the board and the public, both in the timeliness and detail of reporting.  I have always advocated for providing detail and context in our financial discussions, but developments over the last year have strengthened my resolve to ensure the administration is more proactive in its communications around fiscal issues.  One improvement that the board has recently introduced to this end is monthly reporting of special education costs to ensure that we are tracking this highly variable expense center to understand its impact on our budget. I support making similar “deep dives” in other areas, including closer looks at major expense and revenue drivers and placing our annual budget in a longer-term context.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

I have experience working with a team on multi-million dollars County Behavioral Health budgets, providing County oversight for budgets of funded programs, and reporting on outcomes and expenditures for programs funded by state and federal grants.  I am committed to transparency and strengthening our budget process by examining other Act 1 Budget Processes for best practices, working with other Board members to adopt the goal of achieving the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting awarded by the Association of School Business Officials International, and putting 5 years of financial documents on our website.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

I do not agree that the “school district has acknowledged some lapses in its financial management.”   That said, the district has faced and will continue to face financial challenges, due primarily to increasing enrollment.  I believe I possess the necessary background and experience to ensure that the district continues to meet those challenges in a way that respects funds provided through local tax revenues.  In my professional career, I have provided environmental compliance advice to many businesses ranging from Fortune 100 companies to closely held corporations.  In all instances, it is critical that I understand their business objectives and the associated financial ramifications of the solutions I provide.  These financial issues include: liability reserve estimation and accounting; financing options for mergers, acquisitions, and real estate transactions; and budgeting for construction projects.  Finally, I have gained valuable experience as a member of the Finance Committee, the past three as chair.

Nicholas Lee Response:

Anyone who knows me knows how zealously I commit to combatting injustice. The recent instances of financial mismanagement in our School District’s are an injustice to each and every one of our residents. When we commit financial mistakes, the students and residents suffer and trust in our institutions breaks down. My past and current experience in the realm of financial management consists of serving as a member of the Parish Council Member for St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne, managing budgets as Department Director for the Office of Young Adult Ministry in St. Louis, MO, and conducting an internal audit for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Kate Murphy Response:

Having gone through it over the past four years, I can certainly say there is a learning curve.  And the experience I’ve gained allows me to detect problems and assess options more quickly.  So I’ll be picking up where I left off and more prepared than ever to tackle financial management issues.  But more than anything, good oversight of the district’s finances requires a willingness to question assumptions and to insist on getting answers.  I have done that, repeatedly, on financial and other issues, and I will continue to do so if re-elected.

Stacy Stone Response:

As the supervisor of the Educational Support Services Department (which included After School Programs, Art, ASL, the Educational Resource Center, Library Services, P.E., and Speech) at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, I was charged with oversight of a budget of several million dollars.  I took that charge seriously, and was diligent both in tracking spending and in helping to develop budgets that were fiscally responsible while meeting the needs of our diverse student population.

In T/E, I support consulting an independent Financial Advisor to review best fiscal practices, as well as continuing to find creative strategies to curb costs while maintaining the high quality of our schools during this period of increasing enrollment.

Ed Sweeney Response:

A School Director’s highest priority should be public confidence in our budget process, knowing that the money is going to our students’ education. These reforms were my initiatives:

  • revising policy to address the $1.2 million invoices error never happens again
  • revising the AFRs to correct our submission with the Pennsylvania Department of Education
  • submitting a comprehensive Financial Reform Package to address issues of Financial Accountability

I will continue to fight for financial accountability and will continue to reach out to fellow Board members to seek their votes and support.  The options include personnel change.

I am a plaintiff’s lawyer who fights against big companies and insurers.  I have to confront and/or negotiate on a daily basis.  I have gained trust by 25 years of diligence.  Additionally, I have 25 years of experience on boards and commissions.  I have helped steer institutions in difficult situations which needed to correct course.

Sue Tiede Response:

Throughout my professional career, I have had significant experience and insight into public school budgeting. As the building principal of both Evergreen Elementary in Perkiomen Valley School District and Devon Elementary in T/E School District, I consistently created and adhered to a building budget that provided teachers with the materials and resources required to meet the needs of the children at each grade level. As Director of Personnel for the T/E School District it was my job to monitor student growth in all of the District schools. Using projected enrollment numbers I developed a multimillion dollar salary and benefit budget to responsibly address the staffing needs of the expanding District. These experiences have afforded me a greater appreciation for how to make sure every dollar provided by taxpayers is used most effectively.

