Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School

Regular T/E School Board meeting tonight + T/E Finance Committee Update

The School Board will meet in regular session on May 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm at Conestoga High School, 200 Irish Road in Berwyn. There are no priority discussion topics on the agenda. Click here for the meeting agenda.

There is no mention of the latest anti-Semitic threat (by a 12 year old student at TE Middle School) on the meeting agenda. There is a comment period at the beginning of the school board meeting but “the Board requests that each public comment made during this first opportunity be limited to items on the agenda.”   Therefore, parents and community members cannot speak about the recent threat at the middle school during this comment period (because it is not listed on the agenda).  The other comment period for ‘non-agenda items’ comes at the end of the meeting — for those willing to stay until the end of the meeting you would have an opportunity to address the school board with your questions and/or concerns on this topic.  Below is the only response that I have seen regarding threats which I previously posted and do so again —

Response Protocols to Reported Threats

Since the February event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the District has received some questions about how TESD responds when information about a potential threat is shared with school officials.  The following is a short summary.

All reports involving threats are taken seriously. Once a report is received, the school opens an investigation.  Depending upon what is learned, District responses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Application of discipline consistent with District policy and school law
  • Police notification
  • Enhanced supervision and monitoring measures
  • Administration of risk assessment protocols involving mental health professionals to determine whether or not a student is a threat to self or others
  • Appropriate supports for involved students

Parents and students are encouraged to report potential threats to school administrators so the school may begin to investigate and implement appropriate measures.

Ray Clarke attended the District’s Finance Committee last week and offered the following notes from the meeting — thanks Ray and there certainly are several very costly items under consideration by the school board.

Last Thursday’s TESD Facilities Committee meeting was notable for a couple of items with multi-million dollar financial impact to the District.  They will come up on Monday’s full Board agenda, so your readers might want to weigh in.

Of most import: the Administration has modeled classroom utilization at Conestoga given student enrollment projections based essentially on students currently in lower grades – so there’s a high degree of certainty.  Science labs would be at full capacity by 2020/21 and regular class rooms and other room types would reach that by 2023/24.  Solutions include another high school and grade level realignment and construction, but these seem much inferior to the concept of expanding Conestoga, which would also allow the addition of desirable space for, say, engineering labs.  The Committee seemed surprisingly uninterested in whether this is even feasible and how it might be done (an option we elicited was to expand towards Old State Road) but gave the OK to study this (how many classrooms, what types, what other common facilities, what approach, costs, etc.) over the course of the next year.

[This of course would have no impact on today’s parking issues – apparently now three quarters of all seniors (up from half a few years ago) request parking permits, and there is no space left.  The preferred option looks like allowing each student to park for (a different) 4 days out of 5.]

On a more dispiriting note, the Cadillac CCTV system is back on the radar, and the Committee recommended the spending of up to $100,000 to flesh out the design of a system which in the best case is projected to cost $2 million.  The provided materials lacked any statement of project objectives and presented no priorities or alternative solutions.  There was no explanation of how this time around the video can be streamed right through the current data network, whereas last time we saw this project an entire separate network was required.  The best support offered was “the cameras and technology are old”, “the police would like better quality” and “other schools have better systems”.  The District has selected WITH NO BID long term personal consultant Peter Heverin who in turn picked security consultant Kteck Engineering.  Of course there will be protestations that this first $100,000 spending is not a commitment for the $2 million, but note that the district is about to authorize the design of a very specific system by a very specific supplier of that system.

(I should just say here, that Open Land Conservancy and Tredyffrin Police work together very effectively to catch culprits in our Nature Preserves using $100 trail cameras.)

(And another kind-of-related-to-video side note re the discrimination incidents in the district discussed on CM: these are of course not isolated to T/E, and we are seeing more and more captured on cell phones.  Activist Shaun King has a strategy: identify and bring public pressure on the bigots (eg Haverford School alum and NYC lawyer Aaron Schlossberg).  Perhaps if students and parents were very aware of public consequences there might be more civility?)

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TE Middle School Student the Target of Anti-Semitic ‘Dirty Jew’ Attacks by Classmate

Image result for anti-semitismI was sent an Associated Press news article about a middle school student accused of anti-Semitic bullying and of making threats to a fellow student and asked if I was going to write about the situation.  I opened the article, expecting to read about this latest horror story occurring in some faraway place – only to discover that the incident occurred in our own school district at TE Middle School in Berwyn.

According to the story, which the family shared with news media, the bully’s target was their 12 year old daughter who told him she was no longer interested in him.  His response was to retaliate by texting images of Adolph Hitler and ‘dirty Jew’ remarks.  He reportedly also threated to bring a gun to school and go after 33 classmates, including the female student who ‘broke up’ with him.

Although the male student faces criminal charges for his actions, the article states that he returned to school within a week.  The female student was so afraid when the boy returned to school, that the family has removed her from the school for the remainder of the year.

I understand that the administration has to balance the safety of the female student and her classmates with the right to an education of the male student but personally it seems unfair that the alleged victim is the one not attending TE Middle School! According to 6ABC News, “the 12-year-old was charged with harassment and marking terroristic threats. He was suspended from school for five days.”

Chester County DA Tom Hogan was contacted for comment and the AP news article states that “ … he could not comment on pending cases but added he had no reason to think the girl’s parents would give an inaccurate account.”

Since the news article first surfaced, I have heard that the death threat against the 33 fellow classmates was investigated and dismissed by the school.  I have no idea whether that the threat was real or not or if it was dismissed. However, what I do know is that anti-Semitic bullying is not simply a ‘cyber incident’ or a ‘boys will be boys’ situation.   These are scary times we are living in – if a kid makes ‘dirty Jew’ comments and texts Adolph Hitler images at 12 years old, a simple “I’m sorry” does not cut it for me.

