Todd Kantorczyk

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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T/E Finance Committee Meeting w/no decision on tax increase – School Board Meeting Tonight at 7:30 PM, Conestoga High School … A School Board Divided

Unfortunately for T/E taxpayers, the District’s Finance Committee meetings are not videotaped. With the open budget issues, looming June 10th deadline, in addition to unresolved $1.2 million accounting errors related to Special Ed expenses, the public really needs to know what’s going on in the process – especially in advance of the important School Board meeting tonight!

I was unable to attend the Finance Committee meeting and will miss the School Board meeting tonight as it conflicts with the special Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board.  At 7 PM at the township building, Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will present its appeal on the township’s denial of their application for the digital billboard in Paoli.  My BAN the Digital Billboard campaign has been 9 months in the making so need to attend the ZHB meeting.  However, also important is the School Board meeting tonight (7:30 PM, Conestoga High School) – the proposed tax increase, the accounting errors and how the business manager (Art McDonnell) factors into the situation.

After speaking with several residents in attendance at the Finance Committee meeting, an update would be useful. (Remember, the meetings are not videotaped and I was unable to attend). Resident Doug Anestad did attend the Finance Committee meeting and offers his personal commentary below.

Reading Doug’s remarks, it sure sounds like the Finance Committee and its Chair Todd Kantorcyzk are a ‘school board divided’. And just when you thought ALL the numbers are in for the proposed budget, the administration announces that “ … special education expenses were going to be an additional $700k this year with $500k of that as a recurring expense” as reported by Doug.  My question is WHY is this information coming in at the eleventh hour of the budget process!

Last night’s Finance Committee meeting was a late one ending after 10:30 pm.

At the beginning of the meeting, an undated letter from the auditor was distributed to the audience. The Business Manager, Art McDonnell, stated that he asked the auditor after the last finance meeting to make the letter after the community questioned the $1.2M in special education spending that was incorrectly applied to the wrong school year and in order to respond to the complaint directed to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Neal Colligan pointed out that the letter clearly stated “Management made all decisions regarding how and when these transactions were recorded.” I pointed out that the email chain for the document clearly stated that it was sent on May 10 – three days before the last finance meeting, not after it as stated by Art. The letter also mentions the question of the $1.2M being raised in April 2019. Was that when the auditors were first made aware of the misstated $1.2M? We still don’t know the answer to this or other questions because the auditor did not show up to yet another meeting even though school board members have requested that they show up repeatedly for quite some time. It seems that Art does not feel the board members are entitled to talk to their auditor.

The administration then did their presentation on the current status of the budget process. This is when the Director of Individualized Student Services, Chris Groppe, stated that special education expenses were going to be an additional $700k this year with $500k of that as a recurring expense. As this is a recurring expense, the administration then suggested that the $500k be added to next years budget.

This was followed by a long conversation on where the board members stood in regards to the budget. The school board members then went around and stated where they were in terms of tax increases. Even though the Finance Chair, Todd Kantorczyk, wanted to have the school board members express what they were comfortable with in regards to a projected deficit, most of the board members seemed to want to express where they were in regards to a percentage tax increase.

Here is a summary of where the board members were:

2.8% – Kate Murphy, Edward Sweeney

3.91% – Heather Ward, Michele Burger, Tina Whitlow, Scott Dorsey

4.33% – Roberta Hotinski, Kyle Boyer, Todd Kantorczyk

Kyle Boyer stated he was willing to go down to 3.91% and offered to do so in order to have five votes for the 3.91% to move the process along. Todd Kantorczyk did not take him up on his offer so all three options will be presented at the board meeting tonight.

Many of the school board members showed their displeasure with administration during their comments. Words like frustrated, distressed, pissed off, and trust were used by board members. They really did not like $700k in expenses being added to this year with $500k of that as recurring expenses for next year being dropped on top of them at the last minute.

It would appear that many of the school board members are starting to see the manipulation the administration uses with the school board and don’t like what they are seeing.

The committee then approved the following strategies for deficit reduction. Reducing the budgeted amount for the school safety coordinator position between $50k to $70k. Remove the elementary mental health specialist for $96,000. Delay new reading program $300,000.

