Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E Parents Have Option to Have Their Child Repeat a Grade – But Decision Deadline is Thursday, July 15!

As a result of the pandemic, it’s been more than a year of struggles for students, juggling the ups and downs of virtual and hybrid learning, leaving many behind in the process.

A newly passed state law in Pennsylvania (Act 66) allows parents and guardians to decide whether their children will move on the next grade level for the 2021-22 school year. However, if you decide that your child should repeat the grade you must act fast, the deadline to notify is Thursday, July 15.

In response to the pandemic, school districts had to enact many changes in a relatively short period of time. Like so many places, our District had to completely shift how they delivered education, from in-person to virtual school. Certainly, virtual learning posed a challenge for all – students, parents, and teachers – with some fairing better than others.

The possible pandemic-related learning loss means that some parents are weighing whether their children should repeat a grade.  Some parents are worried their children have fallen so far behind because of pandemic-disrupted learning that they should repeat the grade. If I were the parent of a school age child, not sure how I would feel,

During the pandemic closure of schools, many student athletes were unable to play team sports. How does Act 66 and having your child repeat a grade impact his/her eligibility rules for sports programs. What about giving your child some extra time in a sport in they excel by another year in the same grade. Many parents count on athletic scholarships for college – would repeating the grade help with scouts that were unable to see them play during the pandemic.

From the District’s website:

” … Act 66, signed by Governor Wolf last week, permits parents or guardians of students enrolled in TESD schools during the 2020-21 school year to retain their student for the 2021-22 school year in the grade in which they were enrolled last school year due to COVID-19 learning disruptions. Also, students whose special education services would have ended due to reaching the age of 21 may have the option to extend those services for the 2021-22 school year.

Please note that there is a hard deadline of July 15, 2021, in the law for families to exercise these options. For parents who wish to exercise the option to retain a student, please take the following steps:

  1. Complete the Act 66 of 2021 Student Grade Level Retainment Notification Form for the 2021-22 school year. Click here to access the form.
  2. Submit the form to your child’s principal by email or bring the completed form to the main office on or before July 15, 2021.
    1. If a student under the age of 18 plans to repeat a grade, a parent or guardian must submit the form to the school.
    1. If a student 18 years of age or older plans to repeat a grade, the student must submit the form on their own behalf.
    1. Both the parent/guardian and the student must complete this form if a student with a disability was enrolled during the 2020-21 school year, turned 21 during the time periods listed above, and intends to return to school for the 2021-22 school year.…”

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Residents Speak Out about Critical Race Theory with CBS News Videotaping — and TE School Board Approves Tax Increase for 17th Straight Year!

A very long night, the public needed to stay at the school board meeting until midnight for the vote on the 2021-22 final budget. As expected, the taxpayers of TE School District will have the 17th straight year of a tax increase. The board vote was 7-2 in favor of a 2.5% tax increase.

Most of the standing room only crowd had left before the budget discussion and board vote because the first two hours of the meeting was devoted to resident comments regarding racial equity, critical race theory (CRT), the Pacific Educational Group contract with the District, etc.

By my count, at least 29 TESD residents spoke on different aspects of the curriculum and the teaching of diverse perspectives on history. Local newscasters from CBS attended the meeting and videotaped a segment for the 11 PM evening news.  Here is a link: https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2021/06/14/tredyffrin-easttown-school-district-meeting-on-new-race-curriculum-draws-full-house/

I would encourage everyone to watch the school board meeting when it is available online and really listen to the words of the many residents who spoke. But equally important, I would encourage you to listen to the remarks of two school board members which followed the resident’s comments.

The first board member to speak personally attacked residents with which he disagreed, disrespected several people in the audience and a political rant comparing the board meeting to the January 6 violent attack on the US Capitol building.

The TESD Policy 9370 Code of Civility for Board members, states in part the following words, “The School Board expects its members to be role models of civility while attending District sponsored events on or off District property. The Board expects its members to promote a respectful environment ….“. Policy 9370 further states, “Individuals who believe that a Board member has violated this Policy may report the perceived violation to the Board President or Vice-President. Policy violations will be handled on a case by case basis …”.

In stark contrast, the words of school board director Scott Dorsey were thoughtful and with meaning — he gave me hope for the future and I thank him.

