Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Improving Public Communication and Transparency, School Fencing, Real Estate Development, Tax Increases — All Important Issues to Tredyffrin Voters

Candidates for the TE School Board and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors participated in a ‘Meet the Candidate’ forum sponsored by Chester County League of Women Voters on Saturday. As an audience member, it was clear that as voters we are lucky as most of the candidates had done their homework. The candidates were prepared, understood the important issues and were able to present their views effectively. The township and the school district are fortunate to have qualified community members willing to take on the challenges of elected office.

Improving public communication and transparency, fencing at Valley Forge Middle School, yearly tax increase, real estate development and pension reform remain important issues with residents. The candidates addressed resident questions regarding these issues and others on Saturday.

If you were unable to attend the candidate forum, you can find a rebroadcast on the township website as follows.

Click here to view the Chester County League of Women Voters ‘Meet the TE School Board Candidates.

Click here to view the Chester County League of Women Voters ‘Meet the Tredyffrin Township Candidates’

Election Day is a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3. Before casting your vote, know the candidates!

On Thursday, October 29 at the Tredyffrin Township building, the Chesterbrook Civic Association is sponsoring a ‘Meet the Candidates’ event. Open to the public, this will be a good opportunity to ask specific questions of the supervisor and school board candidates. Please plan to attend.

Meet the Candidates 2015
Township Building, 7:00 – 8:30pm
Thursday Oct. 29

Board of Supervisor candidates in attendance:
Elva Bankins, Lou Horvath, and Yolanda VanderKrol
Trip Lukens and Heather Greenberg

School Board candidates in attendance:
Ed Sweeney and Kris Graham
Michele Burger and Alan Yockey

Come and ask the tough questions about tax increases, development, student safety, fencing at VFMS, and funding for the fire and ambulance company. Be an informed voter: this election matters.

Sponsored by the Chesterbrook Civic Association

Like many community residents, Chesterbrook resident Doug Anestad has voiced concerns related to the fencing plans at Valley Forge Middle School. Doug sent the following email on October 10 to each TE School Board candidate. He received responses from all school board candidates except for two — Doug did not have a valid email address for Fran Reardon (D) and incumbent Kris Graham (R) elected not to respond.

Dear T/E School Board Candidate,

I would like to get your official position regarding some questions concerning the Valley Forge Middle School proposed fences. Your reply by end of the day Saturday, October 17 would be most appreciated. 1) Where do you stand on the Valley Forge Middle School fence issue?

2) Do you think it is a good use of taxpayer money to spend $15,500 to hire a safety consultant to review the VFMS site?

3) Would you support installing additional fencing at VFMS if the safety consultant recommends it? If you would support additional fencing, how would you reconcile this with the public’s right to use the walkways?

Thank you for your time in addressing these questions.


Doug Anestad

If you want to know where the school board candidates stand on the fencing issue you can read their full responses to Doug’s questions — click here.

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  1. Thank you for publishing this important information Pattye. It helps all of us to know where the candidates stand on issues that are important to our community. If anyone has not had the time to read Doug Anestad’s questions/responses from the School Board candidates, please make the time to read it. It is lengthy but very telling. Why someone who is the sitting Board President would refuse to answer questions says it all. She is not acting in the best interests of the taxpayers-she doesn’t even care what we think. Vote her out next week!!!

  2. I’ll add my thanks, too, for these very helpful links. These local choices have a real impact on the quality and cost of life and so readers should forward the information far and wide.

  3. Here is what I understand about the fence issue, please correct anything that is wrong. The fences were not installed at VFMS this summer. All the other schools have been completed based on the safety committee and security expert’s recommendation after Sandy Hook. Since the project had been approved by a previous vote by the board then something had to be done by the board to stop it. From what I have read in this blog and elsewhere Mrs Graham was the main board member to talk to the residence and at some point there were discussions to place fences other then on the boundaries. If it wasn’t Mrs Graham then who on the board pushed the vote to postpone the installation? I would rather see what someone did rather than what they say they might do.

    1. Some have suggested that the postponement was a calculated political move. The installation of the VFMS fencing prior to Election Day may have hurt Ms. Graham’s election results so why not hold off on the fencing until after the election. The %15K+ safety consultant will not deliver his findings/results for another few weeks (after Election Day).

  4. Someone seems to be watching Fox/Msnbc too much. Calculated political moves for a volunteer school board position? The current school board members leaving the board will leave a legacy of having positioned the district as one of the best in the country for both education and low taxes. Conestoga HS #1 in the state and #2 in the country. And most of the people running are running on getting rid of fences! Only direction for the schools will be down for the new board. Waiting to see how the upcoming teacher contract negotiations will totally disrupt everything as we are seeing in Radnor.

