Pattye Benson

Community Matters

The Valley Forge Middle School fencing debate continues … And now the local Tredyffrin Republican Committee has joined the mix!

Fencing April 2015The Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee is taking a formal position opposing the proposed fencing next to Valley Forge Middle School, along Valley Forge Road.

In addition to serving as chair of the Tredyffrin Republicans, attorney Neill Kling is chair of Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board and was a candidate in the last school board race. At last night’s TTRC meeting, Kling proposed the motion to oppose the 5-6 ft. fencing at Valley Forge Middle School on Valley Forge Road – the resolution passed.

Recently elected TE School Board member Republican Ed Sweeney, who serves as Area 7 Republican Chair and committee person for the TTRC, continues to oppose the fencing project. During his campaign, Sweeney was a strong voice against the Valley Forge Middle School fencing project. Pleased with the stand his political party is taking, Sweeney took to social media, saying in part,

I view this vote and opposition to the fences as reflective of the will of Tredyffrin’s citizens and it is certainly the will of many Tredyffrin Republicans as well as many of my Region 2 constituents. There are various reasons for opposition, including it does not add significantly to safety and has nothing to do with violent attacks, the cost, and it will injure the appearance of the neighborhood on what for all practical purposes if a front yard in a gateway to the historic Valley Forge Park.

The rationale appears as explained by the consultant to be to mainly prevent the deer coming on the property and to prevent “runners” from leaving along Valley Forge Road. These rationales are weak. Historically, neither issue has been a big one and the local police chose not to weigh in on the expert’s report. I find the report subject to severe criticism because of its tone and attack on the numerous people who gave input. An ad hominem attack is not a good example for our children on how to professionally analyze and support an issue.

Sweeney is the only currently serving Republican school board director from Tredyffrin Township. Will the actions of the local Republican Committee have any bearing on the outcome of the fencing project? And what about the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee … will they now feel any pressure to follow the actions of the local Republicans with a public statement of opposition. The Democrats hold a majority on the school board and all five are from Tredyffrin Township (Kevin Buraks, Scott Dorsey, Michele Burger, Roberta Hotinski and Todd Kantorczyk).

Kudos go to Ed Sweeney for taking a public stand on the Valley Forge fencing issue as an elected official. In the past, there has been much control (or at least perceived control) placed on the use of social media by school board members. Regardless of what happens on the fencing issue, I’m glad to see that at least one member of the Board is breaking with tradition!

The Valley Forge Middle School fencing project and the safety consultant’s report will be discussed at the upcoming Facilities Committee meeting, Thursday, Feb. 18, 5 PM. The recommendation from the Facilities Committee could determine the future of the fencing project.

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  1. I too laud Mr Sweeney for the public opposition to the fencing issue. I went on record last week in this forum to chide him for not taking a more aggressive stance in the release of the Consultants report..I still think reason should have prevailed there and the Consultant should have been issued a re-write directive..if only to eliminate the childish, offensive and petulant tone…retaining his basic findings in a re-write would have been the proper tack, despite the fact that most residents (myself included) disagree with the core findings.
    Ed’s social media position statement is most welcome and will hopefully assist in the ultimate demise of this fencing farce.

  2. Thank you Ed for supporting the community. It is my hope that the Tredyffrin Democrats and other Tredyffrin School Board members will do likewise.

  3. The question of almost any spending is one of “Is the benefit achieved worth the money spent?” In the case of a fence surrounding the Middle School, we really are not buying a fence. We are buying increased safety.

    How much extra safety for our children does the fence provide? On a national basis, how many security incidents have occurred in which the perpetrator crossed the school property to enter a back door? Were there any?

    Ultimately, we are buying safety for our children and those who teach them. If the answer is that a new fence will improve their safety by 100%, then no expense is too high. If the answer is, “we don’t know”, then any expense is unwarranted. Until, we know how much additional safety is provided, no one can judge if it is worth any expense.

  4. Well said Mr. Sweeney.

    “””I find the report subject to severe criticism because of its tone and attack on the numerous people who gave input.””””

    When people give input they are attacked. And when the attack is launched in a district wide report, it sends the message:

    don’t give your opinion
    you will be severely punished

    This destructive letter was used to hide what is true and real in order to undermine the credibility of the very tax paying citizens asked to pay for it and the Chesterbrook citizens asked to live with it.

    I agree with Ed, Pete, Doug and George. Thank-you.

  5. “”””In addition to serving as chair of the Tredyffrin Republicans, attorney Neill Kling is chair of Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board and was a candidate in the last school board race. At last night’s TTRC meeting, Kling proposed the motion to oppose the 5-6 ft. fencing at Valley Forge Middle School on Valley Forge Road – the resolution passed.”””””

    Thank-you Mr. Kling.

    When citizens run for office and they don’t win or they leave office, most times you never see or hear from them again.

    I like and respect ex Board members, and past candidates, who show up at Board meetings, and take active roles in the proceedings. I think it reveals they truly care about their community.

  6. Thank you Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Kling for your support of our community.

    In this litigious era, it seems it would be next to impossible for a hired consultant to come back to us with anything but a “yes, you should build a fence, just in case” reply to the “research”. Did we really need a consultant in the first place?