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TESD Board Meeting on Monday, June 14: Will This Mark the 17th Straight Year for a Tax Increase? Non-Agenda Item: Critical Race Theory Has Parents Looking for Answers

On Monday, June 14, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School, the TE School Board will hold its first in-person regular board meeting in over a year. (Click here for the agenda). The lengthy agenda (400+ pages!) for the meeting includes the discussion and adoption of the 2021-22 final budget and virtual programming. Will the school board break the cycle of annual tax increases?

Regarding virtual programming, the school board will discuss and vote on the District’s recommendation as follows:

1. To decline K-8 virtual pilot for 2021-22 (based on insufficient enrollment commitment) and consider possibility of offering in future year and

2. To pilot on Personal Finance Course at CHS in a combination virtual format for the 2021-22 school year.

For many TESD residents, the focus on Monday will be on the school board and the vote on the 2021-22 final budget.  Included in the agenda information are three budget options – 0% tax increase, 2.5% tax increase and 2.7% tax increase. Given the school board discussion at the last finance committee meeting, the fact that a zero percent tax increase is included as a budget option is remarkable.  All school board members attended the finance meeting and as far as I could tell there was only one school board member (out of nine) advocating for 0% tax increase – and that was Rev. Scott Dorsey.

For months, some on the school board would have us believe that a zero-tax increase was an actual possibility, but is it really?  At one of the finance or budget workshop meetings at least one school board director suggested that a zero percent tax increase was disingenuous. (I took the remark to mean there would be a tax increase included for the 2021-22 budget). And at several meetings, another school board member repeatedly suggested that Harrisburg didn’t think that we (the TE taxpayers) were taxed enough, although there was no evidence presented to back up the remark.

For those that have only recently moved to the TE School District, you may think that a 2.5 or 2.7 percent tax increase is no big deal; particularly if your move here is based on a perceived quality of the education.  On the surface, I would probably agree but the problem is that a tax increase is an annual event in T/E.  If the approval of the final 2021-22 budget includes any tax increase – it will mark the  17th straight year of tax increases.

But it’s more than an annual tax increase that is troubling — questions continue to swirl regarding fictitious budgeting (underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses). Although residents regularly comment and ask specific questions regarding the District finances, there is little response from the school board. Clearly the answer should not be to simply follow the business manager, wherever he leads!

Critical Race Theory … Is the District teaching?

In addition to the scheduled agenda items, it is anticipated that parents will have questions for the board and administration regarding “critical race theory” (or CRT). There is confusion (or at least I should say that I am confused) about whether the school district is teaching critical race theory in the classrooms.

Critical race theory isn’t a simple – or single – idea. So … does the District teach CRT? There are those parents who claim that TESD teaches CRT and that it should continue. Conversely there are parents who do not support CRT in the classroom (and say that it is taught). And then there are those (including at least one school board member) who says that the District does not teach CRT. This should not be so difficult — does TE School District teach critical race theory?

The District has a contract with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), national consulting firm which provides racial equity training. Does this group provide CRT curriculum information/suggestions to the District?

I don’t have the answers, but parents should have no confusion on whether CRT is taught in TESD. According to District Policy 6132, “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum …” and “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum.” If followed, the policy takes away the confusion and parents can easily know what their children are taught. So other than the question about whether the District teaches CRT, is Policy 6132 followed?

This week, three Change.org petitions related to critical race theory and the TE School District began to circulate around the community.  The below links include the originator or group name, petition title and current number of signatures. To understand the position of those behind the individual petitions, click on the links. Review the petitions and read the comments.

Start Date: June 7, 2021
Originator: Concerned Parents
Title: Families Stop Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 493
https://www.change.org/p/families-stop-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 9, 2021
Originator: TESD Resident Anita Friday
Title: Support Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 123
https://www.change.org/p/change-org-support-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 10, 2091
Originator: United TE Parents & Community
Title: Uniting Tredyffrin-Easttown for Accuracy, Equity, & Respect
Current Number of Signatures: 264
https://www.change.org/p/the-entire-tredyffrin-easttown-community-uniting-tredyffrin-easttown-for-accuracy-equity-respect

Bottom line, whether it is the budget, yearly tax increases or critical race theory, the school board meeting on Monday, June 14 (7:30 PM, Conestoga High School) is important … please make the effort to attend.

Our collective voices need to matter more!

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Will the TE School Board Break the Cycle of Annual Tax Increases? The Countdown is on!

The countdown is on for the final approval of the TESD 2021-22 budget. At the finance committee meeting on Monday, June 7, 7 PM, the budget specifics will be reviewed, and the school board will vote on the District’s 2021-2022 final budget and property tax rate at the June 14 regular board meeting.