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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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Ten Candidates for T/E School Board – Where do they stand on important community issues? Know before you VOTE – Responses to Community Matters questions (plus a question for Easttown Township Supervisor Candidates)

The four Community Matters questions and responses from the eight Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates are now posted – I appreciate the candidates taking the time to respond and encourage voters to review.

I have been asked by several Easttown Township residents to include their supervisor candidates in the Community Matters Q&A.  Between the eight Tredyffrin supervisor candidates and ten TESD school board candidates (which includes Easttown candidates), the management of these 18 candidate responses has been challenging and I did not think I had time for other candidate races.

However, Easttown residents share the T/E School District with Tredyffrin residents and together we have many of the same issues. I have changed my mind and emailed the Easttown Township supervisor candidates the following question:

In your opinion, what is the single most important issue facing Easttown Township; and what in your background, experience or education prepares you to help with this specific issue?

Easttown Township voters will elect two supervisors on Election Day – The candidates are incumbent Karl Romberger (R),  Alessandra Nicolas (R), Michael Wacey (D) and Beth D’Antonio (D). Due to prior personal commitments, there is short turnaround for the candidates to respond and any responses received will be posted on Community Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

In 10 days, local voters we will go to the polls to select six T/E School Board directors. People bring different backgrounds and qualifications to the job of school board director and as voters; we need to know as much as possible about the candidates to make the right choices on Election Day.

As elected school board directors, residents count on their leadership in overseeing the academic, legal and financial health of the T/E School District.  School boards are nothing less than the governing body of our school district. They are the bosses’ bosses representing the public interest and to this extent, they should serve the diverse values and needs of our community.

Aside from your child’s teacher, principal, and the District’s superintendent, school board members have the greatest influence on your child’s education because they decide on how to spend the District’s public school funds and set its governing policies.

T/E School Board Candidates:

  • Region 1: Incumbents Roberta Hotinski (D) and Todd Kantorczyk (D) are running unopposed.
  • Region 2: Four candidates are seeking two seats. Incumbents Michele Burger (D) and Ed Sweeney (R) are opposed by Doug Anestad (I) and Stacy Stone (D).
  • Region 3: Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) is opposed by candidate Sue Tiede (D). Mary Garrett Itin (D)* is opposed by candidate Nicholas Lee (R).

*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.

T/E School District Voting Precincts:

  • Region 1: Tredyffrin E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, M-1, M-2, M-5, M-6, W-3, W-4
  • Region 2: Tredyffrin M-3, M-4, M-7 W-1, W-2, W-5
  • Region 3: Tredyffrin E-1, Easttown 1-7

Some voters may not be aware of a late entry in the school board race – Doug Anestad (I).  As a registered Independent, Anestad was not on the Primary Election ballot and only entered the race in August. He previously ran as a Republican in a highly contentious race against Kyle Boyer (D) in 2017.

Should Anestad win in 2019, he would make history as the first registered Independent to be elected to the T/E School Board. However, the District does have another registered Independent currently serving on the school board — School board president Scott Dorsey was first elected to the Board in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, both times as a Democrat. However, in advance of the upcoming election, Dorsey recently changed his party affiliation from ‘D’ to Independent.

To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know the candidates and where they stand on important community issues. To aid in the process, four questions were sent to the ten school board candidates.

Completely voluntary, the questions were chosen on what I believe are important issues and included public accountability, financial management and participation and input from the community. All ten candidates responded and their responses (in alphabetical order by last name) will appear on Community Matters one question at a time. The public is encouraged to review the responses and comment.

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Trading in four 19th century houses in Paoli for a new multi-story apartment building … is this progress?

If a developer in Tredyffrin has his way, we are going to lose four historic houses in Paoli to make way for a multi-story apartment building!

Developer Lancaster Chestnut LLP presented a preliminary land development plan LD-03-2016 “Chestnut Road Apartments” at the Planning Commission.  The application seeks to consolidate four parcels into one parcel for the development of a multi-story, 17 unit apartment building with 1 and 2-bedroom units.

