During one of the two comment periods of the TE School Board meeting on September 21, District residents Mr. and Mrs. John Alexander asked the school board directors for assistance with a busing situation pertaining to their son Jackson. The Alexander’s, who live on Valley Forge Mountain, had previously attempted resolution through email and phone calls to the District but were unsuccessful. After their passionate appeal at the school board meeting, the District’s business manager Art McDonnell intervened to say that this was a bus schedule matter and any school bus policy changes need to go to the Policy Committee the following month. The Board concurred with no further discussion.
Although I may not have fully known the specifics of the situation, it was obvious that McDonnell understood the Alexander’s request. A couple of days after the school board meeting, John Alexander called me. After speaking with him, I asked that he provide me with a summary of the situation for Community Matters —
Our son, Jackson, is taking a school district shuttle bus from VFMS to VFES to ride the elementary school bus home two days a week, so that he can participate in 5th grade band and chorus as after school extracurricular activities since both my wife and I work outside of the home. The problem is that even though the elementary school bus passes right by our house twice on its route, the school district’s procedure is to only stop at the closest current elementary school stops. This means that Jackson has to get off almost a half a mile away at the nearest established elementary school stop and walk back to our house which unnecessarily increases his risk of being hurt or otherwise harmed, especially since there are no sidewalks on Valley Forge Mountain.
We had hoped that a simple phone call and/or e-mail requesting the bus to let him off at his old elementary school bus stop from last year would settle the issue and be a Win-Win situation since there would be less risk of danger to our son and the School District wins because there is less risk of an incident for which they would be liable while not impacting other students & families in any material way.
Our bottom line – It seems like the school district is more concerned with minimizing disruptions in their bureaucratic process & procedures rather than taking simple & reasonable steps to increase the safety of a child in returning to their home from school. Shouldn’t student safety be paramount and outweigh bureaucratic processes when reasonable alternatives exist? Now, we are faced with waiting for the Policy Committee to review this in the middle of next month with no guarantee of a favorable decision/ruling.
Over the last couple of years, the school board has focused much attention on school safety, including trying to convince residents that ‘fencing schools’ is the answer to keeping our children safe. Yet, here we have a 10 year old boy walking ½ mile from the school bus on Valley Forge Mountain to his home, after the bus passes his house twice on the route.
The District is endangering a child and risking liability to allow this child to walk this distance and on roads without sidewalks! This makes no ‘safety sense’ whatsoever! The Alexander’s have been told that to change the bus route for them could mean that other families may want similar changes. However, when Alexander pressed McDonnell on how many ‘other’ families have ever had a bus schedule situation which required a change, he was given no response. The bus route included a stop at the Alexander’s house for the 2014-15 school year. As Alexander states, “Shouldn’t student safety be paramount and outweigh bureaucratic processes when reasonable alternatives exist?”
Beyond the obvious safety aspects of this situation, where is the open communication between the Board and this TE School District family. Jackson is the youngest of the Alexander’s four children, so the parents fully understand how the school district works and are not seeking preferential treatment. According to John Alexander, he had previously inquired about the existing “bus policy” cited by Art McDonnell; however, it was not provided. Rather than showing leadership and finding a reasonable solution, the school board accepted the business manager’s approach to “kick the can” to the Policy Committee meeting next month.
The Alexander’s have to wait a month to take their reasonable request (and simple solution) to the Policy Committee. To be clear, the Policy Committee can only hear the policy request and make recommendations. At best, the Alexander’s will have to wait until the next school board meeting for full board discussion. However, most policy changes, take more than one Policy Committee for recommendations so who knows how long this “simple family request” will take for resolution?
I do not understand “why” all school district roads seem to lead to Art McDonnell, the business manager. Beyond the expected business/financial related aspects of his job description, McDonnell is the keeper of the gate for the District’s communications and the Board’s emails from residents, the Public Information officer and the Right-to-Know request recipient. We learned at the last school board meeting that McDonnell ‘hand-picked’ the school safety consultant (without issuing an RFP) and now we find that apparently he is in charge of the District’s bus schedule!
I have sat through many regular and committee meetings of the District and have witnessed an alarming trend…many of the Board’s discussions/decisions seem to defer to Art McDonnell! In my opinion, the decision making powers of Art McDonnell seems to extend well beyond the normal and expected business manager boundaries. As of July 1, the District hired a new Superintendent; so where’s Dr. Gusick’s voice on these issues?
As residents, we didn’t elect Art McDonnell to govern the District – we elected the School Board. Plan to support those school board candidates in the upcoming election on November 3rd who will do their homework and govern with independent thought! We need effective leadership!
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For those for whom this post falls in the “TL; DR” category, the essence is in the last paragraph. Please read that again and act!
It was mind-boggling to observe the School Board’s lack of reaction to this simple situation. But then maybe we should not be surprised, given the history of complacent acceptance of $24 million of unneeded borrowing, out-of-control spending on the maintenance and storage building, adding teachers to increase free periods, authorizing consultant spending with unspecified deliverables, and on and on.
Which candidates have the ability and commitment to rein this in?
