Pattye Benson

Community Matters

T/E School Board Candidate Question #4: WHY Should We Vote for YOU?

The days are counting down to Election Day on Tuesday, November 5. There are 10 school board candidates for the T/E School Board and 6 seats available — do you know who you are voting for?

The saga of the elusive correction of the District’s $1.2 million accounting error continues. On my Community Matters post from yesterday I included the October 16 letter from Edward Furman, CPA from Maillie LLP which details their position. The Furman letter was subsequently added to the District website, ,although not easy to find.

It has been 4+ months since the school board vote of June 11 which directed the District to correct the District audits and Annual Financial Reports for 2016/17 yr and 2017/18 yr with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Based on the Furman letter, it is obvious that as of October 16, the business manager has not moved the process forward.

Given this recent information from the auditor leaves the public with more questions than answers about the District’s financial management. As a result, the upcoming election of 6 school board directors takes on increased importance!

I thank and appreciate that all 10 T/E School Board candidates (and earlier, the 8 Tredyffrin Township and 4 Easttown Township supervisor candidates) responded to my questions and hope that voters take the time to read them!

It is appropriate that the fourth and final question which I asked the school board candidates is as follows.

Question #4: What differentiates you from the other candidates and /or board member? Why should you be elected or re-elected?!

Doug Anestad Response:

One of the biggest things that differentiates me from the other candidates is my experience in both the private sector and the education field. I was in the technology field for a decade before being a public-school teacher for a decade. I have since returned to the private sector for the last six years. This diverse experience allows me to see issues from both sides.

The other thing that differentiates me is my history of speaking out for the parents and the community and trying to give them a real voice. If elected, I will not automatically think that everything the administration does can’t be improved.

I will do everything I can to give the parents and the community a real voice. This includes having them be members of committees and asking follow-up questions from the public instead of letting them speak and then ignoring their suggestions.

Michele Burger Response:

As a 21 year resident and parent of 3 district graduates, I have had the privilege of serving my community in various capacities, working in a non-partisan way to preserve the excellent public education that makes our community a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family. If re-elected, I’m planning for the future by advocating for an independent financial advisor, conducting a comprehensive evaluation of ALL district infrastructure, and supporting reading instruction based on “the science of reading” with data-driven interventions. My accomplishments to date:

  • Controlled wasteful spending (e.g. protecting taxpayers’ investment by saving $1.2 million on the security camera system without compromising student/staff safety)
  • Gathered community/expert input PRIOR to making decisions
  • Moved committee meetings to evenings
  • Held Open House regarding proposed high school expansion
  • Healthier start times
  • Air conditioning for elementary schools
  • Laptops for 7-12 grades

BUT, there’s more work to be done!

Roberta Hotinski Response:

I have spent my entire professional life working in science and higher education environments. I have served on the Board for four years, as education chair since January 2018. I have advocated for the following changes and helped make them a reality:

  • Healthier school start times
  • The Conestoga high school expansion
  • Elementary school air conditioning
  • Laptops for students in grades 7-12
  • Increased transparency through preservation of Board documents on the web (previously maintained for only 1 year)

During that time I’ve also been involved in the negotiation of three district contracts that were concluded with no disruption to the district. I’m an experienced leader who studies the issues and listens to the voices of all stakeholders, and I would be honored to serve another 4 years as a director for Region 1.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

As a licensed social worker, I bring a unique set of skills to the School Board. I am passionate about improving student wellness and safety. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth ages 10-24. Over 20% of children and adolescents in the United States experience mental health challenges impacting their academic success, functioning, and relationships. Oftentimes our students who are doing the best are struggling and don’t want to let us know. Through my work, we have added explicit goals related to student’s social-emotional learning and mental health into the District Goals. I am a skilled facilitator and trainer, and I have 15-years of experience working in difficult situations where trust, accountability, and transparency are challenged and developing collaboration. We can provide education excellence for ALL of our students and improve our budget process.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

Each current Board member brings unique strengths and perspectives to this role based on individual experiences and views. But one thing I have learned during my first term is that while from time to time I may disagree with individual Board members on a question, we all share a commitment to public education in our community. This job requires the dedication of many hours, not just in meetings, but also outside of meetings reviewing materials and preparing to be able to make important decisions that affect our entire community—all on a volunteer basis. Regarding the question as to why I should be re-elected, as an unopposed incumbent, I would say that over the past four years I have dedicated the time and energy to do this job and maintain the high standards for our public schools that our community deserves, and I am prepared to do it again.