It is unclear why the upcoming finance committee meeting on June 7 remains virtual but that the school board meeting on June 14 is in-person at the high school!

In early 2021, the school board voted to approve a resolution certifying that the tax increase for the 2021-22 budget will be 3% or lower. Should the District’s final 2021-2022 budget include any tax increase, it would mark the 17th straight year of tax increase to its residents.

As the 2021-2022 budget process moved forward this year, there are board members committed to a zero tax increase – most notably Scott Dorsey. On flip side, there are school board members who favor the highest tax increase possible. Although Scott has championed the zero tax increase cause during his tenure on the board, he (and the taxpayers) never enjoyed majority support.

To watch the video of the May finance committee meeting, click here. About three hours into the meeting (watch at 3.04.40 – 3.04.50) a finance committee member comments that the state says we are “not taxing enough” to our residents. All I can say is thank goodness for the Act 1 index which limits our maximum tax increase.

We saw what happened last year – amid the pandemic most of the board ignored the public and voted instead for a tax increase! Will the vote on June 14 finally break the cycle of the annual tax increase? We’ll know in a couple of weeks, and in person!

For those of you that follow Community Matters, you will recognize the name Keith Knauss as a regular contributor. Keith is a former school board director of Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, serving for many years, several as its president. UCFSD and TESD share striking similarities in rankings, test scores, etc. As a result, Keith follows our District, particularly its budget process and sent a detailed email regarding finances to the TE School Board last week.

Keith provided me a copy of his email titled “District Financial Programmatic Decisions Based on Quicksand” offering that it could be shared on Community Matters (see below). His message is clear and direct to the school board but will it make a difference? Keith points out that all deliberations, by law, must be made in public so that the public can provide feedback. Wouldn’t it make sense to have the June 7 finance committee meeting in person!? Did any of the school board bother to respond to him?

District Financial and Programmatic Decisions Based on Quicksand

To: TE School Directors

From: Keith Knauss

This note may help you with your current budget deliberations.

Each year your administration presents the board with revenue and expense numbers for the upcoming school year. They are supposedly their best estimates of revenues the district will collect and the expenses that will be used for the education of the children over the next fiscal year. Your job, which you’ve already begun, is to bring the budget into balance by either cutting programs to reduce expenses or increase revenue by either increasing taxes and/or user fees. Your deliberations, by law, must be made in public so the residents can provide feedback.

  • Currently, you and the public have been presented with budgeted revenues (before any tax increase) of $150.2M.
  • You and the public have been presented with budgeted expenses of $156.7M.
  • That leaves you with a $6.5M hole to fill to achieve a balanced budget.
  • That’s a pretty large hole to fill and the situation cries out for you to raise taxes to the maximum amount allowable (3%) to bring in an additional $3.6M to partially fill that $6.5M hole.
  • In the end, after raising taxes by 3% you’ll close the budget gap by using $3M from your savings account which is officially called the Fund Balance.

In summary: The administrators, using their wisdom and experience, supposedly gave you and the public their honest estimates of revenues and expenditures for the next fiscal year. You are deliberating before the public on tax increases, user fees, program cuts and use of savings based on those budget numbers.

But what if the administrators are not very good at estimating or, worse, are purposefully presenting a false financial picture? What if the administrators have a history of underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses so as to present a bleak financial picture scaring the board and public into either cutting programs, instituting user fees and/or taking the maximum tax increase possible?

To see if there is any evidence of previous fictitious budgeting we can examine the latest two independent financial audits – 2019-20 and 2018-19. The audit is the only place where the budget numbers used to justify taxation are placed side-by-side with actual year end results. How did the administrators do in 2018-19?

As can be seen from the graphic above, budgeted revenues were underestimated by $2.4M and budgeted expenses were overestimated by $2.2M for an aggregate error of $4.6M. To put the $4.6M error in perspective, that year’s tax increase of 2.4% brought in an extra $2.6M. If the board and public had better budget numbers they could have contemplated a lower tax increase, no tax increase or even a tax decrease.

How did the administrators do in 2019-20?

As can be seen from the graphic above, revenues were underestimated by $1.6M and expenses were overestimated by $5.0M for an aggregate error of $6.6M. To put the $6.6M error in perspective, that year’s tax increase of 2.6% brought in an extra $3.0M. If the board and public had better budget numbers they could have, again, contemplated a lower tax increase, no tax increase or even a tax decrease.