(And heaven forbid that the Alexanders have to wait for iterations through the Policy Committee and readings at two separate School Board meetings before their son gets safe passage home from band practice. Term will be over.)
This is standard procedure for them – they do not want to grant any special requests. I highly doubt the school district will budge on this one. They get tons of these requests every year, virtually no one is happy with their bus stop. I had the same battle years ago, in effort to not have my 14 year old daughter have to walk a quarter mile at 6:20 every morning to stand at her assigned stop alone – even thought the bus drives directly past our home on the way to the “bus stop”… It is completely dark at that time of the morning at least half of the school year – no streetlights at all in our neighborhood..
The bus stopped at the Alexander’s house last year. IMO, if there is a safety risk for any TESD student and a reasonable solution exists, than the District should make the necessary change. What is the District’s bus policy? Safe transport of children to and from school needs to be as important as fencing of the schools.
This was our first experience trying to interact directly with our School Board and as described it was very frustrating, alarming and illuminating all at the same time.
Frustrating because despite multiple requests for responses via e-mail, we never received a return e-mail from any elected member of the board.
Alarming because they would seem to be concerned, compassionate members of our shared community with many having been or currently being fellow parents of T-E students, yet they did not respond to what seems to be a simple and reasonable safety request.
Illuminating because it has made us question what their motivation is to be School Board members and whether they deserve to continue in their current positions if they do not have the time or inclination to truly care about and represent the actual students and parents of the district.
Unfortunately it is not about making sense or doing the right thing, it is about making rules. We have seen this behavior by the administration repeatedly, and the school board either has no ability or no desire to do anything other than defer to whims of the administration.
Based upon information the mother provided in her comments to the school board (the family’s address) and a look at the bus stop route posted on the school district’s website, the closest bus stop to this boys home is .24 miles, or 420 yards, not a half mile. [Obviously, I am not going to post any addresses in this comment]
Granted the walk would be a fairly steep uphill climb, but are we really saying that a 5th grader cannot walk 420 yards safely in this township?
At the meeting, the boy’s mother said that the family has an afternoon babysitter. He or she can’t meet the boy off the bus with his siblings and escort him home safely?
Perhaps there are health issues that prevent the boy (or his babysitter and siblings) from making the walk. If this is the case, the school district is out of line for the way they have dismissed the parents concerns.
I realize the boy’s father commented above, and I would not be surprised if my opinion offends him. Rest assured, these will be the only comments I will make. If the boy ends up getting the bus to stop in front of his house, terrific.
I have had many conversations about our bus stop with transportation and Art McDonnell.I to, was confused how a business manager has the last say on transportation . When I am acknowledged after many phone calls and e mails , there rude and disrespectful . Our stop Is about a half a mile from our house ,dark and no lights or sidewalks on a busy road. TE schools board does not care about this and the safety of our children. Shame on them .
Hey! Here is a kid who actually WANTS to ride the bus! Let’s accommodate him! There are far too many kids driving cars and parents shuttling kids that SHOULD be on the bus the taxpayers pay for! This additional carbon emission harms the environment as well as causing unnecessary traffic congestion. Of note, the mothers waiting in queue in front of Conestoga at 2 PM every afternoon IN the driving lanes of Old Lancaster/Conestoga Road!
I have a different viewpoint on this situation. The Alexander child is participating in an extracurricular activity and has the luxury of getting free bus service back near his home. And the parents complain because there is not door-to-door service? At UCF there is one activities bus that leaves at 5PM Monday through Friday from the HS & MS. It is funded entirely by parents and does not have heavy use. http://www.ucfsd.org/trans/activities-bus.html Most parents make their own arrangements for after school transportation.
More often than not there are numerous early year complaints about bus service. When a district is responsible for transporting several thousand students there are bound to be complaints. Either the duration of the ride is too long or drop-off point is too far away. Safety is usually cited. You can add drop-off points as the Alexanders want, but then the duration of the ride for other students is longer.
If Alexanders are really concerned about safety they have the option of providing their own transportation either by having one of the parents transport the child or by having a neighbor do so. Unless a road is heavily traveled I’m unsympathetic to the “there are no sidewalks” plea. I’m hoping a 5th grader is capable of safely walking 10 minutes home (1/2 mile) and stepping off the road if a car is approaching. I’m uncertain what it’s like in TE, but in UCF sidewalks are few and far between.
The one criticism I find fair is the silence of the TE board. If Mr. Alexander appeared before our board he would have had instant feedback.
Thank you Keith for your comment. I think that as you say, “The one criticism I find fair is the silence of the TE board. If Mr. Alexander appeared before our board he would have had instant feedback.” You are absolutely correct! This family tries emails and phone calls with no response from any member of the Board. The Alexander’s then go to the school board meeting, only to be told that it is a ‘policy committee’ discussion — and that message is delivered by the business manager! It’s frustrating to sit in the audience and watch as residents bring their questions/concerns to the board and receive absolutely no feedback.
I also agree with your point that the silence of the TE Board is unacceptable.
Just to be clear, the Alexander’s aren’t complaining because there is not door to door service. As they stated, the bus passes their house not once but twice on the bus route.
