Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Primary Election 2015 Results for Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors and School Board Races: Amidst Low Turnout, Results Indicate Interest in Change

Your vote mattersPrimary Election 2015 was yesterday and Chester County Voter Services has now calculated the results. Tredyffrin Township has 9,003 registered Republicans and 8,146 registered Democrats. For Primary Day, it was nearly a dead heat of Republicans and Democrats showing up to vote. Approximately 17.8% of the registered Democrats voted (1,447 voters) and 17.7% of the registered Republicans voted (1,596 voters) yesterday. If you want your vote to matter, you have to vote!

I received some early inaccurate results however the following information is verified from the County website. In reviewing the cumulative results, the total vote count for the Board of Supervisor races are as follows:

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor: At-Large
Sean Moir(R) 1,378
Trip Lukens(R) 1,316
Elva Bankins(D) 1,264
Lou Horvath(D) 1,253

Two at-large seats are available on the Board of Supervisors and no incumbents are in the race. Republicans Mike Heaberg and Kristen Mayock are current at-large supervisors and are not seeking re-election. Both having previously run unsuccessfully for the Board of Supervisors, Moir and Lukens received the highest number of votes in yesterday’s Primary Election. Political newcomers, Democrats Bankins and Horvath followed closely behind Moir and Lukens in total votes.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor: District 3: West
Yolanda Van de Krol(D) 444
Heather Greenberg (R) 416

Currently serving Western District supervisor John DiBuonaventuro is not seeking reelection. Both newcomers to the municipal supervisor races, Van de Krol received the highest number of votes in the Primary Election.

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor: District 1: East
Paul Olson(R) 466
Tory Snyder(D) 464

The District 1 supervisor race has a re-match between Tredyffrin Township Planning Commissioner chair Tory Snyder(D) and Paul Olson(R), the longest-serving supervisor in the history of the township. If you recall, in 2011, this particular supervisor race was extremely close with only 13 votes separating them in the General Election. For Primary Election 2015, Olson received only two more votes than Snyder. It doesn’t get much closer, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens over the next 6 months.

For many people, the Board of Supervisor races have taken a backseat to the TE School Board races.

Five of the nine seats on the school board are available. Four Board members, Karen Cruickshank (D), Pete Motel(R), Jim Bruce(R) and Liz Mercogliano(R) are not seeking reelection. The fifth available school board seat is held currently by Board President Kris Graham(R) who is seeking reelection.

The unresolved school fencing issues, the very expensive $4 million + maintenance building and the outsourcing of the aides and paraeducators are just three school district issues that recently have had some of us questioning the decisions of the current school board. The Primary Election results indicate an interest from the community in ‘change’, particularly the numbers in Tredyffrin, Region 2.

TE School Board: Tredyffrin West, Region 2
Michele Burger(D) 1138
Ed Sweeney(R) 922
Kris Graham(R) 764
Alan Yockey(D) 691*
(*Not cross-filed)

In the only school board race with an incumbent, Democrat Michele Burger has a commanding lead, with more than 200 votes separating her and Republican Ed Sweeney, with incumbent Kris Graham(R) in third place. With only two seats available in Region 2, if the General Election were held today it would mean that incumbent Kris Graham would no longer be sitting on the school board.

TE School Board: Tredyffrin East, Region 1
Roberta Hotinski(D) 604
Todd Kantorczyk (D) 572
Neal Colligan(R) 495
George Anderson(R) 398*
(*Not cross-filed)

Two positions on the school board are available in Region 1. All political newcomers, the Democratic candidates Roberta Hotinski and Todd Kantorczyk received the two highest vote totals in the Primary Election.

In addition to the Region 1 and Region 2 seats in Tredyffrin Township, Region 3 in Easttown Township has one seat available. Currently serving school board director Dr. Pete Motel(R) is not seeking reelection.

The Primary Election results for Easttown, Region 3 have Republican Kate Murphy receiving 610 votes and Democratic Fran Reardon receiving 268 votes. Reardon did not cross-file. Although both Murphy and Reardon themselves are newcomers to the school board races, Murphy is the daughter of a well-known local political family, Steve and Carol Aichele. Steve Aichele served as the Chief of Staff for former PA Governor Tom Corbett. Carol Aichele served as Secretary of the Commonwealth under Corbett and previously served as a Chester County Commissioner and TE School Board member.

The results of the Region 2 School Board race should be a message not just to incumbent Kris Graham but to the entire school board. More and more people are ‘tuning in’ as to what is going on and do not necessarily support some of this Board’s decisions. Whether it is the increasing taxes, school fencing, outsourcing of District employees, an over-priced maintenance building, lack of transparency, etc. – these votes reflect a desire for change. The Board needs to accept that this is no longer a ‘few discontents’ but that more and more residents are paying attention and are troubled by some of their decisions.