The site for the proposed apartment building is Chestnut Road, south of Lancaster Avenue and is located within Paoli’s TCD (Town Center) district.  Demolishing four 19th century homes to ‘make way’ for a new apartment building was not volunteered by the developer – but rather as response to a Planning Commissioner question regarding the age of the buildings.

I visited Chestnut Road to see where see the location of this proposed apartment building.  Assuming the land development plan moves forward, the four historic houses slated for demolition are 35, 37, 39 and 43 Chestnut Road.  Driving past these four houses on Chestnut Road, there are three additional houses which are restored and occupied.

Sadly, these are the four “Seven Sisters” houses on Chestnut Road slated for demolition to make way for a multi-story apartment building.

Dating to 1895, these three “sisters” houses are restored and occupied. With the Chestnut Road Apartment plan, these 19th century buildings will lose their four “sisters” and live in the shadows of a 21st century multi-story apartment building.

Close-up of Colonial Revival cottage, c.1895 house on Chestnut Road that will come down for the proposed new apartment building.

The four houses to be demolished are individually included in the 2003 Tredyffrin Township Historic Resource Survey book.  For the township’s survey, the houses were surveyed and photographed. The historic consultant described their architectural style as “gable-end Colonial Revival cottage” and dated the properties to 1895.

Through local history, the neighborhood of the seven 19th century homes on the east side of Chestnut Road was known as Paoli’s “Seven Sisters”.  Now one hundred and twenty-two years later and four of the ‘sisters’ are on the brink of demolition. Single family homes of the 19th century to be replaced by 21st century multi-family apartment building. Destruction of local history in the name of progress …?

Although the four 19th century homes are included in the township’s historic resource book, the identification is meaningless as Tredyffrin remains a municipality without a historic preservation ordinance of protection.  Without historic protection and the property’s inclusion in the Town Center zoning district, the proposed apartments are a permitted use. Chestnut Road Apartments will join the other new apartment plan in Paoli – Station Square on the corner of N. Valley and West Central.

The proposed Howellville Road townhouse plan returned to the Planning Commission. No Tredyffrin resident spoke in favor of the project and several in the audience voiced opposition. TE School District board member Michele Burger raised concern about the multiple new townhouse projects in Tredyffrin and Easttown and the resulting increase in student enrollment. Neighbors spoke about the existing traffic issues on Howellville Road and the negative impact of this proposed townhouse on the community. Others, including myself, spoke of the historic significance of the village (and the old winding country road) and the changes the project will mean to the character of the area.

The developer John Benson of Benson Company presented new plans that reduced the number of townhomes from 20 to 18 with a one-way horseshoe entrance and exit in addition to an interior alley. Township engineer Steve Burgo voiced storm water concerns (Crabby Creek runs through the property). These proposed townhouses should not be marketed as a downsizing option – we were told each unit is 3,000 sq. ft.!

Visibly annoyed by the many questions and comments, the developer did not feel he had adequate direction on his proposed plan.  If I had my way, the project would just disappear but that is unlikely as Mr. Benson made certain that we all know that his townhouse plan is a ‘by right’ use that he intends to pursue. However, there are required changes to his plan if it is to move forward.  He certainly left the meeting with a lot to think about update if his plan was to move to the next step.

Because our township zoning allows by-right density housing in many areas of the township, the developers will continue to bring their plans.  C-1 (commercial) zoning now includes a townhouses as a by-right use, so what is to keep developers from demolishing office buildings and building more townhouses? Townhouses could be an economic boom for developers to redevelop vacant and/or aging office buildings.

Beyond the destruction of local history in the name of progress, there are other concerns about multi-family development projects – rising student population in local schools, additional strain on our fire, EMS and police departments, increased traffic, etc.

Please do not misunderstand; I support economic redevelopment if thoughtful and well-planned.

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TESD: Proposed Tax Increase of 4.3% Drops to $3.875% — School Board to leave $20 in taxpayer pockets

Tax-increaseFor the 13th year in a row, it looks like the TE School Board will vote to increase taxes to its residents.

At the District’s budget workshop last night, the public learned that the proposed 2016/17 tax increase has decreased – the tax increase has reduced from the 4.3% contained in the preliminary budget approved in January.  The proposed tax increase is now 3.875%.  This ‘decrease in the increase’ means homeowners will keep roughly $20 of the proposed tax increase in their pockets.