The meeting ended with one last appeal for the school board by former Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Mike Heaberg. Mike made the case that by not fixing the incorrect financial numbers, the district might lose some of the trust of the community and that the school board should do so at the meeting tonight.

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Intimidation and Bullying Claims by Conestoga High School teacher – Official Complaint Filed with US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

This week in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, school board director Michael Rock resigned abruptly, citing bullying and intimidation in the school district.  According to an article in the Daily Local, Rock claims that the UCFSD “board is doing little to encourage diversity, and to discourage bullying and intimidation.”  He stated, “I cannot and will not serve on a board that does not have the common decency to comfort our minority parents in these trying times, especially since it is so easy and simple to do … There are times when it is important to stand up to racism and bigotry, even the quiet and unspoken kind that we are experiencing here, and say no.”

During the recent Conestoga football hazing scandal, some of us in the public learned for the first time about ‘No Gay Thursday’.  Although it does not appear that ‘No Gay Thursday’ actually targeted gays in the athletic department, it certainly would not make you feel welcomed or accepted if you were a member of the school district’s gay community.

The struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) not only affects students in our schools but that teachers can also find themselves bullied and intimidated. Some teachers fear their sexual orientation could color how staff and administration view their performance, skew their evaluations, or otherwise influence whether you stay hired or not.

I was contacted by the family of a Conestoga High School teacher wh, sadly reports their son has endured harassment and intimidation by District administrators.

According to the parent, certain administrators have singled out the teacher (who is not tenured) for extensive classroom observations.  I was told that teachers procedurally receive 4 classroom observations per school year but that their son has received 5-7 classroom visits per semester by various administrators.  The District’s mid-year review of this teacher in January 2016 indicated a ‘need for improvement’ rating but the final year-end report five months later, in June 2016, provided a ‘proficient’ rating for the teacher.

The intense classroom observations of this teacher continued during the fall of 2016 and shortly before winter break, the teacher was verbally told (by a District administrator) that he was in risk of receiving another ‘need for improvement’ rating in the mid-year evaluation to be held in January 2017. The administrator strongly suggested that the teacher resign in advance of the January review. This is a critical point – I was told by the parent of the teacher, that if a TESD teacher receives 2 ‘need for improvement’ performance reviews during their employment in the District, it is grounds for dismissal. The teacher was given 48 hours to respond to the District’s verbal offer to resign.  The offer to resign was later declined on advice from the teachers union.

Why were certain administrators using intimidation and bullying tactics to force this teacher out of the District? What was the provocation for the intensive classroom observations? Were there complaints from students, parents and/or other faculty members regarding this teacher and/or his performance?  Had students in this teacher’s class received low test scores?  This didn’t make sense to me.

We all know that there are at least two sides to every story and admittedly, in this case I only have the family’s side.  When I questioned the parent, I was told that there were no complaints from students or parents and that that the teacher was well-liked and respected by his peers at the high school. The teacher had provided additional student tutoring and in fact, had many grateful parents (and students) as a result of his efforts.   And further, the end-of-the-year 2016 test scores were high for the students of this teacher, one of the indicators of a successful teaching experience.  So what was motivating certain individuals to have this teacher removed from the District?

The teacher – himself a Conestoga High School graduate – happens to be gay.  His parents believe that certain administrators are targeting their son because of his sexual orientation. The teachers union, Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) and the union representatives within the District are fully supporting the teacher (as are other teachers and staff).  According to the family, if the District terminates the teacher, PSEA is prepared to take the case to arbitration.

The teacher filed an official complaint this week with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for harassment and intimidation whereby they are trying to force him to resign or fire him for incompetence.  The EEOC thinks anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is sex discrimination.  In 2015, the EEOC concluded that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids sexual orientation discrimination on the job because it’s a form “sex” discrimination, which is explicitly forbidden.

I want to believe that in 2017, that the TE School District would not discriminate against a teacher because of his or her’s sexual orientation.  Falling on the heels of the football hazing scandal and the criminal investigation, the District really does not need the negative publicity that will come with an EEOC anti-gay discrimination case of a TESD teacher.