Nicholas Lee Response:

I offer a unique perspective as an educator without any personal ties to the T/E School District administration or teachers union. I studied at the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University and at Saint Louis University’s graduate School of Education. I believe a healthy TE School Board should have a limited number of experienced educators on its team, but I also believe that the majority of these educators should not have a history teaching in or administering in TE schools. As a private school educator in Wilmington, DE, I bring knowledge and expertise concerning the educational needs of today’s students and families, as well as an understanding of the demands and strains on current teachers.

Kate Murphy Response:

My voting record demonstrates areas where I’ve differed from others. First, delayed start times. I liked the idea but wanted to hold off while we studied the options and carefully weighed the costs against the benefits. Second, the proposed literacy committee. I thought the committee would be a good mechanism for educating parents and taxpayers, supporting teachers in their work, and helping kids. Third, the budget. After lengthy discussion of the delayed payment of invoices and the troubling history of projected deficits and actual surpluses, I lost confidence in the budget process. I advocated for a tax increase consistent with the cost of living adjustment. I’m proud of these votes but even more proud of the work that went into them: studying the issues; discussing them with board members, administrators, and community members; and carefully weighing the options. If re-elected, I’ll keep pushing for what’s best, even against resistance.

Stacy Stone Response:

With reading specialist, special education instruction and supervision, and Deaf education certifications as well as Wilson Reading System training, along with more than thirty years of experience as a teacher, supervisor, and consultant in public, private, and parochial schools in Pennsylvania and Illinois, I will bring a broad view of education to the board. Specifically, my background and experience make me uniquely qualified to advocate for and monitor the provision of literacy instruction that includes systematic, explicit phonological awareness and phonics instruction in K-2 classrooms in T/E. Finally, as a 33-year Tredyffrin resident and parent of two grown children who attended T/E schools, I understand parents’ concerns and will keep them in mind as I work hard to preserve and improve our district’s educational programs and services to prepare ALL of our students for the future.

Ed Sweeney Response:

For the past four years, I have had success as a challenging and reforming yet more conservative voice on the Board. TE needs to lower our yearly tax rate and have financial accountability, real time financial reporting, and partner with parents. My record shows that I have tried hard to effectuate these needed changes. I will take a minority position if it makes a necessary point that makes the community think more deeply on an issue. I have been successful at working to find the votes for a middle ground position.

My vision as a TE School Director to maintain and improve the high quality of our School District is: (1) be a world class school district that prepares our students for College and life and (2) maintain an affordable community where middle class voters, single income families, and retirees can live without being taxed out of the district.

Sue Tiede Response:

I have spent my entire professional career in education. As a teacher, school counselor, elementary principal and district-level administrator I have had the privilege and the responsibility of working with children, parents, teachers and community members to provide students with an unrivaled public-school education experience. As a proud parent of three Conestoga graduates and the grandparent of five young students who live in the T/E District, I am deeply invested in ensuring our first-rate schools continue to be the cornerstone of this vibrant community in which we live.

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  1. For the record, board member, Ed Sweeney, was the only TESB member to request President Scott Dorsey to reveal the auditors letter to be available to the public during this past week’s school board meeting.10/28/19.

    It’s unfortunate, but obvious to anyone who is paying attention, Michele Burger, VP, and up for RE-election, is playing politics with her Facebook posts and “accounting” for the auditors letter.

    Is this how Ms Burger and her running mate, Stacey Stone plan to be transparent?
    WAIT for over six months to receive auditors lettter.
    When receive auditors letter, sit on it —October 16th.
    Do NOT share with the public at school board public meeting —-October 28th
    Then, use inside leverage as VP, to announce to public at Build meeting, that YOU will release the auditors letter— October 29th
    And post on your Facebook…

    This is the the big city, swarmy, politics we thought we escaped from.

    TE parents, taxpayers & voters should be disgusted!
    “Wake Up Everybody”…

    1. This election should not be about party affiliation but who can and will do the right thing for our district. I have been continually impressed with the fact that Ed Sweeney actually engages with school board meeting attendees, whether I agree or not with all of his statements, i sincerely appreciate his engagement. As for Michelle Burger, I am appalled the way she treats people during school board meetings. I find her quite hostile which makes it quite clear that I will in no way support her.