T/E School District has one of the largest fund balances in the state – in 1996/97, the District had a fund balance of $4,333,661 and in the last decade we saw the fund balance increase to more than $28 million.  The total fund balance as of June 2015 was $32,381,047 – that’s $32.4 million in taxpayer dollars. Continuing to grow the fund balance, the District shows a budget surplus for the fifth year in a row yet residents continue to feel the sting of an annual tax increase.

Ray Clarke and Neal Colligan were in attendance at the budget workshop and their comments from the meeting are appreciated.  Thank you both.

If residents care about the proposed ‘thirteen years in a row’ tax increase, they should plan to attend the TE School Board meeting of April 25 and voice their opinion.

Budget Workshop Notes from Ray Clarke:

Three hours of discussion at last night’s TESD Budget Workshop culminated in some good news for taxpayers – although you’d need a microscope to see it.  The Board will vote at its April 25th meeting for a “Preliminary Final Budget” that includes a tax increase of 3.875% – down from the maximum allowable by a token 0.4% (worth about $20 for the average taxpayer, who is still faced with an increase of more than $200).

Notwithstanding well-articulated positions from members Dorsey, Sweeney, Burger and Hotinski (and from the audience) for a lower rate, more considerate of the increased fees to families and the fixed, inflation-linked incomes of retirees, the outcome seemed pre-ordained, driven by the same majority that voted for the senseless VFMS fences.  That majority seems pre-occupied by risk and unable to appreciate that every number they are given by the Administration is conservative.  For example:

–  Half of the adjustments to the Preliminary Budget could arguably be higher – most notable being the use of approved rather realistic estimates to budget the impact of staff retirements.

–  There was much lamentation of the possible impact of the next union contracts (due in 2017/18), without recognition that the projections already include 7-10% increases in the benefits costs (worth 1-2% in total compensation).

–  Revenue projections are especially murky.  This year’s transfer tax is already $1 million over Budget, as are even base real estate revenues – the most predictable of all line items!  It’s not at all clear if next year’s Budget, developed months ago, considers these developments.

Years of operating outcomes favorable to Budget show that the Administration is skilled at managing its resources.  Superintendent Gusick read a scripted plea for the Board to set the District’s tax parameters and pledged to implement a process next Fall to conduct the oft-advertised “deep dive” into expense strategies that would address any apparent operating deficit that resulted.

The April 25th Board vote is not final, but is nevertheless significant.  Anyone that believes that our School District should be managed more like the County Intermediate Unit, which also last night presented its Budget and a commitment to live within the Act 1 2.4% Inflation Index, should come out in support of our Board members who are trying to hold the line here in TE

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Budget Workshop Notes from Neal Colligan:

-Current Year operating projections now show an estimated $984,000 Surplus for the District for the 2015-16 fiscal year (this year).  Current year’s budget was passed with an anticipated deficit of $1.654 MM.  It’s a miracle…a $2.5 MM swing!

-This “miracle” of Deficit Budget morphing into an Actual Surplus has now happened in EACH of the last five years.

-As a result of these Surpluses; the District has added almost $12 MM to its Fund Balance over the last 5 years…that’s a pretty profitable operation!!!

-With over $32 MM in Fund Balance (about to be over $33 MM with this year’s Surplus); at what point is that adequate?

-The growth of the Surplus is remarkable as we always seem to be “up against the wall” when it comes time to set a new tax rate.  Possibly this pattern is a result of the budget forecasting methods employed when looking at the next year’s budget.  On average (10 years); the District collects a bit over 100% of budgeted revenue and spends about 95.5% of budgeted expenses.  Perhaps this speaks more to the budget estimates used at tax setting time than actual operational changes employed during a given fiscal year.

-At 3.875%; the tax increase this year will be higher than the 3.84% increase imposed on the community for this year.  Not sure the new Board Members ran to increase taxes.

-Perhaps it is time to look at using a small amount of our Surplus (88% funded by local sources) to dampen current tax increases?  One could certainly argue that the Fund Balance is now super-adequate and it is taxpayer money that they were told would go to education….!!!???

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Will Lower Merion School District’s handling of teacher’s contract play out similarly in TE School District — Some school board candidates weigh in

Last week a tentative agreement was reached between Lower Merion School District and their teachers. The deal between LM and the union was made in secret, with a process devoid of transparency.  The proposed teacher’s contract and its terms were not published for public review.