Three attorneys – Ed Sweeney, Kevin Buraks and Todd Kantorczyk – are current members of the TE School Board.  Although a personnel matter and therefore confidential, I would hope that they (and other members of the school board) take the time to fully investigate and make certain that all District policies and procedures were correctly followed in this matter. No employee of our school district should ever feel intimidation and bullying to such a level as to require intervention from the EEOC.

———————————————————————-

Note:  I questioned why the parent contacted instead of the teacher himself.  I was told that although the teacher was aware that his parent had contacted me, that contractually he could not.  By request, the names of the teacher, administrators and PSEA representatives in the District are not included.

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TE School District reorganization meeting: Election of Board president and vice president; plus update on Facilities Meeting

The five newly elected TESD school board members (Michelle Burger, Ed Sweeney, Roberta  Hotinski, Todd Kantorczyk and Kate Murphy) take office on Monday, December 10, at 7:30 PM.  The District’s reorganization meeting includes the nomination and election of school board president and vice president.

Some have suggested that former school president Kris Graham’s re-election defeat last month was a message for change from the community – a call for transparency and improved public engagement. Will that message influence the reorganization results?

School board vice president under Kris Graham was Easttown resident Doug Carlson and he looks to want to step up to the board president position.  Also seeking the president role on the board is Tredyffrin resident Scott Dorsey.

For the first time in TE School District history, the school board of nine members now has a Democratic majority (5 D’s, 4 R’s). Presumably this should give Dorsey (D) an edge over Carlson (R) but … it is unlikely that all D’s will support Dorsey. However, Dorsey does have the public endorsement of newly elected school board member, Republican Ed Sweeney.

Committed to honoring his campaign promise of improving public information and citizen involvement, Sweeney posted the following on his Facebook page today, “I endorse Scott Dorsey for TE School Board President. My district elected me to fulfill their expectations. Mr. Dorsey is very concerned about the issues that I think Tredyffrin and my district care most about and is well qualified to be President. I was impressed with his ability to outreach in his campaign for Board President. Mr. Dorsey will partner with fellow members, residents, and stakeholders to bring a new spirit of cooperative government to our area.”   Here’s hoping that all newly elected school board members will likewise honor their campaign commitments!

For those in the community that are paying attention, the first meeting of the new school board and the nomination/election process for board president should be interesting.

On another note, the final meeting of the ‘old’ school board was held on Friday, December 7.  Ray Clarke attended the Facilities Meeting and provided the following update for Community Matters:

The last Facilities Committee meeting of 2015 and of Dr Motel’s 16 year tenure was held on Friday.  The meeting was generally routine:  discussion of minor change orders, an update on the ongoing New Eagle and Maintenance Building projects with helpful status photos, and an outline of the timetable for bidding next year’s projects.  A few items caught my attention:

– Dr. Motel stated that the original rationale for the fences was for “the specific purpose of making sure students do not leave”, “nothing to do with active shooters” and “you can put that on the blog”.  So here it is.  Others may have different recollections.

– Resident Cindy Marturano tried to engage the Committee in a discussion of protocols for communication to all residents of facilities projects that impact the community, linked with the possibility of extending West Walker Road to Chesterbrook Boulevard to ease the traffic congestion at VFMS.  The response to both points came down to: “if it’s a road matter talk to the Township”.  However, Tredyffrin Township records show that West Walker Road is “Private”, and the Chester County GIS has the property line between the school and church running right down the middle of the road.  On the other hand, the Township included West Walker Road on its list of roads to pave in 2015.  Are the maps incorrect?  Is Tredyffrin subsidizing the School District?  Or is there more opportunity here for the School District to improve the daily nightmare than the District knows about or would like to accept?

– The outgoing Committee spent some time discussing the goals for the 2016 Committee.  Since that Committee will have a different composition with likely some newly elected Directors, this seemed rather presumptuous, but the Committee did not take kindly to the idea of including even a “Recommended” modifier, noting that the new Committee can always repeat the same exercise.

– This last point may be related to a gift to the Committee from Daley and Jalboot of a life size “Flat Pete”, with the request that it be used as a reminder of Dr. Motel for future Committees.