It will be interesting to see if the Primary Election proves to be an indicator for what we will see in November. It is six months until the General Election and much can happen between now and then, particularly with the addition of the Independent voters. Pennsylvania does not allow Independent voters a voice in the Primary Election but come November, our votes will count! I am sure that the local political analysts will have more to say on the Primary Election results and I welcome the discussion.

In closing, I have to include this photo from Primary Day. I ran into the Democrat and Republican chairs (Kathleen Keohane and Neill Kling) at Our Lady of the Assumption, one of the voting locations yesterday and they generously posed for this photo. Although I’m delighted to include it here on Community Matters, I challenged each of them to include it on the respective websites!

Kathleen Keohane and Neill Kling

Kathleen Keohane, Tredyffrin Democratic Party Chair with Neill Kling, Chair of Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee on Primary Election Day, Our Lady of the Assumption.

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  1. I wanted to share my analysis of TE Region 2 primaries for school director (Chester county’s title for school board members). This is only for TE Region 2 and does not include the race for TE Region 1 or TE Region 3. TE Region 2 interests me most because it is where I live and it is the only race with an incumbent as per Pattye’s post.

    Overall, what you would expect to happen during a primary happened – the candidates endorsed by each party won. Each party will, of course, spin that as a positive.

    First I would like to look at the overall picture by looking at the total voting in all 10 precincts. While there were no big losers, there was one big winner – Michele Burger. Michele dominated with getting the most votes in 6 out of the 10 precincts (one of those was a tie) with a total of 1,138 votes. She got 23%, 49%, and 65% more total votes than Edward Sweeney, Kris Graham, and Alan Yockey respectively. As mentioned previously, the candidates endorsed by their party usually dominate in the primaries due to the fact that the party faithful are usually the ones that show up. In this environment, Michele Burger, endorsed by the Democrats, was able to get 21% of the Republican vote. That is truly outstanding. In comparison, Edward Sweeney and Kris Graham were only able to get 6% of the Democratic vote each. Alan Yockey did not cross file and therefore he was not listed on the Republican side and got no Republican votes unless they wrote him in.

    Since there are two open positions, it is useful to look at who got the second total number of votes. That was Edward Sweeney who got the most votes in 5 out of the 10 precincts (2 of those were a tie) with a total of 922 votes. He got 20% more votes than Kris Graham and 33% more votes than Alan Yockey.

    So a big congratulations to Michele Burger for her outstanding performance and congratulations to Edward Sweeney for getting second place. Normally second place would not win an election, but as Pattye mentioned since there are two open positions, both would have won if this was the general election.

    That wraps up the overall picture. Here are some interesting facts precinct by precinct.

    East 4 (New Eagle School Road) – Michele Burger (70) and Edward Sweeney (70) tied for first place. 82 republicans and 57 democrats voted
    Mid 2 (Baptist Church in the Great Valley) – Michelle Burger (123) first place and Edward Sweeney (93) second place. 106 republicans and 91 democrats voted
    Mid 3 (St. Matthews United Methodist Church) – Edward Sweeney (73) and Kris Graham (67). 79 republicans and 44 democrats voted
    Mid 4 (United Church of Christ at Valley Forge) – Michelle Burger (204) first place and Edward Sweeney (145) second place. 164 republicans and 123 democrats voted
    Mid 7 (Glenhardie Country Club) – Edward Sweeney (35) first place and Kris Graham (30) second place. 35 republicans and 30 democrats voted
    West 1 (United Methodist Church of Paoli) – Edward Sweeney (105) first place and Kris Graham (75) second place. 114 republicans and 74 democrats voted
    West 2 (Delaware Valley Friends School) – Michele Burger (225) first place and Alan Yockey (180) second place. 157 republicans and 192 democrats voted
    West 3 (Del Chevrolet) – Edward Sweeney (89) and Kris Graham (89) tied for first place. 91 republicans and 61 democrats voted
    West 4 (Conestoga High School) – Michelle Burger (79) first place and Edward Sweeney (73) second place. 69 republicans and 80 democrats voted
    West 5 (Township Building) – Michele Burger (200) first place and Alan Yockey (121) second place. 116 republicans and 159 democrats voted

    All the data above came from the Chester county website

    In order to analyze the data, I put it into an Excel spreadsheet. It can be downloaded at

  2. Doug says:

    “As mentioned previously, the candidates endorsed by their party usually dominate in the primaries due to the fact that the party faithful are usually the ones that show up.”

    So true, remember 2 years ago? Didn’t Pete Connors dominate Kevin Buraks, but lost to him handily in the General Election? So congratulations to Michelle and all the rest but what does it really mean?