Based upon my calculations, it would take less than 30 seconds for the bus driver to stop and let their son off the bus and I highly doubt anyone in TE would mind this very slight inconvenience (if it can be called that)
I don’t consider getting bus service after extra curricular activities a luxury. It is a tax payer funded service that I am happy to pay for the benefit of our children.
From my experience in observing Board Members, card board cutouts could be sitting in their place and it would not matter, the results would be the same.
I doubt they read emails sent by citizens. They rely on Art to run interference and handle all matters. Art ignores them unless citizens like the Alexander’s come forward and make their complaint public.
This is not a special request for a new stop and the stop is not at our house. It is the same stop we have used for the past 7 years and the same stop my 4 children use on a daily basis. If the bus driver was the one we had for the past several years and not a brand new one, she would know where my son has gotten off in the past. I feel certain that is what happens for many band/chorus students who ride the elementary school bus home–they are known by the driver.
More importantly, the emails from the middle schools should not inform students they can ride their former elementary school bus home if that is not the case. Jackson was dropped off 4 times, over 1/2 mile away and this is not what I consider home.
Initially, I started with the Transportation Supervisor and she said she could not authorize this stop. Art McDonnell said the same thing. The School Board members ignored my email requests for a phone call and did not even respond to my emails.
My husband called Kris Graham twice before we appeared at the SB meeting and left messages requesting a return call. She never called. Kevin Buraks was kind enough to take my call and called back to follow up but said he could not help. We were left with no option but to appear before the School Board.
Kris Graham graciously allowed us to speak at the beginning of the meeting but then deferred us to the Policy Committee Meeting. I am thankful that committee meets early in the school year, but waiting several weeks when safety is at issue is unacceptable. I am still wondering what special qualifications Art McDonnell possesses that make him qualified to weigh in on road safety as he deems this situation safe for Jackson.
After the meeting I sent another email to the SB requesting someone reach out to me and no one did. My husband called Karen Cruickshank and they are still playing phone tag. I encourage everyone who is voting on November 3 to thoroughly research the candidates to make sure those elected are really interested in serving their constituents.
Thank you Mrs. Alexander for your further explanation of the situation. Aside from the specifics of the drop-off of Jackson, this situation speaks volumes about the school board and their communication (?) with the public. Where is the leadership? There are 5 open seats for the upcoming election and only one incumbent is running (Kris Graham). Before you vote on November 3, know WHO you are voting for — we don’t need more of the same, vote for change. Elect school board members who are interested in serving for the RIGHT reason. Elect school board members who are independent thinkers and don’t just ‘go along’ with their fellow board members. Elect school board members who don’t defer their decisions to the administration. Elect school board members who are willing to stand up for the constituents that elected them. Elect school board members who COMMUNICATE directly with the public and follow-up when required.
I’ve changed my mind after reading Ms. Alexander’s post. In summary, the district has been responsive to the Alexanders’ requests as both the transportation supervisor and Mr. McDonnell did reply via email. I’m guessing it was communicated that there is a policy in place with administrative guidelines determining bus stops. The normal HS/MS bus has one set of stops. The elementary bus has another set of stops since the ridership is different. I know the stops in my neighborhood change year to year depending on the ridership. It was probably further communicated that the Alexanders’ had the option of taking their concerns before the full board, which they did. The board acted appropriately by referring the request to the policy committee. The problem is that the parents didn’t like the answer; not that there is a communications problem. The only criticism I might have of the board is that someone should have said, “Do you really think your child walking an extra few minutes home is worthy of board attention?”
Write a letter to the Board & transportation department copying the school’s attorney. In the letter describe the hazardous situation that could result to a peril. Be sure to use “hazard” and “peril”, they are insurance terms. Because the school has been forwarned about the risk it raises their negligence should anything happen to the child.
*** I said I would not comment again, but I could not resist. Again, I am not lobbying directly to any member of the TESD staff or school board to deny the Alexander’s request. Also, for the record, like many others that read this blog, I am not pleased with the present school board either, and am planning to support alternate candidates in the next election. However, just because I don’t agree with them on some significant issues facing our school district (teacher compensation, class size, para-professional outsourcing, etc.) does not mean that everything they do, and every decision they make is wrong. ***
I concur in most respects with Keith’s comments above. I also note that the distance to the nearest bus stop has gone from “almost a half mile away” in Mr. Alexander’s recent FB post, to “over a 1/2 mile” in Ms. Alexander’s comments above. I am familiar with this area because I run and bike on these roads regularly, but I do not live on the mountain. The two official bus stops identified in the TESD bus schedule (see TESD website) closest to their home are:
1) 2116 Welsh Valley Rd – 422 yards uphill, or .24 miles, with 100 ft of vertical gain. A 5 minute walk.
2) 1730 Forge Mountain Rd. – 613 yards uphill, or .34 miles with 100 feet of vertical gain. A 7 minute walk.
If the bus driver is not dropping the boy off at one of these two official bus stops for any reason, I absolutely agree that there is a real problem.
The fact that this was a stop for the elementary school buses last year is not a convincing argument. Bus routes change from year to year. They are not locked in stone or grandfathered in. If this were the case, the bus I took as a child would still stop at my parents home for no reason.