Dr. Motel noted that when his parents came to Easttown in the last century it was because TE was a highly rated school district.  I think that the Board and staff are fortunate to serve a community that continues to be driven by this value.

Ray proFlat Petevided the following photo of the cardboard cutout of Flat Pete, as presented by the District’s architects, Daley & Jalboot. When asked about the bulls-eye on Dr. Motel’s chest, Ray explained that the necklace had a gold star one side and a bulls-eye on the other, presumably to represent Motel as a target.

I wasn’t at the meeting, but I found this gift rather bizarre. It was unclear if the Flat Pete cutout went home with Dr. Motel after the meeting or if it will continue to haunt the Facilities meetings going forward.

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Still undecided on TE School Board & Tredyffrin Twp candidates? ‘Meet & Greet’ at St. Davids Golf Club on Wednesday, Oct. 28

meet-the-candidates

Still undecided?  Here’s another opportunity to meet the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisor and TE School Board candidates before Election Day on Tuesday, November 3.  The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a “meet & greet” on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7-8:30 PM.  See information below:

CANDIDATES MEET AND GREET

OCTOBER 28, 2015

The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a Candidates Meet and Greet on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.  The gathering will be held at the St. Davids Golf Club, 845 Radnor Street Road, Radnor, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  This will be an informal affair providing you the opportunity to speak one on one with the candidates of both parties, to ask questions and to share thoughts and concerns.  Please come prepared to ask our candidates where they stand on issues that matter to you.

Candidates for Region 1 School Board and attending the Meet and Greet:

Neal Colligan (R)

Roberta Hotinski (D)

Todd Kantorczyk (D)

Neill Kling (R)

Candidates for District 1 Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Paul Olson (R)

Tory Snyder (D)

Candidates for At Large Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Elva Bankins (D)

Lou Horvath (D)

Trip Lukens (R)

Sean Moir (R)

Although not required for attendance, we would like to have reasonable sense of how many people will be coming to this meeting.  Please let your Block Captain know if you plan to be at the event, or send an email to: j.k.lindberg@att.net.  Please indicate if you are a resident of the Panhandle.

There is no charge for anyone to attend this gathering.  Light appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages will be available from the Club.  If non-Panhandle residents want to take advantage of this service, they will be charged $10.00.

For questions about this event, please email Christine Wright at wright502@verizon.net.

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TE School Board Candidates for Tredyffrin, Region 1 respond

TE School Board Candidates for Tredyffrin, Region 1:
Neal Colligan
Roberta Hotinski
Todd Kantorczyk
Neill Kling

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.

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. Voters will select two of these candidates in November for the school board.

TE School Board Candidate Neal Colligan
Tredyffrin, East – Region 1

In Pennsylvania, the State is mandated to provide education to our children.  Local municipalities are permitted some autonomy in operating educational franchises.  This autonomy is centered on fiscal management and meeting established minimum standards…districts that fail come under State control.  We achieve educational excellence in T/E for reasons schools succeed anywhere…engaged parents who value education, experienced professionals in the education function and a socio-economic demographic that promotes physical and mental health.  T/E will continue to excel educationally because you (and I) will accept nothing less.

In selecting SB members, we should understand the power we give them. The Position we’re discussing regards the management of the local educational operation; largely relegated to business/organizational decisions and setting a local tax rate.  Educational excellence is the over-riding mission but THIS JOB is very specific.  The inalienable right of the SB Member is to levy taxes…that affects every household and business in our community…THIS JOB is to assure the money is spent wisely.   To “keep our schools great” or “make education better”, one should seek a position in the Education Department…curriculum is State mandated.  To change the State’s funding of PSERs, the election venue would be State Representative.  No person in this race is running for teacher, coach, administrator or good parent…those jobs feature direct contact with students.

