At the T/E School Board meeting last night, the public comment section offered several interesting remarks from TESD residents. Representing her Brookmead neighborhood, Rosemary Kait expressed disappointment to the Board for the lack of notification that the tennis courts at Valley Forge Elementary School will be razed on Saturday, March 23. According to Kait, adjacent neighbors were received very late notification of the demolition plans via an email from TESD Business Manager Art McDonnell yesterday. Although Kait, stated that following her comments to the School Board, she was headed to Board of Supervisors meeting last night, it is doubtful that the process will be stopped.
According to TE Patch, the School District states that there are two reasons for the demolition — “… the township will no longer maintain the courts, and the permeable ground that will replace the courts will offset new parking spaces at the school.” Apparently, the removal of the tennis courts was part of the District’s 2008 parking study. I was at the School Board meeting, so if someone has further information from BOS meeting, please update.
Tredyffrin resident Scott Dorsey had a couple of questions for the School Board. He stated that as a minister he was associated with various nonprofits and asked about the letter that the District is sending out to tax-exempt organizations. Dorsey wanted to understand what kind of documentation would be required by the organizations. School Board member Betsy Fadem reiterated that there are 300 tax-exempt property owners in Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships and that the questionnaire is to determine whether these organizations still qualify for that status or should they be paying property taxes.
Although the possible tax savings according to Fadem was again stated as $1.6 million in Tredyffrin and $920,000 in Easttown, those numbers seem very high to me. I understand that the District has financial needs, but what is the price tag for goodwill of nonprofits? Even if a nonprofit qualifies for exemption under the District’s rubric, just fulfilling the requirements of the questionnaire is certain to cause a degree of angst (and possible legal expense) to nonprofits. As someone directly associated with one of the nonprofits on the list, I know firsthand the level of anxiety the Board’s actions have caused.
The second question that Mr. Dorsey had for the School Board had to do with consent agenda process. He wanted to understand how an item could be removed from a consent agenda. Board president Kevin Buraks explained that it is generally unnecessary to hold discussion on consent agenda items but if a Board member wants to hold discussion, they can ask for the item to be removed from the consent agenda (and it will then be removed). Alternatively, a Board member may also vote against or abstain with respect to the consent agenda without having asked it to be removed.
Although Dorsey did not say why he was asking the question, it should be noted that at the February School Board meeting, Board members Anne Crowley and Rich Brake voted against the consent agenda, stating transparency issues because there was no discussion on the administrator pay increase included in the consent agenda. As an aside, Scott Dorsey is challenging Rich Brake for TESD Region II.
The most poignant and powerful statement came from Mary Minicozzi, the new TENIG president. Beyond the words that she read, was the passion for TESD as she expressed her commitment, and the commitment of all TENIG employees to the children of this District. A paycheck doesn’t buy that level of devotion … the dedication of Minicozzi to and her fellow TENIG members is not easily replaced. Most of TENIG don’t just work in the District, this is their home — most are taxpayers, many with children in the School District. How do you balance any perceived cost savings from outsourcing against the pride, commitment and dedication of TENIG employees? Here is Mary Minicozzi’s statement from last night:
TESD School Board Meeting, March 18, 2013
Mary Minicozzi, TENIG President
My name is Mary Minicozzi and I am the new TENIG President. I am a taxpayer and a parent of 3 children that graduated from Conestoga High School. I would like to speak today regarding outsourcing the TENIG Employees.
TENIG employees consist of custodians, maintenance, secretaries, cafeteria and security staff. There are more than 150 TENIG employees and all of us will be fired when you outsource our jobs. Our families, our children and our livelihoods will all be adversely affected by your decision. Please take a moment and think about the 100’s of people your decision will hurt. And nearly all of these people, like me, have lived in T/E their entire lives and their kids live here, their parents live here and all of us contribute to make this community the great place it is.
Outsourcing for the T/E Schools is flat out dangerous. How can you justify bringing strangers into our schools to watch over our children, support our teachers and advocate for parents. While we are trying to secure the outside of our buildings, with security cameras and ballistic film on our windows, we are considering putting strangers inside our schools.
The students lives are worth much, much more than that. Actually a child’s safety and a parent’s piece of mind are priceless. It is a fact that outside corporation’s highest priority is making money. They are not in the business of protecting our precious children. Please reconsider this dangerous method of cutting cost.
I would like to end with an experience I had several years ago when I was an elementary school secretary.
We had a fire in our Art classroom. The fire alarm went off. The Art teacher called me to tell me the kiln was on fire. I made an announcement to evacuate the building. I called 911 and notified the custodian who immediately went to the Art classroom to put out the fire.
After calling 911, I called Dr. Waters. Within 3 minutes, maintenance workers from the District were at the school. There was no principal in the building at the time of the fire. I was responsible until administration arrived at the school. My utmost priority was keeping your children safe. Maintenance workers surrounded the building checking every area in the school to make sure all children were safely out of the building.
I never left the building! I stayed by the phone and answered every parent phone call. Parents were so concerned and I was there for them to let them know their children were safe.
As you can tell by the story I just told: It was the Custodian, The Maintenance Worker and the Secretary (ALL TENIG EMPLOYEES) who alongside our teachers ensured all your children were safe.
Do you think this same scenario would have occurred if these positions were outsourced? We are a critical piece to this wonderful school District. I am so very proud of that, my colleagues are proud of that and parents and community members talk with pride about T/E schools.
Are you prepared to look into our parents eyes and say, I promise you, I guarantee you safety will be exactly the same after you outsource TENIG.
In the past 3 years, TENIG has worked to help the District save money (even though that savings was the paid out to other employees in bonuses and pay raises. We have sacrificed to keep our jobs and keep our schools secure. Despite the sacrifices we have made in support of our fantastic district, we are now being threatened with being fired.
I hope that each school board member will seriously do their due diligence and consider the hundreds and hundreds of families that will be affected by your decisions.