The fact that the bus drives by their house twice on the route is not a convincing argument. This argument implies that simply because a student’s house is passed by a bus one or more times, they deserve to be dropped of in their driveway. I am personally aware of other residents making similar requests, and being denied.
Welsh Valley Road and Forge Mountain Road are not major thoroughfares. With the maze of roads up on the mountain, it is not commonly used as a way for people to get over the mountain to Phoenixville. These roads are not like Diamond Rock, Swedesford, and North Valley Road. They are not narrow roads without a shoulder. These are wide modern roads.
The Alexanders have a babysitter that does not drive. Is the route from the bus stops to their home too perilous for even the babysitter to navigate as well? At what age is it safe for someone to walk the route?
The school board’s job, in my opinion, is to provide guidance and direction to the professional staff that are paid to run the school district. Mr. Clarke is absolutely correct, school board members are elected to deal with big issues like the ones he identified in his post above. I do not believe, however, as Mr. Clarke seems to, that school board members should rubber stamp every request that gets emailed to them so that that their desk is cleared to deal with the big issues. School Board members are elected to make choices about what are and what are not “big issues”. Art McDonnell does not govern the school district. He is paid to manage certain aspects of the school district – one of which is the Transportation Department.
In my opinion, this is not an issue that should rise to the school board level. A polite call and request to the transportation department? Sure. A disappointed call/appeal to the business manager? Ok. A disgruntled complaint to your elected school board member? If it makes you feel better, absolutely. But all of this drama over a bus stop no more than 7 minutes walking distance from their home?
Perhaps a polite informal request to the bus driver would have been a more effective way to handle the situation.
** To be clear, I do not know the Alexanders. All information that this post is based upon was gleaned from comments they have made in public, either on FB (I am not a “friend” of theirs, but was directed to their comments by a mutual “friend”) or statements made in a public meeting also posted on their FB page. **
I too cannot resist replying to set the record straight. On the first day of band practice, the bus driver refused to allow my son off at his usual stop. She said that was not his stop which was very upsetting to a 10 year old. She did allow him to get off with a 6th grade friend who offered to help when she saw my son was upset. He got off at 1781 Hamilton Road which is 0.62 miles from our home for all those checking my calculations. On the next day after my phone call, my son was to get off at 1730 Forge Mountain Drive as per Art McDonnell. The bus driver told my son that was not his stop and he again was told to get off at 1781 Hamilton.
The following Tuesday, I arranged my work schedule to be home so I could time the bus and perhaps appeal to the driver. The bus arrived at Forge Mountain Drive and Welsh Valley Road 2 minutes ahead of schedule, so dropping my son off would not have affected the drop off times of other students. That day the bus driver refused to let him off at 1730 FMD and again dropped him off on Hamilton (0.62 miles for those who are still with me). I stopped the bus driver as she passed our home again and I asked her if she would drop him at the usual stop at Forge Mountain and Welsh Valley and she refused. I tried to show her the email from Art McDonnell on my phone which said my son could get off at 1730 FMD and she said she could not read it without her glasses and she did not get the letter. That day Art McDonnell assured me the next day (Wednesday) the bus driver would know to let my son off at 1730 Hamilton (0.3 miles away from home) and the next day, for the 4th consecutive time, she insisted he get off at 1781 Hamilton.
I completely agree this is not a School Board issue. I filled out both the Bus Stop Change Request and the Request for Long-Term Alternate Bus Assignment forms because I could not figure out which one would be most appropriate to resolve this issue. I called Ms. Cleary for clarification and she referred me back to Mr. McDonnell. I emailed and snail-mailed these forms with no reply to date.
There is no policy for this so why go to the Policy Committee? Regulation 8100 as stated below should cover it, but I think most will agree 0.62 miles away is not “home.” Whether a 15 or a 7 min. walk, all is fine in this lovely weather. Add a few leaves, some snow and even rain while carrying a saxophone and heavy book bag and it certainly sets up a potentially hazardous situation.
I thank God for our neighbor on Hamilton who drove my son home each of those 4 times. No finer place to live than on Valley Forge Mountain!!
Then you have an absolute right to be annoyed, and to complain. The bus driver should be reprimanded or terminated if she is refusing to follow the direction of her superiors.
But, boy did your message get muddled. Everything that was put out publicly seemed to imply that you were demanding that your son be dropped off in your driveway and not at another official bus stop. Anything less than that was unacceptable and discriminatory(?).
If Transportation could not communicate the simple message to the bus driver that your son was to be dropped off at either the 1730 or 2116 official bus stop (which ever one you requested), then you are absolutely right, there is a communication problem between the driver and the Transportation Department.
Hopefully everything will run smoothly going forward, and you are right there are a lot of good people up on the mountain.
Ms. Alexander, Thank you for the clarifying information. You’ve gone to great lengths to work within the “system” without success. Yes. there is a communications problem probably between management and transportation. Does TESD outsource transportation? If so, there may be a contractual impediment affecting communications.
School Board direction expected by the community in this case would be for the bus driver to stop and drop the boy off.