  2. Thank- you for this information Holdnt Out.

    You say:

    “””TE parents and taxpayers should be disgusted!“””

    Now is the time to do something about it. VOTE!!!!!! Speak now Parents and tax payers or hold your peace for the next FOUR years.

    I attend Committee meetings. When preparing to head out for the meeting, one thought is with me….”I hope Doug Anestad is there.” He never lets me down. He’s always there and has attended hundreds (no exaggeration) of Committee meetings over the years. No one and I mean no one knows and understands the issues——, every single issue, ——like Doug. He stands up, and represents and fights for taxpayers, kids and parents. He is a District treasure!

    Help Doug help Kate Murphy and Ed Sweeney. Help them vote for us by voting for them.

    1. Some questions for people to ponder when you vote on Tuesday:

      Do they really think things are going to change, that they’re going to get transparency by re-electing the current cast of Democrats that have allowed the administration to lie to them?

      Do they think these people will change their behavior if they’re voted back in?

      Hardly. By voting them back in it is going to validate their behavior.

      All the people complaining on this site about the lack of transparency, accounting errors and the host of other things will still be complaining next year.

      And just wait until this cast of Democrats “negotiates” this upcoming teachers’ contract. (Prediction: It will be a giveaway!)

      You expect Boyer and Stone to be firm with their buddies in the union and represent the taxpayers who elected them? (If you think that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.)

      Dorsey, Burger, Whitlow, Itin, Hotinski, and Kantorczyk and Boyer – all Democrats – just voted to raise your taxes 4% for no reason – do you get it, they don’t even need a reason to raise your taxes they just do it anyway.

      You think it’s going to get better and more transparent with another ex-teacher (Stone) and ex-district employee (Tiede) on the board? Do you really think they’re going to hold this administration accountable?

      Why? They’re not doing it now.

      The Democrats aren’t being transparent now, and re-election is only going to affirm their behavior.

      We get it – voters took it out on Republicans at all levels because of Donald Trump.

      And this is what you get when you cannot make the distinction between the _______ in the White House and a local School Director.

      You get what you vote for.

      1. Well said Easttowner II,

        TESD and TEEA Reach Tentative Agreement;

        Now we know why not one candidate mentioned the upcoming teacher contract:

        While all of them were talking about transparency, they were negotiating the teacher contract in secret, behind closed doors and away from public view.

  3. The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

    With your vote on Tuesday, you are choosing how you want our District to move forward in the future.

    Art’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time. The majority of the Board follows Art’s culture of corruption rather than working to correct it by holding him and the Administration accountable. We can’t move forward with character, honesty dignity and integrity until we root out the corruption.

    The Administration will not change unless they are held accountable. Todd, Roberta, , School Board Candidate Michele Berger, and Teacher Kyle Boyer know the Administration lies to them, they know Art used the accounting error to fraudulently inflate the proposed huge tax increase. They choose to protect and shield him rather than hold him and the Administration accountable. This is how it’s going to continue to go unless we vote back in Kate and Ed, and vote in Doug Anestad.

    1. Eastowner 1,

      You wrote, “Todd, Roberta, , School Board Candidate Michele Berger, and Teacher Kyle Boyer know the Administration lies to them, they know Art used the accounting error to fraudulently inflate the proposed huge tax increase. They choose to protect and shield him rather than hold him and the Administration accountable.”

      This is your opinion. You have no idea whether it is true or not. Having spoken directly to these school board members, I believe it is not.

      Also, your opinion that Mr. Anestad is a “District treasure” suggests you did not attend any school board meetings in 2016 and 2017. His conduct at a number of SB and committee meetings was, IMO, way out of line, incredibly uncivil and even threatening. Some of his behavior is available for viewing on archived SB meeting tapes.

      Where is the transparency you and other commenters value? Sign your names.

      1. Kathleen,

        As Neal says:

        “””””So the story of “in the fall of 2017, the auditor knew about our error and accounting treatment” and the Business Managers assurance that “the auditors signed-off on this accounting treatment” are UNTRUE! As the auditor says “the appropriate person to be informed….were not made aware of this issue until April 2019”. We were defrauded by the Admin who insisted the Auditors were informed at the time (the Board was defrauded and by extension ALL of us!).””””””