I’ve been a Tredyffrin citizen for 20 years, attending School Board meetings for 5 years.  From the “EIT Study” until today, I continue to educate myself on the operation of our District. I became an activist, speaking out was necessary.  I’ve written in The Suburban many times regarding T/ESD finances, worked with a group of para’s/aides (at their request) to prevent their outsourcing, compelled the Board to release documents in the PA Open Records Office case Colligan vs T/E School District and continue to speak out on District issues that impact the community.  I’ve worked with some great people…R’s and D’s and I’s.  You can read about the positions I’ve advocated by searching this site.  I am who I am and will continue to be…that’s my BIG promise.

The job is straight-forward. Deliver excellent education while operating efficiently….that’s what you deserve.  Basics:  be honest with the community in financial matters, welcome community input, adhere to established rules regarding transparency, focus on long-term viability of the system and be a good community citizen.  Follow that path and the T/ESB won’t be constantly locking-horns with the public….TEMS fence…$5 MM garage…deficit budget/maximum tax increase/annual surplus cycle…outsourcing paras/aides…secret meetings that s/b public…shouting down community members…ALL can be in the past.

The attitude of “we know better”…”the community doesn’t need to know”…”they’re OUR schools” needs to change…THAT’s the #1 issue.  I’m (uniquely???) qualified for THIS position…my accounting degree and MBA provide the education necessary for the task, years of educating myself prepare me for the position and I’m not too full-of-myself. My record is easy to access…watch the last/any video of a SB meeting, search here if inclined.  Know the candidates: prepared?…share your values?…have leadership qualities?  Change is coming…  Thanks for listening.

TE School Board Candidate Roberta Hotinski
Tredyffrin, East – Region 1

As a geoscientist with a Ph.D. from Penn State who has spent the last 12 years working at Princeton University, I have spent most of my career in environments of educational excellence.    After working in research, I moved into science management and communication, gaining extensive experience in project coordination and outreach to the public, including teacher professional development.   I am currently the project manager for a $3.5 million/year ocean research initiative at Princeton (http://soccom.princeton.edu), which has given me additional experience in budgeting and consensus building among stakeholders.

As a scientist and parent with children in T/E, the single most important issue for me is preserving the quality of education that has made our district and our community so successful.   If elected, I will work to guarantee that:

1. Spending is focused on students.
Recently the Board has committed to significant expenditures for capital projects that were not adequately justified to the community, including issuing $24 million in bonds for future projects and approving a $4.5 million facilities building. Funding decent and safe school buildings is important to the education program, but I would push to provide details on design and costs long before the meeting where a final vote is held.  In addition, with over $30 million in our reserve fund I believe the Board should set a formal target for an adequate fund balance and develop strategies to limit the fund’s growth, such as committing surpluses to the following year’s operating expenses or increasing contributions to capital projects.

2. Our district is providing a competitive 21st century education.
I am concerned about the impacts of high stakes testing and would propose an internal review of how much time (and thus money) is being devoted to preparing for PSSA’s and Keystone Exams, plus the costs of remediation.   I would also propose actively soliciting input from parents, teachers, and administrators on how current curricula and services are working for our students.  As a particular area of interest, I would advocate strengthening partnerships with local universities and businesses to enhance STEM initiatives, including internships and after-school or summer programs.

3) Community members are active partners in improving our district.
I am committed to transparency and accountability, improved communication with the public, and mining community talent to help improve our schools.  Specifically, I advocate
–  Increasing two-way interaction at Board meetings, providing a mechanism for the public to ask questions between meetings, and publishing answers to public questions online
–  Utilizing the expertise of our community members by creating citizen task forces or committees on complex issues

Residents of T/E deserve to feel confident that their tax dollars are being used wisely to provide a first-class education for every child in T/E.  I believe my background and professional experience have prepared me well to safeguard the interests of both students and taxpayers, and I hope voters will agree.   I am happy to answer questions and can be reached at hotinski@hotmail.com or (484) 320-7470.

TE School Board Candidate Todd Kantorczyk
Tredyffrin, East – Region 1

My name is Todd Kantorczyk, and I’m a candidate for Region 1 T/E School Board Director.  Serving on the board of a successful public school district like T/E requires directors to devote attention to a wide array of issues, many of which arise or shift significantly over the course of a school year.  Accordingly, choosing a single issue above all others would not be an accurate reflection of how I intend to approach my responsibilities as a school board director if elected.  With that said, I do believe a critical issue that will require much of my focus is ensuring that our district continues to provide a high quality education in an environment that demands consistent and transparent application of sound fiscal principles.