School Board Policy should be fairly Broad statements of intent with room to tailor provisions to individual situations.
“School Board direction expected by the community in this case would be for the bus driver to stop and drop the boy off.”
Why? I want the school bus to drop my kid’s off at our driveway. My neighbors to the right want the school bus to drop off their kids at their driveway. My neighbors to the left want the school bus to drop off their kids at their driveway.
Do we all get what we want?
Yes, If it’s reasonable, tax paying citizens and parents should get what we want. Tax paying citizens, parents and children should come first when considering solutions.
If your child, your neighbor’s child to the right or your neighbor’s child to the left, are in the same circumstance as the Alexander boy, they should receive the same consideration. It is not a big deal. And that’s the point.
“tax paying citizens and parents should get what we want”
Why not kittens, unicorns and rainbows too.
Why wouldn’t TESD Regulation 8100 take care of this issue ?
Music Shuttle Buses The school district provides music shuttle buses for the middle school to the elementary schools to allow students to stay after school and participate in music programs and still get a bus from the elementary school to their home
Is anyone else concerned about a school bus driver stating that she could not read a letter without her glasses (which she apparently did not have with her)?
It seems to me that anyone who is transporting children, and may be called upon to read any number of items presented to her while performing her job, should be required to have whatever is necessary to do so.
I wonder at what distance she is able to read writing – can she clearly see her dashboard indicators without her glasses?
Keith, Yes TESD transportation is contracted out. The bus drivers don’t work for TESD so I would guess most of them don’t know who Art McDonnell is. Add onto it that the Alexander’s son only rides this particular bus twice during the week while he rides the Middle School bus 8 times, and you could figure that the bus driver wasn’t/isn’t as familiar with this student as well as they are with the students that ride the bus all the time. You seem to have taken a logical approach to figuring out the probable cause instead of just blaming everything on the school board and administration. Refreshing!
My name is Ed Sweeney and I am running for Region 2 School Director. I wish to do something about the various commentaries that have been highlighted in Pattye’s blog.
My observation of the School District’s way of operating, together with my legal experience and my service for 20 years in government, community, church, and political volunteer committees, makes me feel we need to change various policies, procedures, and even the very way our Regions are organized in voting blocks. We need to empower people to contribute and take advantage of the intellectual capital in this district. We need to listen more to teachers and volunteers.
Here is my Position Proposal #2. My first involved the “Fence issue” in August and was mailed out to affected residents. Please check out my facebook web site to learn more about me https://www.facebook.com/edsweeney4TE?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
TREATING RESIDENTS AND STAKEHOLDERS AS SHAREHOLDERS AND PARTNERS
• Fight for Tredyffrin residents and stakeholders as their representative and partner
• Give more real voice to residents and stakeholders at an early stage of issue consideration
• Keep commitments made historically to our residents (such as those made in prior Zoning Hearing Board hearings) and during informal negotiations (e.g, Chesterbrook)
• Change Committee structure so qualified volunteers – and not just school board members — can serve on important committees thus harnessing the intellectual capital of the many impressive professionals in this area.
• Provide for PTO members and school volunteers greater voice, support, and recognition
• Change subcommittee meeting dates and times so working parents can participate
• Support Redistricting for Region 2 which is underrepresented by 39% thus discriminating against Region 2 residents (See http://www.onepersononevote.net/)
• Reform public comment section of School Board meetings to the interactive supervisor model.
• Establish a quicker and more effective administrative structure to address resident complaints on busing and other matters.
If elected, I’m curious how you intend to:
“Reform public comment section of School Board meetings to the interactive supervisor model.” and
“Establish a quicker and more effective administrative structure to address resident complaints on busing and other matters.”
Residents have asked for reform in School Board communication and transparency but have been unsuccessful. As a member of the School Board, you are only one vote — how will you move a majority of your fellow Board members in that direction. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud you for your suggestions of changes that are more resident-friendly.
The current Board President Kris Graham (R), has shown repeatedly to be supporting school fencing. You, on the other hand, have publicly stated your opposition to school fencing. You and Kris are running together for the two seats in Region 2, so how do you square such a major difference as school fencing?
I’m curious to know what ALL candidates are thinking, not just Ed Sweeney.
For instance, I wanted to know where Alan Yockey stood regarding the fence issue.
I went to his website and his Facebook page. There was NOTHING regarding the fence issue. Yet, this has been an issue that neighbors have been talking about for over one year because it directly affects their properties, the school grounds and the school’s budget.
What I did find on Mr. Yockey’s Facebook page were numerous postings about George Anderson. Why? Didn’t George Anderson withdrawal from the race three months ago?
Neil Kling has been the candidate. Furthermore, Mr Yockey isn’t even running against George Anderson (They were in different regions).
It leaves one to wonder what does Mr Yockey stand for? Conversely, Ed Sweeney has consistently fought against the fence issue –he clearly states it on his web page EdSweeney4TE and this blog. In fact, he ran against the fence issue in the May Primary and voters responded in supporting his candidacy.
Finally, candidates should reflect the taxpayers they represent not their party. Because Ed Sweeney is also a Republican as is Kris Graham, does it mean they have to be attached to the hip with every issue?