  3. An analysis from a math teacher who said $235,000 is greater than a quarter million dollars. Interesting!

  4. One result I found interesting: in M4, with voters on the front line of the over-reach and excess of the current School Board, Democrat Michelle Burger beat incumbent Republican Kris Graham AMONGST REPUBLICANS by 98 to 66.

    Unfortunately voters around the proposed Maintenance and Storage Building in the Middle Precincts won’t have the same chance to express their opinion about the incumbent when the excavating and pounding starts to compress the fill on which that building is proposed to be built. [Sorry for the convoluted sentence!] All of us need to step up and help stop this foolishness RIGHT NOW!

    1. Ray,

      The construction of the maintenance building affects all current and future taxpayers. The $24M bond speaks to that. That $5M cost is sadly going into a building instead of the educational program. All while crying that the financial condition in the district is tight. Really?

  5. The turnout was so low that NO extrapolations can be made or any conclusions. Fo what its worth the, the D’s put WAY more energy into driving turnout in this primary. Whether that translates into victory in Nov is another story. Know this, across the township, on average, keeping everything else equal, the D’s will have to drive 1.5 votes for every R vote. Given that Murph and Freed vote almost 100% in lockstep with the R’s, there’s no differentiator. As for the School Board, flip a coin between the two parties. And so far, Colligan has not denounced his running mate Kris Graham, the very person he sued under is RTK action

    Touching picture.

  6. I agree with Be Careful……….Be Careful, Don’t feel comfortable and don’t stop campaigning until November.

    I couldn’t believe Kevin Buraks won over Pete Connors 2 years ago. I talked to people, but I was so confident he would win, I was too casual when it came to getting the word out in a big way. Big mistake.

    Why should Colligan denounce Kris Graham? Colligan is doing just fine doing what he is doing. His actions are very powerful and his results even more so, so I’m not sure words would add anything to it and may even detract from his mission. He should talk about his accomplishments. If you think about it, he’s the only candidate who has really put his words into action and accomplished something for citizens. And that’s BEFORE the election!

  7. I seriously question just how powerful Mr. Colligan’s actions were. Nothing new was learned and that goes to the results. Mr. Colligan has at the very least implied that the board didn’t actually comply with the OOR’s Order (although he did sign the consent document). I’m still questioning why the case was initiated since the board had the right to outsource.

    It wasn’t as though the outsourcing was going to be stopped. There really wasn’t a mystery to what was going on. A lot of tax dollars were wasted and I hold Mr. Colligan responsible for that because it is entirely inconsistent with his stance on wasted tax dollars.

    As board president, Ms. Graham is the effective target of the action. I’m very interested in how somebody can run on the same ticket as somebody they’ve accused of braking the law. Her platform is his platform. She’s an incumbent. She is running on her record and using that as a basis for re-election. As a running mate, he is endorsing her and her record. How can he do that? Kevin Mahoney (R) a few years ago took the draconian step of endorsing Art Post (D). Didn’t work, but he did it because he cut a deal to get the D’s to endorse him. That was a strange affair!

    Mr. Colligan would have more credibility if he ran as an Independent since both parties have their problems re: the school board. To be fair, Alan Yockey stating up here that he wouldn’t have voted a certain way is equally not credible because he is simply pandering. I will give Yockey some measure of credit since he didn’t cross file as an R. There are no incumbent D’s and I suppose it’s a bit easier for the D’s. Also, nobody else sued the school board!

    Since were are going down memory lane, Pete Connors ran a horrible campaign. Buraks worked hard and in spite of the bad press 2 years ago, he easily won re-election.

    Back to Colligan, he’ll have to reconcile how he can both sue and accuse Graham of not following the law and run with her and endorse her bid to get re-elected to the school board.

    That’s why Colligan needs to denounce Graham. If he doesn’t, it gives the D’s a big issue to exploit in November. Honestly, I don’t know what he can do about it. If he intended on running for the school board, his OOR suit was ill-advised. It all goes to using good judgment and hindsight proves that his action didn’t accomplish a thing.

    1. As a Region 1 school board candidate, Neal Colligan is not on the ‘same ticket’ with Kris Graham and is not ‘running with her’ as you say. Ed Sweeney is running with Kris Graham as Region 2 school board candidates. Hope that helps clarify.

  8. Sorry. While they are in different regions, they are part of the same slate of endorsed GOP candidates. For you to try and parse that as being something else is ignoring the facts. He is running with her, just as he is running with every other GOP candidate. Look at the combined signs They are paid for by one entity. They will appear on the same literature. They will fund raise together. I understand Mr. Colligan is your friend. I don’t expect Graham to go one way or the other with Colligan. Then again, she doesn’t have to because she’s not the one who elected to sue the school board. He was the moving party. He’s the one seeking to join the school board as a self-proclaimed reformer. You can’t be a reformer on one hand and stay silent for political purposes on the other hand. It leaves me questioning why he sued the board.