  5. That’s an interesting comment – “Waiting to see how the upcoming teacher contract negotiations will totally disrupt everything as we are seeing in Radnor.” I hope Mr. Salem sees past the union leadership “staged activities” at Radnor to create parent angst. The vast majority of teachers are professionals that have the best interests of the students in mind and would not let contract negotiations creep into the classroom. At least that was the experience during UCFSD contract negotiations in 2010 where we were is status quo for over a year and experienced the same union “sound and fury show”.

    1. Negotiating the next union contracts will be the most important task for our new Board. As Keith implies, they will be across the table from professional negotiators and I hope they approach the matter in the same vein.

      I have been asking candidates to commit to publishing any proposed contracts to their constituents (taxpayers) at the same time the unions send it to their members. We see the secret deal being played out at Lower Merion right now, and for the life of me I can’t see why a Board would do that. TE took steps in the right direction last time, and in addition to the contract terms, taxpayers deserve to know:
      – The full annual cost (salaries, benefits, PSERS, etc. etc.) of the proposed contract for each year (and the underlying assumptions about staff mix and turnover)
      – How the Board expects to pay those costs

      All this assumes that there are no secret “Early Bird” deals being discussed by the outgoing Board to take the matter out of the hands of their successors.

  6. Keith – You miss the point. The majority of the people running for the school board have as their top priority to stop fences from being installed and remove the ones that are already there. They show little interest in the academic areas so what would they bring to the table to negotiate with the teachers.

    Ray – It is obvious you don’t have any idea how union contracts are negotiated. They are rarely negotiated through the media and when they are it takes 2-3 times longer. None of the new people running for the board have indicated they have any knowledge/experience dealing with labor negotiations. Also, PSERS is a percentage of the salaries so it goes up and down as teachers retire or get hired.

    The last contract was signed before the previous one ran out and Mrs. Graham was the lead of the board’s negotiation team. It froze teachers salaries for 2 years and got them to pay more into their benefit packages. I guess you would rather see the board hire union buster lawyers like they previously did when they tried to cut all the PHD teachers to half time. That didn’t sit real well with the students or community. You had people standing outside at board meetings because it was so packed.

  7. Ray,

    Could this board ratify an agreement before the new board goes in? Even though Lower Merion seems to be doing it, is it legal? From what I read it isn’t. Please explain

    1. SL – I don’t know of anything that would stop a new contract being negotiated at any time. The last Lower Merion teacher contract expired earlier this year, so the background there is different However, my point about the need to be open with the public about the bottom line impact of a proposed, professionally-negotiated contract is the same. Especially when Board members are up for re-election. I’m hoping that there’s no substance to the TE rumor and that our new Board will be able to own this important decision.

      1. Ray,

        Thanks, if the rumor is true, and the Board is conducting secret talks and coming to an agreement, it will be without ANY public knowledge or input.

        Can an agreement be signed before it is open for public review? This does not seem right to me.

        1. Any contract would require a public vote, thank goodness. The issue of course is how informed the citizens (and by extension the Board) would be.

  8. Tom,

    Do you really think the current contract “froze teacher salaries for 2 years”? If so, you were misled or asleep. There are 3 ways teachers can increase their salaries. One, additional money can be placed in the cells of the salary matrix. Two, teachers can “step” vertically in the matrix. Three, teachers can move horizontally in the matrix by accumulating additional educational credits. In the first year of the current contract teachers increased their salary by methods 1, 2 & 3. In the second the third years of the contract teachers increased their salary by methods 2 & 3. I’d estimate that the average teacher had a salary increase of 5%, 2.5% and 2.5% over the 3 years of the contract. Thus, teacher salaries were not frozen at all. Yes, the teachers pay more for their healthcare, but it does not even compensate for the normal inflationary increases. Maybe new board members might take more time to understand the terms of whatever contract is negotiated?

    1. Keith,

      Thanks for the information. Can you talk about this more. Is it fair to say then, that even if the salaries are “frozen” employees pay is increased automatically through the matrix system.

      What is the matrix system? When was it created? Who created it and why? Are all matrix systems the same in every district? In more detail, could you explain how they work.

      Are new Board Members given “training classes” on the matrix system or is it up to them to educate themselves.

      Maybe the CCIU could hold training classes for new members and interested citizens. I would love to learn about it.

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