I am my own person and am proving it everyday.
Campaigns often drive the policy debate and result in change. That is what I am doing on the fence issue, on SD and SB reform, and on tax/budget issues. There can be improvement in an already excellent district.
My goal is to make a great district even better. As an attorney, my skill is bringing to fruition things that my clients talk about . . . moving ideas from a conceptual stage at point A to a concrete reality at point B. For my experience in public life, I know public figures move forward on policy proposals when the consensus is overwhelming and the time is ripe. The time is hopefully ripe. The corporate culture in TE needs to change as far as its interaction with residents. I hope to be a catalyst in this election and on the Board to make it happen.
How? There will be at least four (4) new members on the Board as we look at the election today and perhaps five (5). I aim to be persuasive not only to residents, but to these incoming members, SB administrators and current members of the Board. Campaigns are fuel to the engine of public policy. We are all educated professional people and I bet, in the back of their minds, many SB members and administrators would rather have meetings like the latest Reapportionment meeting where interactively SB members and residents were asked their views and placed two dots on the most important reapportioning criteria (not exactly scientific, but a more open approach that we have seen). We need to move decidedly and concretely in this direction. Having spent twenty years serving on volunteer government (Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board), church, and political committees, I have experience in moving an agenda.
I am running on issues I feel are important and pressing. I am not new to the political scene or to governmental affairs in Tredyffrin. My observations have been only enhanced since I started campaigning in March. The time is hopefully right for change.
I am a Republican. That means the Republican party will help me defray the cost of this election and I had to do considerably fundraising and put in personal money for the opportunity to serve the community. My wife and I are grateful. I think most voters in Tredyffrin know that just because you are in a mailer or list of candidates on a handout, there are real substantive differences between candidates. In this campaign, I point out what I think is good in Tredyffrin and what needs to be improved, and accuracy improves credibility.
Kris Graham will run on issues she feels are important and pressing, Michelle Berger will do so as well, and Alan Yockey will also so. I respect Kris Graham and the other candidates. It is for the voters to judge who is best fit for the challenges ahead given the complex mix that goes into voting. Berger-Yockey seem to be running very closely together as Democrats, and as a Republican, Kris Graham and I share also certain common themes and interests but differ in important ways. It’s Tredyffrin, not Philly or Delco. I will work with any SB member to make a better District and School Board and keep TE affordable to the middle class yet the education of top quality, and this particularly includes finding common cause on the fence issue.
I seek common cause with you and ask for your support as well, both for my agenda and my approach.
Ed, thank you for your response. We know that you and Kris do not agree on the issue of fencing. I understand that a campaign can be expensive and having campaign information that is joint (signs, literature, etc.) can help defray costs. But it seems to me that many of the issues that you place as important (transparency, community participation, school fencing, etc.) have not been a hallmark of Graham’s tenure on the school board. Taxes have gone up every year for the last 11 (or 12)years, surely that cannot be something that you support. And then there’s the $$$ maintenance building! You seem to have a very different view on many of the issues from Graham — are you not concerned that the uninformed voter may view you and your running mate as a ‘team’. Thanks in advance.
I understand you are a friend and strong supporter of candidate Ed Sweeney. It’s understandable that you would present your friend in a positive light and suggest that he is the ONLY candidate who opposes fencing around VFMS. It’s simply not true. Alan Yockey and his runningmate Michele Burger sent a letter to the Green Hills and Brookmead neighborhood stating clearly their opposition to the District’s proposed fencing plan.
Here is their letter:
All of us want our children to be safe. We want their school environment to be a warm, friendly, safe place that is conducive to learning. Steel doors that lock from the inside keep children and teachers safe and are a good investment. Requiring all visitors to enter through the main door of a school building and identify themselves is a good idea that improves the security of students, teachers and District employees.
However, in our view, school security at Valley Forge Middle School will not be significantly improved by erecting fences around part of the property’s boundaries when people are still free to access the building through a parking lot or by other means.
Clearly, it was a mistake to move forward with a fencing plan that did not take into consideration the community’s concerns about its effectiveness, cost, and an end to long-standing shared access by its Chesterbrook and Brookmead neighbors.
Because residents came together to express their objections, fencing at VFMS has been put on hold for now. However, the people you elect to the School Board on November 3 will be voting early next year on the recommendation of a security expert to be hired by the District.
Michele Burger and I are opposed to fences at VFMS, given the District’s proposed plans. They are a significant expense and have not been shown to be an effective security measure in this location.
If elected by you in November, we will solicit your input prior to making final decisions. We will look for creative solutions instead of supporting the status quo. We are committed to prudent spending that makes sense from a safety standpoint and that maintains the high quality of the TE schools. We would like to earn your support and your vote on November 3rd.
This letter was mailed in late September.
My wife and I have been standing at the polls for many years, and have found that Tredyffrin voters are particularly well informed, especially those that come to vote in a non-presidential election. I am communicating my ideas clearly and I am not concerned that voters will be confused. As for being a team, I plan to work as a team with the entire School Board to get the right things done for the taxpayers, parents and kids in the District.