    To be honest, I’d have more respect for him if he both admitted that for reasons of practicality, he’s running under the GOP banner but that doesn’t mean he agrees with his fellow endorsed candidates. Isn’t that why Sean Moir switched parties? All that tells me is that Sean is no political ideologue. Rather, he’s pragmatic and I think that’s a good thing.

    At the same time though, I want to hear how Colligan plans to work with Graham should they both be elected. He better have an answer for that because he will be asked the question. For Graham, it’s a simple question to answer. He on the hand, was the moving party and it’s a bit more sticky for him.

    There was no need to “clarify.”

    1. Not ignoring the facts. Voters who live in Region 1 can only vote for Region 1 school board candidates. Voters who live in Region 2 can only vote for Region 2 school board candidates. Colligan is a Region 1 school board candidate and Graham is a Region 2 school board candidate.

  9. Did Neal “sue” the board? This is the first time I’ve heard it characterized like this. I thought he: (from Pattye’s post)

    On April 23, 2015, Neal Colligan was notified that he won his appeal with the PA Office of Open Records (OOR) in the Colligan v. Tredyffrin-Easttown School District case, Docket No: AP 2015-0442. If you recall, Colligan’s appeal stemmed from the District’s denial in his right-to-know request regarding the five closed meetings of the TE School Board between November 2014 – January 2015, concerning the Affordable Care Act and the employment changes of the District’s aides and paraeducators.

    As a result of the OOR findings, the District was required to provide all requested Affordable Care Act records from the secret Executive Sessions withing 30 days. To comply with OOR, the District did make public on the website, some of the background ACA materials used in the meetings.

    He’s running under the GOP banner, but that doesn’t mean he agrees with everything his fellow endorsed candidates endorse. What’s wrong with that? Happens all the time. Look at Liz Mercogliano, she’s a R. She is marginalized by her fellow R’s at every turn. It has gotten to the point that she’s not allowed to attend meetings for goodness sakes. Absurd! And Virginia (R) and Doug (R) agree with everything Kevin (D) and Karen (D) endorse. An ex Board member always said, Political affiliations fade away once School Board Elections are over. I think that’s true, at least in TE it’s true. Another force takes over and it has nothing to do with R or D.

    I see nothing wrong and everything right with what Neal did. It’s exactly what we need in a school Board candidate and I hope everyone in his region goes out and votes for him in November.

  10. Will weigh is later today. In the UK on a short golf trip. Appreciate the different opinions and will respond although it may be at a odd time of day back there.

    1. Back in the US. As you recall, I challenged the District’s denial of an RTK request. This time around the Aides and Para’s ACA compliance issues were discussed in Exec. Session meetings held behind closed doors. A group of citizens (from both parties and independents) challenged that action….you can read about it in previous blogs. As an extension of that search for information, I filed an RTK request. Why me? I had some experience with this having done a few of these in my time. The request was delayed for the maximum time period and denied. We (and I use WE even though it was under my name) appealed to the OOR. The Burden of Proof is on the Governmental Organization in keeping documents from the public. They did not meet that burden and the OOR found in favor of the citizen requester (in this case my name was on the proceeding). OK, history over.

      I can now comment on some of the comments/attacks. “Did we learn a lot of new information?” Some; but the document release had been delayed for 83 days from the decision date….as I said at a Board Meeting recently: the information is stale (we actually learned a lot about District thinking and their reasons for outsourcing but we didn’t discuss that much here on the blog). But in winning the appeal, we did prove that the District’s actions to suppress information from the public were wrong. Whether on advice of counsel or by their own decision, the Board kept records from the public that should have been available….it took an appeal, a legal brief (written by two non-lawyers) and some time & effort but it’s the first PROOF I can remember that the District kept information from the public in error. In my opinion, a pretty big deal. The question is, and always was, does this change the actions of the Board regarding transparency? We’ll see….

      “You wasted taxpayer money”…. Not our decision to delay, deny and fight the RTK request. We went through the same procedure they did….we spent nothing. The District had an out at any time by being transparent. We did not even press for all the documents available to us under the OOR finding. Why? As stated, they were pretty old at this point and the decision was made some time back. In an attempt to stop the legal bill to the District we agreed to end the request. Good move? Can be debated….some wanted to keep pushing….I didn’t see the benefit for the costs the District was probably going to incur.