There are rumors that the TE School District is currently in ‘Early Bird’ contract negotiations with the teacher’s union. Because of the existing situation in Lower Merion, rumors of early bird talks and five seats on the TE School Board up for grabs on Election Day, there was discussion as to where our candidates stand on this issue.  The following email was sent to the ten Tredyffrin and Easttown school board candidates on Saturday.

To All TE School Board Candidates:

I know that you are all very busy campaigning in advance of Election Day. Tredyffrin resident Ray Clarke added a comment on Community Matters regarding the teacher contract, negotiations and keeping the public informed. He has spoken with several of you regarding his concerns, particularly given what is currently going on in Lower Merion School District.  As a result, I am asking you to read the following and provide a very  brief (100 words or less) response to me by 9 PM, Sunday, Nov. 1. The question and all candidate responses received will appear on Community Matters on Monday, Nov. 2.

Negotiating union contracts (teachers and support staff) will be important tasks for the new Board.  In Lower Merion School District, a secret deal is playing out between their school board and the teachers union.  Much to the chagrin of Lower Merion taxpayers, the union members get to review the contract before signing but the public is left in the dark and provided no information.

During the last teachers’ contract negotiations, the TE School Board moved in the correct direction with periodic updates to the public. Assuming that there are no secret “Early Bird” deals already in discussion  between the current Board and the union, [if elected] where do you stand on publishing any proposed contracts to the public at the same time as the unions send it to their members? In addition to publishing the terms of the contract to the public before signing, to also include the full annual cost of the contract for each year (including PSERS, salaries, benefits, etc.) with an explanation of how the Board will pay the costs. 

Again, I understand that you are pressed for time and I thank you in advance. Your responses may help get additional voters to the polls on Tuesday.

Pattye Benson

Because I know how busy the candidates are in the last days leading up to the election, their responses were to be brief – 100 words or less. One hundred words is very short; the second paragraph in the statement above (from “During … costs.”) is 109 words.

During this campaign season, most every school board candidate has used themes of transparency, public engagement and responsiveness to citizens in their campaigning literature, meet and greets with voters and during the Chester County League of Women Voters candidate forum. It is for that reason, that a brief response would allow each candidate the opportunity to restate and to reconfirm their transparency commitment to the voters before Election Day tomorrow (November 3).

Of the ten school board candidates, responses to the question were received by Kate Murphy (R) and Fran Reardon (D), Easttown, Region 3 candidates; Neill Kling (R) and Neal Colligan (R) Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidates and Ed Sweeney (R) Tredyffrin West, Region 2.  The responses from these five candidates appear below.

The four Democratic school board candidates from Tredyffrin (Alan Yockey, Michele Burger, Roberta Hotinski and Todd Kantorczyk) each sent similar emails; all declining to respond, citing time constraints due to the campaign and/or previous personal commitments.  There was no response from Kris Graham.  If, as rumored (and I do say if) there are early bird negotiations already underway between the TE School District and TEEA, the District teacher’s union, it would not be possible for Ms. Graham to respond.

The TE School Board candidate responses are as follows:

Neill Kling, Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidate:

A cloak and dagger approach serves neither party.  The union must understand throughout that what their members receive can be no more than what our tax base will reasonably be able to bear.  The current PESERS situation resulted from disregard of that sound principle.  Thus, I believe that the taxpayers should view the contracts when they are sent to the teachers for approval.  I am also in favor of providing a public estimate of how we propose to meet the contractual obligations.  The District must conduct negotiations with this estimate uppermost in mind.  Publishing it when they are completed is responsible stewardship.

Neal Colligan, Tredyffrin East, Region 1 candidate:

Of course, the public should be informed as negotiations move forward….this is by far the largest municipal contract in our community.  Start now by presenting the existing economics…total salary, benefits, pension contribution…show the history of these costs.  This information, reviewed at an entity level, will not disclose any employees’ personal compensation package and will not violate the rules of new contract discussions.  As the process advances, let the community know of the issues…I doubt the Union side would object.  People here are pretty fair and can draw their own conclusions on what is just as negotiations move towards a new contract.

From Ed Sweeney, Tredyffrin West, Region 2 candidate:

I would strongly agree to the first proposal if it was consistent with current agreement between the School District and the Union and with the provisions of relevant labor law.  As far as his other proposals, I need more information but I am a proponent of maximum disclosure at the appropriate time.