TO: T/E Parent (whoever you may be)
Michelle & Alan’s Fence Letter…”This was mailed in late September”
Thank you for reinforcing my point.
You may want to re-read my comment. I never said Ed Sweeney was the ONLY person against the fence issue. The fact is he has ALWAYS been against the fence issue. Your comment highlights the fact that Michele and Alan just recently took a hard stand. It’s great that they are against the issue NOW…What took them so long?
Ed has been talking about the fence issue since BEFORE the Primary Election. Anyone can come along and say…”me too” Is that how Michelle & Alan plan to govern? “The Me Too Ticket”
BEFORE the May Primary, Ed gave support to the Green Hills community regarding the fence issue. Flyers were handed out to educate voters on the fence issue and attend the APRIL 27th School Board Meeting.
On May 19th, Primary Day, Ed Sweeney handed out a flyer to voters with a picture of Ed and his daughter with a clear statement expressing that he was not for the fencing around our schools.
What did Michele Burger & Alan Yockey hand out on election day?
Republican Sample Ballots with their names on them.
It can be argued that Alan Yockey’s name never should have been on the Republican Sample Ballot since he did not file to be cross filed. (good example for our school kids).
Both Ed and I have daughters who attend VFES. THEY are the reasons we have a vested interest in the school and this community.
Yes, I do support Ed. I’ve known Ed since our days at LaSalle University. He’s a man of strong character and integrity. So, when I see the other party trying to catch up on the issues—issues that Ed has been discussing for months, I’m going to call them out.
Ed has been walking door to door (not crashing block parties like others) prior to the Primary Election. He’s engaging with voters to understand THEIR issues–not just the fence issue. He has been posting his views on his Facebook page. (Eg. June 13th—Ed was in Green Hills talking to voters about fences etc). Not just one and a half months prior to the election.
As I mentioned, I highly recommend you go to all the candidates’ websites and Facebook pages (if they have one). Take the time and review it—pay attention to the Dates & Times of the posts—you may find it insightful.
Finally, I believe it’s important to be transparent. We’re all neighbors who comment on this blog who, I believe, want the best for our kids and our community. I use my full name when I post. I invite you and others to come out from the shadows and use your real name so we can have an open, honest dialogue. Pat McHugh
You make this sort of accommodation for one, you have to do it for anybody who asks. I don’t see where the district’s actions here translate into being deaf toward safety.
As someone who regularly attends SB meetings, I can tell you that Ed Sweeney was nowhere in sight until late spring. Meanwhile, Alan Yockey and Michele Burger were at the general and committee meetings, paying close attention.
You can trash talk all you want. Ed appears to me to be a panderer who jumps on every bandwagon and will say anything to attract votes.
Clearly, the fencing issue is not a B&W one. Also, the opinions of people who know little or nothing about school security but have STRONG opposition to fences as a safety measure are just people with opinions.
You Republicans like to say you’re not scientists. Well, you’re not school security experts either!
The more measured approach is to take everything into consideration – including the unique location of VFMS and the legal agreement the District made with the Chesterbrook Civic Association. Taking time to assess all the factors and talk with all the stakeholders is prudent. Not late to the game. That is what Alan and Michele did.
You sound like a high school kid, Mr. McHugh, who desperately wants one side to win.
TO: T/E Parent (whomever you may be)
I offer specific facts, with dates and references
and you retort with empty rhetoric and NAME CALLING.
Here are some more facts:
Ed Sweeney has a record of 15 years serving on boards and commissions in this township. His positions have saved taxpayers money.
Regarding the fence issue: I’m glad to hear Michelle and Alan attended meetings. Anyone can attend a general meeting. It’s what you do with the information.
Here’s another fact for you: on May 11th David Miller, President of Green Hills Civic Association, Mark Levine and myself met with three standing TE school board members regarding the fence issue. (I refer you to my comments on this blog dated June 17th for the details).
We were close to a negotiated settlement for the taxpayers. I counselled with Ed prior to the meeting. You see, we are very familiar with the fence issue and have been trying to represent the taxpayers viewpoint from the beginning.
NOTE-It was surprising that the SB decided, at the 11th hour, to hire an “expert”. After all, if safety was an issue, why not hire an expert BEFORE the architect was hired and provided drawings and BEFORE the fences were ordered?
FACTS are a stubborn thing. I suggest you check your facts. As I said, Ed Sweeney has been in front of the fence issue from the beginning.
You can call me names all you want, but it won’t change the facts.
Dear Mr. McHugh,
I am a registered Republican. Michelle Burger is a Democrat. Referring to Michelle, you say:
Anyone can attend a general meeting. It’s what you do with the information.
Michelle Burger has been attending committee meetings for years. I know because I have seen her at each of the few I have attended and I see her name on the attendance list when I read the committee meeting minutes.
The first Facilities meeting I attended, (years ago) she approached me, introduced herself and explained the connection we shared, 11 years prior. I had no idea who she was and would still not had she not taken the initiative to introduce herself to me and explain our connection. I instantly liked her and got the impression that she was a warm friendly, non assuming person with no personal agenda in sight.