What about this year – 2020-21? The fiscal year won’t be done until June 30th and the audit won’t be available until December. However, the administration has already indicated their budget numbers will have underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses by at least $1.8M.

Bottom line:

  • School directors make taxation and program decisions based on revenue and expenditure estimates supplied by the administration.
  • The administration has a history of providing inaccurate revenue and expenditure estimates so as to make informed budget decisions impossible.
  • The board should ask probing questions to determine whether the revenue and expenditure estimates for the upcoming fiscal year are a true picture of expected results or whether the estimates are “padded”.
  • The board should make the public aware of how inaccurate revenue and expenditure estimates can adversely affect taxation and educational program decisions.

Feel free to contact me for further clarification or comments.

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Will 2021 Mark a Sea Change in Local Tredyffrin and Easttown politics?

The 2021 Primary Election is in a few weeks on Tuesday, May 18 but how many know the candidates on the ballot? In the lead up to the primary, campaign signs are dotting the community but for some, the candidate names may be unfamiliar. Locally we are seeing less incumbents seeking reelection.

Tredyffrin Township supervisor Kevin O’Nell (D) and Easttown Township supervisors Marc Heppe (R) and Jim Oram (R) will not seek reelection. The four members of the TE School Board not seeking reelection are Scott Dorsey (I), Tina Whitlow (D), Mary Garrett Itin (D) and Kyle Boyer (D).

With many incumbents not seeking re-election, it means “new” names on the ballot. Over the last several weeks, many of the first-time candidates have reached out and I have had the pleasure to meet and get to know them. My initial reaction to the candidates I met is “wow” and, that our community is lucky to have so many well-qualified residents willing to serve! Thank you!

Below is the list of our local candidates for Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships Board of Supervisors and for the TE School board.

Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors

There are three Tredyffrin Township supervisor positions available – two at-large and one in the middle district. Currently serving middle district supervisor Kevin O’Nell (D) has chosen not to seek reelection. At-large supervisors Murph Wysocki (D) and Matt Holt (D) are seeking re-election. Terms are four years.

Two attorneys, three corporate executives and a member of the Army National Guard will vie for Tredyffrin Township’s three available supervisor seats.

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

  • Supervisor at Large: Murph Wysocki, Attorney *
  • Supervisor at Large: Matt Holt, Attorney *
  • District 2 (Middle): David Miller, Retired executive, president of Chesterbrook Civic Association

* Incumbent

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

  • Supervisor at Large: Sean Sweeney, Corporate executive
  • Supervisor at Large: Jim Zdancewicz, Business executive
  • District 2 (Middle): Nick Sarracino, member of Army National Guard

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Easttown Township Board of Supervisors

There are two Easttown Township supervisor positions available – currently serving supervisors Marc Heppe (R) and Jim Oram (R) have chosen not to seek re-election. The Supervisors, who are all elected at large, serve staggered terms of 6 years.

An attorney, a corporate executive, an engineer, and an educator will vie for Easttown Township’s two available supervisor seats.

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

  • Supervisor at Large: Alex Bosco, Professional Engineer
  • Supervisor at Large: Eric Unger, Attorney

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

  • Supervisor at Large: Alessandra Nicolas, Corporate executive
  • Supervisor at Large: Jay Jennings, Educator

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TE School District School Board

The TE School District school board race is going to be interesting as there are no incumbents on the ballot – Scott Dorsey (I), Tina Whitlow (D), Mary Garrett Itin (D) and Kyle Boyer (D) are not seeking reelection. Terms on the school board are four years.

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

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

  • Region 1: Dr. Yolanda Allen, Nonprofit executive
  • Region 2: Dr. Robert Singh, Vascular surgeon *
  • Region 3: Susan Audrain, Retired
  • Region 3: MaryAnn Piccioni, Constituent Services Advisor for State Representative

(* Region 2 School board candidate Nancy Coradi (D), Sales & Marketing Specialist is challenging Singh in primary)

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

  • Region 1: Leslie Elken, Educator
  • Region 2: Deanna Wang, Pharmaceutical consultant
  • Region 3: Rachel Kill, Senior underwriter
  • Region 3: Bill Nolan, Retired cost price analyst

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The COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the functioning of school districts (and school boards), including T/E. Few would question that this past year has been difficult for schools, and for school boards who oversee them. Could this be part of the reason that no incumbents are seeking reelection?