    Generations of students have treasured the wide open space which this school boasts, without incident in the proposed fencing area. Track meets, field days, kids and families enjoying easy access to open fields – as kids spill out of school at the end of the day – this outdoor space was originally conceived as being a continuation of the school’s architecture. A fence here would be nothing but an empty gesture, inconvenience, eyesore, and knee-jerk reaction to fear. What a terrible waste of money. It would change the character of this space for our kids, and put boundaries where none are called for.

    Middleschool kids have not needed to be supervised to stay away from Valley Forge Road – this is understood by the students and has not been an issue. People intruding on the school via their public use of the track? A fence will make virtually no difference to someone who wishes to gain entry.

    The need for a “boundary marker”? Put a $2 wooden stake in the ground, or perhaps a sign. We don’t need to build a fence for the purpose of marking where school property ends – there is no demonstrated need for it.

    Fences are being commonly used in “other district buildings” is a fallacious argument for building one at Valley Forge. Let’s show some common sense and understand what we are really buying (or not buying) here.

    Perhaps we did not need a consultant after all, because most of us knew the answer already: that a fence would do nothing to genuinely protect students or teachers.
    Most folks in the community recognize this as a token effort to “do something” to avoid a potentially tragic event. Better to invest on continuing to provide a healthy environment within the school community, and recognize that we could never reduce any real or imagined risk with a chainlink fence around a portion of the school.

    Thanks Mr. Sweeney and Mr. Kling for speaking up on this important question.

  7. Granite boundary markers were placed years ago .. the district has resurveyed and made sure all the markers were in place.
    Which brought up an issue at seems a wooden fence that has been there for 35 years is on district property ( 9 ft) .. When asked about it at Facilities the reply “currently under “litagation ”
    That spot has a $2 wooden stake right in the middle of the owner’s landscaping.
    HOW much is all this costing the taxpayer in legal fees????

  8. (Stepping in late) At my first real read of the report, I was genuinely astonished at the crass, unethical and unprofessional statements regarding our community (who is, btw, considered one of the stakeholders on this project). As a reader, this type of emotional inclusion immediately flagged me to question the report content validity overall, regardless of stance.

    After an even more in depth review, I found it disturbing that one of the KEY stakeholders (police) had not be been unsuccessfully contacted and no historical data had been obtained or provided in the report to establish a baseline on past crimes/safety. In fact, in the Proposal, page 1, under “Consultation Services and Approach” items 3 and 4 reading: (3) Review district policies and crime reports AND (4)review of crime and calls-for-service data from local police, was NOT completed or reflected on in the final distributed report. Sometimes I feel like I’m completely losing it, but last time I checked, this was a contractual agreement: yet a key stakeholder (police) was dropped, the most pertinent historical (crime) data was never collected and yet the final report was accepted?

    In a feeble attempt to find consistency with Mr. Trump’s position on fencing as it relates to what he reported to the District, one may want to consider the following:

    Other interesting data: Mr Trump’s social and business media is very aggressive re safety measures YET, come fencing inconsistencies exist. Via , a school which has invested heavily in technology and hardware (cameras, alarms,metal detectors, perimeter fencing) Mr Trump expressed “”What’s happened since Sandy Hook is that schools are focused very narrowly on physical security measures. They’re invested on the hardware and technology side but haven’t been invested in the people side.”

    In support of fences and campus fights (78 fights withing one fall season at a Dallas high school, Mr Trump states, “fencing is a common sense approach to deter crime”.,4968760&hl=en

    In Arizona, “Fencing is one of the district’s top concerns.
    “Transients have been known to enter our campus over the existing fences,” said a districtwide threat-analysis report in January; the trespassing occurred at Dobson High School.”

    “Physical deterrents delay people that are determined. That’s for threats from the outside,” said Ken Trump.”


    The U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) Security Standards encourage a Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) approach, which promotes crime prevention through physical environments that positively influence human behavior. CPTED includes the following principles:… (2) Territorial Reinforcement: defined property lines and distinguished private spaces/public spaces through the use of landscape plantings, pavement designs, gateway treatments, and fences. ….

    Not to be completely off topic, but IF perimeter marking IS deemed necessary AND manufactured fencing is an eyesore, reduces value, interferes with the VFP gateway access, well…(etc..), according to our government CPTED, we could use a hedgerow to accomplish the same result. Yet, Mr Trump wanted to clear the brush (TEMS report p8, item 7)?. A hedgerow would initially be labor intensive and require moderate pruning but would outlive a manufactured fence, would provide an increased value to the area, have the same result as far as safety and protection go (etc…).

    Costs could potentially be negated somewhat if the project
    utilized various beautification and horticultural education grants (tons online). If one really wanted to branch out, the children could help plant the hedge-lings as a horticultural school event week: their efforts would be long lasting: what a positive spin and ideal way to beautify the landscape and environment while still establishing a perimeter. It’s a crazy idea, but I know my kids would love to partake in something like that, I would support it as a parent and it could be an opportunity to bring community together in a positive light. Open eyes, open heart.

  9. bri,

    graet comments that make sense but what is said on this blog doesn’t matter, going to meetings doesn’t matter, voicing citizen opinion doesn’t matter.

    What matters is getting people elected to the board who represent citizens and who have citizens and students in mind before anything else when making decisions.

    Focus on the next election. Who’s term is up? Who’s running? How many seats are available and where are they located?

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