      There was a challenge above to denounce another candidate. DENOUNCE…come on. Voters can make their own decisions on the individuals running. This is my first foray into politics at any level….and here’s a big secret…it’s all new to me and I’ll probably makes a lot of mistakes but denouncing candidates does not feel like part of the task (and no ballot will have Colligan & Graham as choices…different Regions)!!! My actions/opinions have been pretty clear over the last few years. Would I be at odds with the current School Board President on many issues?….you bet I would. We’re in the same political party….that’s it. Should I be running as an Independent?…maybe…chances of my getting 2% of all voters on a petition for that candidacy, pretty slim (I think that’s the threshold). I’m a Rep. candidate from Region 1….I don’t see it as a “ticket” and I’ll disagree or agree with whomever from whatever party on various issues. This is the way you get to be a candidate…although I’ve heard of others who have gone the Independent route. I’m not sure that could work for me. But, it’s the T/ESB…I don’t see a lot of political party divides on the issues.

      “How can I work with certain people if elected to serve together?” I can’t imagine that this Board, as currently constructed is looking forward to my potential seat at the table. So, how do you work within that structure?…Hard work, logic, listening to all the constituencies, transparency and a desire to do the right thing for the local educational franchise. Fact is, the structure of this body is going to change…much of its long-term core leadership is retiring as is its CEO…these are opportunities. On the down-side; you lose some historical perspective. It won’t turn on a dime but change is coming.

      I can tell you all that none of my actions had political motivations…ever. This I not the first time I’ve taken a position contrary to the Board. The issues are pretty important so we try to do what we can from the cheap seats…Ray, Pattye, Barb, Jerry, others. It’s tough to make a difference from the back of the room. So the logical step is to try one’s hand at an election. In my opinion, that’s a hard door to go through….wish I knew more about it….maybe then I could figure out political stunts…but that has no place in the process; my opinion again. So, I’ll be me and the voters can make their decision.

      Be Careful: you’re a really smart guy and you can choose to be a positive or a negative influence…that’s your decision. You see many issues along party lines and have often referenced “the party bosses” over the years…as if candidates and elected officials were controlled by some central intelligence. Not to get into a bruhaha with you but I haven’t seen that at all….I can’t remember one big vote on this Board breaking along party lines. In fact I think it’s quite to opposite…I’d like to think that by sharing my opinions and reasoning on issues; people come to understand where they may want to come down on an issue. I’ve agreed with members of this Board who are both R and D. The Board folks I don’t agree with much are likewise R and D too. I’m pretty comfortable talking to any of them on issues and debating in a civil manner the alternatives. People, not party, is how it looks and feels to me….at this local level. You have an agenda and that’s fine but I don’t think you know me like you think you do…but, then again, I’m not your agenda. Two years ago, you would have been a strong voice supporting transparency and the methods employed here to achieve that goal…now you take the alternative view…fine. I’d be interested in your thoughts beyond your personal agenda…I think you have a lot of institutional knowledge and whoever the real you is…you’d have a well thought-out opinion on many things.

      Hope I wasn’t too political….that’s not fair to the rest of you who come here for the issues. Just wanted to weigh in as I was referenced above.

      On to the Maintenance building…that’s just too expensive not to consider alternatives. It’s a non-core asset (no learning goes on there) so don’t overspend is my position. Consider the other real estate alternatives: buy a similar building somewhere in the District or lease the space… least look into these alternatives….a $4 MM + garage/workshop/storage area is just too costly. We’ll also keep watching the fence issue with hopes that those affected neighbors can be accommodated and that the Board lives up to its recent rhetoric. But be warned (was going to use be careful but it was taken), things move really fast the last month of the fiscal year…budget, approvals of big projects, new employment agreements, stay vigilant my friends……

      1. I wanted to keep pushing. The legal bill to the District was not our issue. The burden of proof in keeping the documents hidden from public view was on the district and the OOR ruled in favor of us. The District’s actions to suppress information from the public was wrong. The cost incurred to the District for us to push forward and get all the documents would have been well worth it if only to demonstrate to tax payers what it takes to achieve transparency in our district.

        This extreme action to suppress information demonstrates that the Board does not want to be held accountable for their actions to outsource valuable employees; nor do they feel the responsibility to justify taking in stride a 50% increase in a Maintenance Building, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fencing costs that no one wants and serves no good purpose, a $13M repayment on a $24M loan that we don’t need, and the creation of Admin. positions at top of the pay scale salaries.

        While complaining about the tight financial condition in the district, the board pushes through the above mentioned expenditures without a penny of it contributing to student programs.

        Decisions are made to benefit those who make the decisions. Tax payers and students are treated like second class citizens, after thoughts in a system designed to marginalize the very citizens who pay for it.