I agree with the principle of “MORE” . . . more transparency, more public disclosure, more committee meetings convenient to working parents, and more involvement of residents and stakeholders at an early stage of committee consideration of issues.  In my view, more = better.  More increases public confidence and protects the taxpayer.

From Kate Murphy, Easttown, Region 3 candidate:

In Pennsylvania, salaries and benefits make up the lion’s share of any school district’s budget, generally between 70% and 80%.  Pension benefits (PSERS) are set legislatively by the General Assembly and the Governor, and are not negotiated by local school boards.  All collective bargaining agreements must be available to the public for review and comment well in advance of the public vote to approve such agreements.  Periodic updates during the negotiations can be a helpful tool to inform the public.  District estimates of the full annual cost of the contract for each year should be available for timely public examination.

From Fran Reardon, Easttown, Region 3 candidate:

In negotiating contracts within the School District, we should maintain a high level of transparency for all parties involved.  Periodic updates should be available to the taxpaying public and all other stakeholders.  Current annual cost of contracts should clearly be given with the long term effects of PSERS obligations also laid out and presented to the TE community in a timely fashion before any vote by the school board.

As a member of the TE School Board, I will work with the full board to give the taxpayers value for their dollar and also maintain the excellence of our schools.

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Improving Public Communication and Transparency, School Fencing, Real Estate Development, Tax Increases — All Important Issues to Tredyffrin Voters

Candidates for the TE School Board and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors participated in a ‘Meet the Candidate’ forum sponsored by Chester County League of Women Voters on Saturday.  As an audience member, it was clear that as voters we are lucky as most of the candidates had done their homework. The candidates were prepared, understood the important issues and were able to present their views effectively. The township and the school district are fortunate to have qualified community members willing to take on the challenges of elected office.

Improving public communication and transparency, fencing at Valley Forge Middle School, yearly tax increase, real estate development and pension reform remain important issues with residents. The candidates addressed resident questions regarding these issues and others on Saturday.

If you were unable to attend the candidate forum, you can find a rebroadcast on the township website as follows.

Click here to view the Chester County League of Women Voters ‘Meet the TE School Board Candidates.

Click here to view the Chester County League of Women Voters ‘Meet the Tredyffrin Township Candidates’

Election Day is a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3.  Before casting your vote, know the candidates!

On Thursday, October 29 at the Tredyffrin Township building, the Chesterbrook Civic Association is sponsoring a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event.  Open to the public, this will be a good opportunity to ask specific questions of the supervisor and school board candidates.  Please plan to attend.

Meet the Candidates 2015
Township Building, 7:00 – 8:30pm
Thursday Oct. 29

Board of Supervisor candidates in attendance:
Democrats
Elva Bankins, Lou Horvath, and Yolanda VanderKrol
Republicans
Trip Lukens and Heather Greenberg

School Board candidates in attendance:
Republicans
Ed Sweeney and Kris Graham
Democrats
Michele Burger and Alan Yockey

Come and ask the tough questions about tax increases, development, student safety, fencing at VFMS, and funding for the fire and ambulance company. Be an informed voter: this election matters.

                   Sponsored by the Chesterbrook Civic Association

Like many community residents, Chesterbrook resident Doug Anestad has voiced concerns related to the fencing plans at Valley Forge Middle School. Doug sent the following email on October 10 to each TE School Board candidate. He received responses from all school board candidates except for two — Doug did not have a valid email address for Fran Reardon (D) and incumbent Kris Graham (R) elected not to respond.

Dear T/E School Board Candidate,

I would like to get your official position regarding some questions concerning the Valley Forge Middle School proposed fences. Your reply by end of the day Saturday, October 17 would be most appreciated.  1) Where do you stand on the Valley Forge Middle School fence issue?

2) Do you think it is a good use of taxpayer money to spend $15,500 to hire a safety consultant to review the VFMS site?

3) Would you support installing additional fencing at VFMS if the safety consultant recommends it? If you would support additional fencing, how would you reconcile this with the public’s right to use the walkways?

Thank you for your time in addressing these questions.

Regards,

Doug Anestad

If you want to know where the school board candidates stand on the fencing issue you can read their full responses to Doug’s questions —  click here.

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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.

Other

– 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 (www.tredyffrinhistory.org) 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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