With four seats available on the TE School Board and no incumbents on the ballot, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Except for Scott Dorsey who is a registered Independent (although he was elected as a Democrat), the remaining school board directors are all Ds. The nine candidates vying for the four school board seats represent diverse and varied backgrounds.

In recent years, I do not recall a primary election for the school board where there is a challenge for a seat, but we have that this year. The local democratic committee officially endorsed Robert Singh as their candidate for Region 2. However, Nancy Coradi (D) is challenging Singh in the primary election. Here is a case where your vote in the primary election matters. Once the votes are counted, either Singh or Coradi will move onto the general election in November against Republican Deanna Wang.

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The Results Are In … Two-Thirds Majority (67%) of T/E Parents Commit to Full In-Person Learning!

TESD parents were asked to select full in-person learning or 100% virtual instruction and submit the District’s form by March 3. As we learned at the special board meeting this week, the commitment was important to aid the District in the logistical details (such as classroom setup, bus routes, cafeteria/lunch arrangements, etc.).

The results from the parent’s commitment form are in and posted on the District’s website. Districtwide, the commitment is approximately two-thirds majority (67%) of parents are choosing full in-person learning and approximately one-third (33%) of parents are choosing virtual instruction.

The response to the District is clear — the majority of the parents want their children back in school full-time. Starting March 15, the schools will be open four days a week for instruction (Wednesday virtual only) with the hope for five days a week to follow. Once the schools reopen for full in-person learning the hybrid model will no longer exist although students can remain completely virtual.

T/E parents commitment to full in-person learning is shown in the graph below – Districtwide breakdown and also by individual school:

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T/E School Board Votes Unanimously to Reopen Schools!

T/E schools to fully reopen!

At Monday night’s special T/E School Board meeting, the administration presented its revised reopening plan which includes the following:

  • Increased in-person instruction beginning March 15 (contingent on county level transmission rates)
  • A virtual instruction option will be available to families for the remainder of the school year
  • The plan will begin with 4 in-person days with 1 virtual day (Wednesday) each week
  • Potential move to 5 in person days as early as April 19

The school board members weighed in with their comments and question followed by many, many questions from the community regarding the plan. The questions were varied and specific and included asking for details about middle school and high school testing procedures between virtual and in-person learning, cafeteria/food service arrangements, six versus three feet social distancing in the buildings, and the list went on and on. I would suggest that all parents watch the video as soon as its available for administration responses to the specific questions.

Rather than phasing in the school reopening (as done in some of the other school districts), T/E will open all schools starting Monday, March 15. The only caveat to the reopening start date would be if the county covid level transmission rate were to greatly change in the interim.

After four hours of presentation and discussion, the T/E School Board voted unanimously (9-0) to reopen schools.

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T/E School Board Member Scott Dorsey Supports Reopening Schools Starting March 15 – How Will the School Board Vote on Monday, March 1?

The public is promised that the T/E School Board will vote on the District’s reopening plan at its virtual meeting on Monday, March 1, 7:30 PM.

After the declaration of “there’s no plan” by school board president Michele Burger less than a week ago, the priority discussion of the District’s reopening plan (and vote) is much anticipated.

The revised reopening plan includes –

  • Increased in-person instruction beginning March 15 (contingent on county level transmission rates)
  • A virtual instruction option will be available to families for the remainder of the school year
  • The plan will begin with 4 in-person days with 1 virtual day each week
  • Potential move to 5 in person days as early as April 1

Click here for reopening plan and meeting agenda.

We get it. Data has shown that remote instruction has impacted students’ progress and that most students are going to learn better in a traditional in-school setting. The science tells us schools can safely reopen and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has asserted that schools are not a major source of COVID-19 transmission.

With social media Facebook groups and lawn signs promoting a full return to the District classrooms, in addition to emails and phone calls to the administration and school board, the pressure is rising to fully reopen the T/E schools. The most optimistic among us hoped the pandemic would be over by now and a sense of relief of a return to normalcy. Fully reopening our schools would help that process.

Currently serving T/E school board member (and former board president) Scott Dorsey publicly voiced his support to fully reopen the schools starting March 15, leaving the following comment on Community Matters:

For the record I am a registered Independent. I have been a registered Independent since October 2019. I voted against the MOU. I voted against policy 1131. I voted against tax hikes last year and will vote against raising taxes this year in the midst of a pandemic. I support in school instructions for our children for four or five days a week starting on March 15. I regularly have made independent votes since I been a board member. I represent forty thousand people of all backgrounds and political persuasions in our community. Please be careful to make generalizations about every board member. -Scott Dorsey

Thanks to Scott for sharing his thoughts — your independent voice (and voting record) on the board will be sorely missed. For the record, Scott has chosen not to seek re-election to the school board.