  11. It was a form of suit. Anytime one commences a legal action under the law, it is a suit. In this case, it was an equitable action because there was a demand for something to be done. It goes the other way when you want an entity to refrain from some action

    Was Liz Mercogliano really barred from a meeting?Has she said that in public? That’s a pretty stiff charge. I recall years ago when Andy Dinniman was a county commissioner. He brought that very claim against the two R commissioners and it was founded to be a credible claim. I would expect no less from Liz. Until I hear it directly from her, I can only regard a charge like that as theoretical speculation.

  12. I was banned from attending the ACA Executive Session school board meetings. I was threatened with an ethical violation if I attended the ACA meetings.

    I can be contacted:
    Phone 610-731-5630

    1. Liz was threatened with an “ethical violation” if she attended the ACA meetings and was banned from attending the ACA Executive Session School Board Meetings.

      Who recommended that Liz be threatened with an ethical violation and banned from attending the meetings? Because he’s a lawyer, Kevin? His firm is in a financial relationship with the District. That’s not an ethical violation?

      Virginia, Doug, Scott, Jim Bruce, Karen Cruikshank, Kris Graham and Pete Motel, to my knowledge are not lawyers, so I’m wondering if either Kevin or Ken Roos threatened Liz with an ethical violation. What are the consequences of an ethical violation? How does that work? Would they serve you with legal papers? Would you have to go to a court of law to defend yourself? Then Ken Roos would get to bill the District thousands of dollars to have you (a sitting board member) prosecuted for what he or someone else claims was an ethical violation. Since not ONE Board Member came to your defense, they must have voted on it, without your knowledge and gone along with the threat and the ban. Right? So, You were banned, which effectively banned your entire ward from having a voice and a vote in the matter.

      That must have been terrifying. Did that send a message? Share our opinion, vote like we do or face the threat of the legal system.

      After that, weren’t all votes pretty much 9-0? Outsourcing? fences? consultants?

      I think that what happened to you constitutes an ethical violation.

  13. This is very helpful. A few questions. First, what was the stated “ethical violation”? Second, why back down from the threat if it was not credible? You were elected to represent citizens after all.

    Or, was this about not running afoul of the sunshine act?

    Either way, this is a serious allegation and if true, should be dealt with. I know that for any non public meeting, you can’t have more than 4 school board members. That means the other 5 are effectively banned. That’s not the board doing it. Rather, it’s the sunshine act.

    I think you need to clarify what you mean by being banned.

  14. I heard rumors at the high school that the board blocked Ms. Mercogliano from going to the exec. meetings when they discussed outsourcing the full-time aides. Thank you for telling us the truth and it explains why she didnt feel comfortable with that outsourcing vote. It was because she was not allowed to attend the aca meetings.


    Then time finally came to vote to outsource the District’s aides and paras, School Board member Jim Bruce recused himself, for financial reasons – stating that he is on the CCRES Board of Directors, implying that this was a paid position. (With an obvious conflict of interest, it is noted that Mr. Bruce has never recused himself from other previous CCRES-related issues and decisions). During the outsourcing discussion, Liz Mercogliano stated her opposition on the issue but at the time of the vote, she abstained. Although she did not publically offer a reason, perhaps it is because her daughter is a part-time aide. In a roll call vote, the other seven School Board members all voted for the CCRES as the vendor. The Republicans School Board members President Kris Graham, VP Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner, Peter Motel and Democratic School Board members Kevin Buraks, Karen Cruickshank and Scott Dorsey voted together in favor of outsourcing the full-time employees to CCRES.


    Even if they were calling it an ethics violation because her daughter is or was a part time aide, why wasn’t Jim Bruce required to recuse himself from the meetings. If he’s on the Board of the CCRES, seems to me that’s an even bigger ethics violation than her daughter being employed as a part time aide. And what about Kevin Buraks. His law firm is/was in a financial relationship with the district. Talk about a conflict of interest! So this unprecedented move to ban Liz from School Board Meetings at the whim of the School Board Directors, especially when others seemingly have strong or stronger potential ethics violations than her is deeply troubling.

    1. Liz is elected just like the other eight and has a right to attend all SB meetings. Liz is accountable to those that elected her and how was she supposed to answer constituent questions regarding the ACA, if she was not part of these special meetings. She does have a daughter who is a part-time aide but the voting to outsource was about full-time employees. Even if Liz was required to recuse herself from the outsourcing vote, that should not have precluded her from attendance at all the ACA meetings. As for an ethics violation threat, I have no idea what grounds they could have used.

  16. So there was a conflict. And when “banned”, she didn’t fight it. If Liz was really against outsourcing and against how the board operates, she should have spoken up, resigned, etc. If that is indeed the case, and it appears so, I’m glad she declined to not run again.

  17. Correction. I’m glad she declined to run again. Declining to not run again is in fact running again. :-)

  18. Political drama attracts attention. It makes citizens tune in and watch closely. It affects election outcomes and decides the fate of political leaders.