Besides the seriousness of the actual incident, in my opinion there is a significant problem with the fact that the other parents at the school were not notified by the school district.  Instead, the parents and the community learn about the anti-Semitic act from the Associated Press!  According to the news article, “School officials made no public announcement about the case, and other parents know only what they heard around town.”   Subsequent to the AP news release, various versions of the story are appearing on the major TV networks.

Why does it take the anti-Semitic story working its way through to AP news channels and publically broadcast coast to coast for us to learn about it?  To my knowledge and unless someone tells me differently, no letters were sent to the TE Middle School parents regarding the anti-Semitic situation.

The following statement is now on the TE School District website – I do not know when it first appeared or it it was specifically added as a result of this anti-Semitic incident as it is undated:

Response Protocol for Reported Threats

Since the February event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the District has received some questions about how TESD responds when information about a potential threat is shared with school officials.  The following is a short summary.

All reports involving threats are taken seriously. Once a report is received, the school opens an investigation.  Depending upon what is learned, District responses may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Application of discipline consistent with District policy and school law
  • Police notification
  • Enhanced supervision and monitoring measures
  • Administration of risk assessment protocols involving mental health professionals to determine whether or not a student is a threat to self or others
  • Appropriate supports for involved students

Parents and students are encouraged to report potential threats to school administrators so the school may begin to investigate and implement appropriate measures.

It seems to me in the last few years we are hearing more and more of these anti-Semitic incidents.  A little investigation and I found that for the last 39 years, the Anti-Defamation League has conducted a yearly audit of anti-Semitic incidents. The 2017 survey reported there were nearly 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents – the highest number recorded since conducting the first survey in 1979 and an increase by 57% over the previous year. The annual audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment or assault reported to the Anti-Defamation League by police, media and victims. Only verifiable incidents are included in the survey.

In previous audits, the majority of reported anti-Semitic incidents occurred in public areas, like parks. However, the most frightening statistic to emerge from the 2017 report indicates that 457 incidents occurred in K-12 schools – an increase of 94 percent from the previous year!  And it is not geographic based – the anti-Semitic incidents reported in 2017 occurred in each of the 50 states, with Pennsylvania having the sixth highest number of incidents behind New York, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida.

Although I am not an educator, I am a parent and we are living in angry times. I know that there are two sides to every story and maybe I do not have all the facts but I know one thing for certain – hate-filled anti-Semitism has no place in our schools. The world should never forget that under Hitler’s leadership, some 6 million Jews were murdered during World War II.

All children need to feel safe at school. The school district went to great effort and expense to install fences around the schools. However, reflecting over the last several years, the threat has not come from outsiders (not to say that the District should not be prepared!) but rather internally – repeated assault of a female Conestoga student by a male District aide and assault of a learning disabled male student by a Conestoga aide and coach to name a couple.

Don’t sweep anti-Semitism under the carpet and turn a blind eye … use this as a teachable moment.

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Residents on Old Lancaster Road Have New Concern . . . Raised Crosswalks

This is a cautionary tale . . .

I received an email from a Berwyn resident asking that I add a warning to drivers on Old Lancaster Road in regards to recently installed raised crosswalks.  She indicated that there were 2 crosswalks; one in front of the Timothy School and the other much more elevated crosswalk was installed down by TE Middle School.  She described a car losing its oil pan when the driver went over the elevated crosswalk — car had to be towed as a result!

Wondering why a crosswalk would be raised to the level that was causing car damage, I drove to Old Lancaster yesterday to see for myself.  First I came to the Timothy School crosswalk and although there was no warning signs to indicate the elevated crosswalk, it didn’t seem to be out of line in scope of construction.

But then I drove down to the other crosswalk down by the middle school.  All I can say is WOW . . . never saw this kind of walkway (nor apparently have the residents or the car drivers I spoke with on Old Lancaster).  Not only is this crosswalk elevated at a higher level than usual, the angle of the elevation  is a very steep incline for cars.  And the width (or length) of the crosswalk seems very long . . . it must be a car and a half long.

There are no blinking signs, no flourescent stripes on the road, no warning whatsoever when you approach this elevated crosswalk.  I spoke to one driver who said he had scraped the under part of his car and wanted warnings on the road immediately.  One of the residents living next to the elevated crosswalk says that she is awaken at night by cars scraping the crosswalk.  I had several people stop by and ask me who was responsible for the crosswalk . . . was it the township public works, PennDot, who?  I assume that the crosswalks are part of the sidewalk project but I don’t know who installed the crosswalks.   I would think there is a standard for elevated crosswalks, inspection and approval procedures — someone must have OK’d this crosswalk as safe, right? 

The photos really do not indicate the significance of the problem.  One mother and her son who live nearby tried to stand in such a way on the elevated crosswalk so as to indicate the level of elevation.  (photo on the left) Both sides of the road surface of the crosswalk already have deep gouges in the asphalt where the bottom of cars have scraped.

It was fascinating that local residents stopped to talk to me as I was taking my photos.  All had much to say; one older couple in the white SUV kept backing up and down on the crosswalk so that I could get the severity of the incline.  (But again, I don’t think the photos do the situation justice).  Seriously, there needs to be warning lights, signs, some kind of notice for drivers . . . school is going to open soon and this situation is dangerous.

I do have a question — if the raised crosswalk was another form of traffic calming (as some suggest as the reason for the bump-outs) why is the TE Middle School crosswalk significantly more elevated, wider and with a steeper incline than Timothy School crosswalk?  They are located minutes apart on the same road . . . very strange.  

Bottom line . . . assuming that the crosswalks are standard and constructed to code, I contend that there needs to be some kind of warning or signage for drivers.

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