When I heard she was running for school Board, I called her. We weren’t friends so I didn’t have her number. When she didn’t answer I hung up without leaving a message. She called me back. We had a great conversation about the issues. I found her to be a very intelligent, level headed person.
I don’t think Michelle is a person who goes to meetings and does nothing with the information. If you read the minutes from the meetings, it is recorded that she stands up, gives suggestions, and offers alternative solutions.
We are a few weeks away from the election ..with the exception of one case of candidate bashing its been really CIVIL for a change. Regardless of the party the fact that ANYONE makes the commitment to run is fantastic. This UNPAID job requires a lot of time,finances and inner strength depending on the current issue. For years I’ve attended Budget meetings ..the same 6 people used to show up ..even Facilities only 3 or 4 ..When the elementary fence issue came up only 10 residents attended …This district has plenty of things to deal with in the future. Ed Sweeney former neighbor was great on the Planning Commission and I was grateful he came to sit with the residents after he resigned ( maintenance bldg). Michelle Burger has been attending Facilities for years..thank her for the open tennis courts at VFES, With 5 open seats and PLENTY of well qualified people willing to serve lets concentrate on getting informed and getting out the VOTE . Its so close to the election lets respect those who have chosen to serve our children and the community.
Couldn’t agree more — instead of each side going after the other side, voters need to do their homework and elect the person that best represents them and their issues! My request for candidates is simple — If elected, please deliver on your campaign promises.
For those who are keeping score regarding candidate bashing…
Both Todd K and his running mate sent out a NEGATIVE Mailer at the 11th hour before the election against Neil Colligan. You know Neil, he attended more SB meetings than his opponents-combined. He’s the guy who tried to help the paras keep their job.
Todd K and his running mate sent out the mailer, taking Neil’s words OUT OF CONTEXT…at the last minute, so Neil could not defend himself.
Sound familiar? It’s the same Negative tactics the Dems used against our neighbor, George Anderson….. If you don’t agree with their positions, the Dems try to take you out. It will be interesting to see how inclusive they govern when faced with opposing ideas.
Slow down Pat! This is NOT a tactic unique to the Dems! R’s have been just as guilty locally of negative, out of context, meaningless, ridiculous, false and misrepresented mailers and tactics as the D’s might have employed here. So many of our quality local candidates (both parties) have had their campaigns and messaging influenced (and hijacked) by the tunnel vision and partisan garbage of the local party leadership.
It is too bad the result though, I believe Neil would have been a real asset on the school board.
I agree with Not So Fast.
“It is too bad the result though, I believe Neil would have been a real asset on the school board.”
What’s done is done. Right now, Board Members can show good faith by asking citizens like Neal and Ray, to offer their financial expertise, by asking them to participate as members of a financial advisory committee to the board. I don’t think any one on the Board has as much knowledge or experience in financial matters as Neal and Ray who have been watching and reporting on District finances for years.
I support all the comments here. It’s a real shame that the Dems in Region 1 had to descend to the old political tactic of taking opponents’ words out of context to twist the meaning.
The mailer took a quote from Neal, claimed it means that he wants to give control to Harrisburg (!) and excised the key point of his message: “THIS JOB is to assure the money is spent wisely”.
It’s ironic here that the Democratic Governor wants to fund education with more state income and sales taxes and less local property taxes – and we all know that whoever controls the money has the power.
There are a few Board members who rule. With the current Board, I would say 3. They sit to the left and right of new Board Members chairing Committee meetings, and speak at will, impolitely (IMO) injecting themselves into meetings they are not supposed to be leading. This is how the current culture is learned and perpetuated in a very insidious way without new Board Members knowing it. At the end of the meetings, they believe they have learned how education works, when in reality they are part of a process that perpetuates a system that shuts citizens out.
Many if not all of you are calling for transparency, accountability, public input etc. That’s great!, it really is, but I can dig up posts from past candidates who are current Board Members who said the exact same things you are saying now. If asked, I’m sure they would say they are following through on their campaign promises, or they would have (to themselves) logical reasons and justifications for every decision they made and every vote they cast which directly went against their campaign promises.
I’m asking you to be aware of the process. I’m asking you to change a culture and a perception that over time has ingrained itself into the fabric of the District. With 5 new seats open, it can be easily done!
I apologize for the delay in the follow up, but our issue was finally heard at the Policy Committee meeting on 10/15. While not exactly the resolution that we were seeking, it was a very long, but enlightening discussion on the topic with some positive outcomes. I now have a better appreciation for the School Board and its diligence in trying to investigate and find the best solutions for all parties concerning issues brought before them.
It’s possible. But it’s also a debatable point. Both Mr’s. Colligan and Kling ran inneffective campaigns. if memory service, Kling was a last minute stand-in for George Anderson. It could be that Colligan was simply guilty by association. I was still still troubled by Colligan’s legal proceedings against the school board when it appeared fairly appearent that everything there was to know about the aides and para-educators was known. That effort cost the district thousands of dollars. While Mr. Colligan was legally entitled to do what he did, it doesn’t make what he did right.
The district has all the financial expertise it needs. Let’s face it. Few if any of the board members are professional educators. The one they had just got sacked. What does it really mean then?