By all objective measures, we have excellent public schools.  Our schools provide a wide array of benefits, all of which maintain our home values and help define us as an outstanding community where people want to move and live.

But it will be a challenge to maintain this excellence looking at the financial pressures facing the district.  For example, the district will face almost $44 million in pension obligations over the next five years plus increases in unfunded mandates such as high stakes testing.  At the same time, the primary sources of revenue for the district are taxes from residents and businesses, and recently the current board has asked the community to shoulder additional tax burdens.  Accordingly, it is critical to ensure that: (1) funds are being managed in a fiscally responsible manner that adequately supports our excellent educational programs; and (2) requests for additional tax revenues are scrutinized and minimized.

My background and experience demonstrate that I am up for this task.  For example:

  • As the father of three current students in our district, I have a good sense of the issues schools face “on the ground” and the resources necessary for the district to deliver a high quality education;
  • As an environmental attorney, I find innovative solutions to complex issues, including land use and development matters, through input and buy-in from wide groups of stakeholders;
  • As a partner at a law firm, I understand the financial principles employed by Fortune 100 companies and small businesses; and
  • As the child of a former school board president, I appreciate the important role that committed local leaders can play in making sure that public schools deliver for our children and the entire community.

Finally, I feel strongly that our neighbors can provide valuable input on this and many other issues.  To that end, I would like to explore ways to increase public engagement and board transparency, including revising the procedure for interaction at monthly board and committee meetings.  Moreover, I hope to advocate for more local control of our schools so that our community, rather than Harrisburg or Washington, can decide how to focus our educational resources.

For additional questions, please contact me at toddfortesd@gmail.com or 484.832.8888.  Thank you.

TE School Board Candidate Neill Kling
Tredyffrin, East – Region 1

I welcome the opportunity to speak to what I believe is the most pressing issue facing the T/E School Board:  how to transition from the strong leadership of Dr. Waters and work with incoming Superintendent Gusick to keep our school district the best that it can be without overspending taxpayer money.  This will require cooperation and foresight, and it should be undertaken by those with the humility to listen, the energy to think about where the district needs to be several years from now, and the courage to take steps now to make that possible future a reality.

The question is, will the Board sit back and let administrators decide most everything, merely providing a rubber stamp for their plans on the theory that educators know best what they need?  Or will the board members be proactive, strategic and constructively critical partners, offering their own unique insights and always listening keenly to the parents and the taxpayers with the understanding that we all have to live with the consequences whether we use the schools or not?  To my mind, the answer must be “no” to the former and “yes” to the latter.  There are a great many things that educators are uniquely equipped to handle – e.g. the curriculum and the quality of the hired teachers – but there are many other areas in which the citizens and their representatives must have significant input – e.g. salaries and benefits, administrator to teacher ratio, how much we should provide for facilities and safety, and how all of that that impacts the taxpayers and the quality of life in the surrounding community.  It appears that the District has managed the education side quite well, but there is always room for improvement on the other issues, along with earning the confidence of the citizens that their voices are being heard throughout.

What qualifies me to join the team of school directors in what promises to be a new era is the insight that comes from working cooperatively to manage a business enterprise.  I am a graduate of Lafayette College and the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania.  My day job is as a commercial litigator in Philadelphia with the law firm Harkins Cunningham LLP where I have spent 23 years representing companies large and small in lawsuits involving state and federal law.  But I don’t just practice law, I also help manage my firm.  I know what it means to meet a payroll, to lease real estate, to manage mostly wonderful and occasionally not-so-wonderful employees, and to do so in an environment that requires the consensus of a small group of very dedicated, intelligent people who are not afraid to speak their minds.  I also understand neighborhood concerns about the aesthetic health of our community, having served on the Tredyffrin Zoning Hearing Board since 2007.  I hope to continue my service by helping to set the future course for a school district that I have called home for over twenty years and to which I have and will entrust the secondary education of two of my children.  I will be honored to have your vote to enable me to do so.

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