    We need more Liz Mercogliano’s. I’m very sorry to see her go and hope that the 5 newly elected Directors reflect her courage, independence and commitment to the tax payers and students in this community.

    Thanks for your service Liz!

  19. Neal says:

    “Fact is, the structure of this body is going to change…much of its long-term core leadership is retiring as is its CEO…these are opportunities. On the down-side; you lose some historical perspective. It won’t turn on a dime but change is coming.”

    I mean no disrespect to Neal or Dr. Waters but the Supt., any Supt., of a tax payer funded School District is not a CEO.

    Expenses incurred in the private sector are limited by the need to turn a profit. The public sector, as demonstrated in TE, does not have the incentive to be cost effective. The only thing that keeps public wages in check is politics.

    If the school district were a private sector firm in a “tight financial condition”, there is NO WAY, they would move forward with a 50% increase in cost for a building with hardly a question or concern surrounding the increase, there is NO WAY they would incur a $24M debt costing $13M to repay, there is NO WAY they would erect fencing costing hundreds of thousands of dollars around their offices without critical cost/benefit analysis, there is NO WAY they would create 2 new executive level positions at top of the pay scale salaries. And there is NO WAY they could withhold transparency and avoid accountability to their CEO and their constituents when making decisions like this.

    Schools are not businesses and cannot be run like a business. Businesses are not democratic institutions. Schools should be democratic with parents and tax payers having input into how the schools are run.

    Supt.’s calling themselves CEO’s distorts the mission of education.

  20. You say pot-at-o, I say potato….Wikepedia:

    The responsibilities of an organization’s CEO are set by the organization’s board of directors or other authority, depending on the organization’s legal structure. They can be far-reaching or quite limited and are typically enshrined in a formal delegation of authority.

    Typically, the CEO/MD has responsibilities as a director, decision maker, leader, manager and executor. The communicator role can involve the press and the rest of the outside world, as well as the organization’s management and employees; the decision-making role involves high-level decisions about policy and strategy. As a leader of the company, the CEO/MD advises the board of directors, motivates employees, and drives change within the organization. As a manager, the CEO/MD presides over the organization’s day-to-day operations.

    In the not-for-profit world, this leader is usually referred to as Executive Director. I do understand your remarks but the principal here is that this Supt. does have some leadership roles/responsibilities. As does this Board but the roles are NOT the same. If you really think about the actions of these two; it always seemed to me that the Board operated as a CEO (operational decisions, staffing decisions, etc.) and the Supt. acts as a Board (on-going tax policy strategy, long-term funding decisions, etc.). bot being an insider, I don’t know if it’s true but it’s what I believe is happening watching Board and Committee meetings all this time from the cheap seats,.


    We just don’t see a whole lot of difference in student achievement that correlates with who the superintendent happens to be,” says Matthew Chingos, a senior fellow at the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. He’s a co-author of what’s likely the first broad study to examine the link between superintendents and student achievement.

    Chingos and his co-authors, Grover Whitehurst and Katharine Lindquist, analyzed student test score data from Florida and North Carolina over a 10-year period. His conclusion: Hiring a new superintendent made almost no difference in student success.

    I understand your point that the Supt. does have some leadership roles/responsibilities. From my cheap seats, he has all the leadership/roles responsibilities. EG. I attended the January 2015 finance committee meeting. The Supt. and Admin. rolled out the budget. It is a $125M budget. Hardly a question was asked to the Admin. from the Board about the budget. I got the impression they hadn’t looked at it and the committee meetings are just a formality to the already forgone conclusion that the budget will be passed.

    After the meeting, I spoke to the Chair about the proposed two newly created Admin., positions, proposed by the new Supt., Rich Gusick, at top of the pay scale salaries. After 3 minutes she said she had another meeting (it was 9 to 9:30 at night)and had to go. Before she left in a hurry, and after I expressed my concerns, she told me she thought the same thing. I followed up the 3 minute conversation with an e-mail to her. She did not get back to me. The proposed newly created positions at top of the pay scale salaries were approved, one has already been announced and will be filled by an employee from within the district. Which is fine, I like him alot and I’m sure he’s competent. When Rich was asking for the top of the pay scale salaries, he justified them by saying he needed to “attract the best”, and that’s what the best are paid in private industry. I don’t know about others but I got the impression from that comment the hires would be from outside the District.

    We pay Supt’s. CEO like salaries. Hiring a CEO makes a difference in the success of the company.

    When we call Supt.’s CEO’s it follows that schools are businesses. Schools are not businesses and implying that they are, by trying to run them like they are distorts the mission of education. Students are living, breathing individuals, they are not machines or software, they bring their own unique history to school every day. Employees are paid, students are not, employees are interviewed, students are entitled to a free and appropriate education, students can’t be “fired” for bad behavior.