Other community voices are showing their support to fully reopen the schools. T/E school board candidate Rachel Kill (R) took her reopening case to the national news this week, appearing on America Reports, a Fox news/opinion program. (Click here for video).

The administration and school board also heard from the group, T/E – Support for in-person learning – Giving Parents A Choice this past week. A growing group of nearly 800 TESD families who support full in-person learning starting March 15, the following letter was sent in advance of the school board meeting tomorrow. Please take the time to read.

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T/E School Board Meeting Last Night – In the words of the Board President, “We Have No Plan”

The important board meeting last night left many of us with a lot more questions than answers! Starting about 15 minutes late, it was two hours in before there were any comments/questions from the community.

Compounding the situation (and presumably to speed up the process), board president Michelle Burger had the District solicitor read the questions/comments from residents in groups of four or more. Residents take the time to thoughtfully write questions – and this is the District’s response, really unacceptable.

From my vantage point, for the 3-1/2 hours that I watched, it was an impossible meeting. For residents who attended the meeting looking for a straightforward plan forward for their children to return to school, it lacked direction and was no doubt disappointing.

The pandemic has been with us for a year, where is the District’s plan for going forward? Other school districts have worked on multiple scenarios, why haven’t we? At approximately 9:50 PM, the board president commented, “We don’t have a plan”. And therein lies the problem.

In the spring of 2020, the District set up a pandemic reopening group which included parents. What happened to that group, did they ever meet? Where’s that input in the decision-making process? What about the parents survey from last week, was that information considered and included for the meeting last night?

A few of my takeaway points –

(1) No vote on fully reopening the schools would be taken at the meeting

(2) There will be a special meeting on Monday, March 1 dedicated to the school reopening issue

(3) The earliest that schools may fully reopen is March 15.

I have attended school board meetings for years – and without question, last night’s meeting was the most frustrating and void of answers. Parents needed reassurance and to know that their voices have been heard – the school board and administration needed to say that they have been heard. The community needed to hear that you are really working on a plan (not that you have NO plan) and that you are committed to getting the kids back to school.

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What is the Reopening Plan for T/E Schools — Kids Need to Come First!

There’s an important school board meeting tonight at 7:30 PM – on the agenda, a discussion on updated Chester County Health Department guidance for the reopening of schools. Priority discussion topics include the District’s “School Instructional Model Plan” – How (and when) will the District fully open schools? (For agenda and instructions on submitting questions and viewing the meeting, click here.)

Many parents are pushing for a return to full in-person learning and data certainly supports the need. There is no argument on the many benefits of resuming full in-person learning — educational, developmental, emotional, and mental health needs, especially for the younger students. It is my understanding that most who support full in-person learning support the virtual model continuing for those not wishing to return to school.  If the District were to move to a full in-person model, presumably the current hybrid option would no longer exist.

According to a national survey by state in Education Week, updated Feb. 19, Gov. Tom Wolf has lifted a ban on all in-person school extracurricular activities and K-12 school sports. The guidance from the state level allows individual school districts to decide whether they will use in-person or remote instruction, or a mix of both.

Although the debate on whether to fully reopen schools should be science based, the issue has sadly taken on a decidedly political spin … pitting parents against parents, parents against teachers, etc.  Everyone wants what is best for the kids, but the kids only have their parents to ensure their needs are met.

Without question, kids (and teachers) deserve safety and parents deserve to have schools that are open, and safe. Neighboring school districts have successfully increased in-person learning, can that safely happen now in T/E?

There are many questions about fully reopening District schools, here’s a few of mine:

  • Will all teachers be vaccinated before the schools open for full in-person learning? If so, that process is completely depended on availability of vaccines.
  • Will the community transmission rates impact reopening of schools? Studies have suggested that schools do not drive community transmission.
  • Is 3-foot socially distanced model acceptable to reopen schools or must 6 feet of physical distance between students, staff, and faculty in school buildings be maintained?
  • Do the District schools have adequate ventilation?
  • Who exactly makes the decision to fully reopen the schools – the administration or the school board?
  • Where does the District teachers union TEEA stand on the fully reopening of schools?
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