  22. Just my two cents here: I think that the parallels between businesses and school districts are real and relevant to current issues. Both are enterprises that are organized to add value, whether the inputs are raw materials or kindergarten students. They have employees, managers to direct those employees, and Boards of Directors to oversee those managers on behalf of the owners of the enterprise, shareholders or taxpayers.

    SL is quite right that the values that guide a school district in growing its human capital will be different to those that drive a for-profit business. However although the nature of management decisions about revenues and expenses are different, at the end of the day those have to be in balance, and reflect the priorities of the district residents.

    In making those decisions, the Board has to rely on the full time professional manager (CEO, Superintendent, Executive Director or whatever) for the day-to-day running of the enterprise and for a nuanced understanding of the issues and options to deal with those issues. Although the Superintendent quality may not be proven to drive student performance, I suspect that there are also many secondary measures like parent, employee and taxpayer satisfaction that are in fact highly dependent on the Superintendent. And on the Board, of course, to make wise decisions based on the received inputs.

    From my seat in the gallery, taxpayer/owners have been let down recently by both the Administration and the Board. Plans are cooked up (often half-baked) between the two, alternatives are few, there is little critical debate, and taxpayer input is shut down. Let’s hope for change in November. It’s time for both critical thinkers and also – dare I say it – politicians to step forward.

    1. Ray,

      They are two completely different enterprises impossible to compare with each other. Kindergarten students are not ingredients or raw materials. They are living breathing human beings each bringing a unique personal history.

      Companies are in business to earn a profit. The point of a school district is to provide socially beneficial services to citizens, not turn a profit.

      School districts operate on tax payer funded dollars – no competition, no incentive to be efficient. The only thing that keeps wages and expenses in is check is politics.

      Our school district is not run like a business. Our Supt. does not operate like a CEO. What company would spend close to $10M on non essential assets while at the very same time cutting programs that support their core business, (language program) citing “a tight budget.” as the reason for cutting essentials that add value to their bottom line?

      Unless of course youre Dennis Kozlowski, and look what happened to him.

      Alot of people say Schools should be run more like businesses. And if Neal wins a seat in November and wants to give that a shot, Good Luck, I’ll support him, but right now it’s not happening.

  23. While there may be many similar elements between a business and a school district, they cannot be considered the same or similar because of the charge school districts have. Unlike a board of directors for a corporation, a school board is elected. To the extent a school board is deemed to not be doing its job, the voting public has a remedy. The same is not true with corporations. The only exception I can think of is with a non-profit where a beneficiary could potentially bring a suit should the non profit breach its fiduciary duties. School districts are subject to open records and sunshine laws. In a public corporation, there is such a thing as a shareholder derivative suit, but they rarely work.

    If you are a taxpayer and can vote and feel disenfranchised ,then vote. If enough do that and support different candidates, regime change will happen. You can’t do that with traditional businesses and that is why the analogy doesn’t apply.

    1. All the Boards I am familiar with are elected – public corporations by shareholders, Open Land Conservancy by our members, etc. One recent local example: the proxy battle for the Board of Du Pont, where one shareholder/owner/voter is dissatisfied with the performance of the company.

    2. Great point….the concept that I was trying to introduce were in reference to Leadership roles and responsibilities. Under either structure a paid top executive and a Board are involved in planning for the long-term fiscal viability and success of the organization. The Missions can be very different as School District is not the same as for-profit manufacturing or service organization. BUT, both have to deal with annual budgets, long term strategies based on financial realities and choices on how to use limited resources to meet the organization’s Mission.

      Good discussion!

      1. Dealing with annual budgets and long term strategies is directly tied to and affected by the way funds are generated by the organizations.

        The missions, and fund generation operations between the two are so vastly different, leadership roles/responsibilities of the CEO and School Supt. cannot be compared.

        Imagine if CEO’s had an endless supplies of tax payer money to tap into when they want to hire a new executive or build a new building. Do you think his/her strategy and leadership roles would be affected by that?

  24. Neal and Ray,

    To highlight my points on this topic:

    In times of tight budget constraints, CEO’s do not grant raises and bonuses to executive staff around them, they do not create positions so new executives at top of the pay scale salaries can “fill in where needed”, they do not construct $4.5M buildings or erect fencing around neighborhoods whose only purpose is to annoy residents, and they don’t take out $24M loans that cost $13M to repay.

    They consolidate departments, they take pay cuts, they work hard on their core business to get it back in good financial standing. They don’t cut their core business to save money so they can buy 2 condos at top price for themselves and then spend millions renovating them while students suffer with old equipment and shared 5+ year old uniforms among other indignities.

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