        Your beliefs are not consistent with the evidence.

      2. Kathleen,

        You’re right, I’ve never witnessed Doug’s conduct reflect what you are describing. As a matter of fact, just the opposite.

        The Board doesn’t like to be held accountable. Doug holds them accountable by knowing the facts and asking questions.

        I remember one meeting in particular, he was asking the Board and Solicitor questions about a report in a local paper about an angry judge rebuking our Solicitor about a current case. Instead of answering Doug’s question, the Solicitor held a big piece of square card board in front of his face. He then pushed a button on the table letting out the loudest most obnoxious sound I had ever heard. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Board Member Virginia Lastner calmly smiled and adjourned the meeting. , All citizens in the audience were affected. The Board was not affected in the least. It was clear the stunt was orchestrated in order to avoid answering Doug’s questions. It was deeply offensive and highly disturbing. I have seen Doug have to endure indignities like this time and time again.

        Most citizens wouldn’t come back. Doug comes back. Vote for Doug.

        1. It is interesting that each time Kathleen tries to slander my name, people keep saying how ridiculous it is. She can’t forgive me to making the one one ultimate sin – I left the Democratic party. The irony is that I primarily left it because of her lies and lack of caring about our community. Before I left the party, she praised me and my efforts in backing the community. Almost over night I went from a hero to a villain because I changed my party. She really needs to get over it.

          Anyone who has watched me over the years knows that I care about our community and believe that it is the people here that make it great – not any single administrator, not any single representative, not any single political party.

      3. I was really hoping that Kathleen Keohane would disappear from our community comments after moving out of our community and moving to Florida. I guess that will not happen. For those that don’t know, Kathleen Keohane was the former Democratic Chair for Tredyffrin Township. She never cared about the truth or our community, only about electing Democrats.

        She is right about one thing. I was pretty mad during the 2016-17 school year in regards to the school board completely ignoring the community for close to a year in dealing with the Valley Forge Middle School fences. I got involved after going to my first facilities meeting after hearing about the proposed fences and asked a simple question – why is the school district proposing these new fences. Peter Motel’s (the chair of that committee at the time) answer was “Because we can”.

        I had never before experienced such arrogance from a public official. It wouldn’t be the last time in regards to the school board.

        That school board didn’t care about our community. Pete Motel called our community names during multiple meetings and not one school board member spoke out against that. Hundreds of community members spoke out against the proposed fences in emails, at board meetings, and at a special meeting at Valley Forge Middle School. None of that mattered to a majority of the school board.

        It was during this time that I witnessed Art McDonnell, business manager for T/E, lie under oath to try to justify the fences.

        The board never once (although some individual board members did) tried to sit down with the community and come up with a compromise.

        The only reason that there is not a fence around the entire lot, including the fields, for Valley Forge Middle School is because the community hired a lawyer to enforce an agreement between the Chesterbrook Civic Association and the T/E School District. Multiple members of the school board tried to deny that there was an agreement even though their lawyer said as much in a sworn deposition.

        The only reason that the fence on Valley Forge Road is not six feet high is because the community hired a lawyer to fight the school district at the township level. We won that fight and therefore the school district was not allowed to have a six foot fence in the current location. The four foot fence is not due to comprise, the school district even applied for the permit to start construction of the six foot fence there.

        In both of those cases, our community had to hire a lawyer. Even though we won in both cases, it caused severe financial hardship for our community. The school district didn’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money to fight the community.

        I was far from the only individual who was upset by the behavior of the school board during that time period.

        After going through that experience, I learned quite a bit about how the school board and the administration by going to many meetings. I have been going to meetings since.

        I wondered how the school board could completely ignore our community. That was when someone let me know that the voting region for my area was underrepresented by close to 50%. I worked very hard and was successful in getting the boundaries redrawn so that we had equal representation. A good side effect is that the community of Valley Forge Middle School will be able to vote out 6 board members from two regions instead of the prior 3 one one region if they don’t listen to our community in the future. The 3 board members in the old region voted for our community while 2 out of the 3 in the new region did not. I am proud of that accomplishment in getting better representation.

        This current board is much better than that prior board as a whole. They are way more respectful to the community and listen more to the public – with the exception of financial matters.

        I wish that the current board understood oversight better and understood how much they are manipulated by the administration into believing things that are not true.

  4. Nick Lee is R, running against D and recently appointed to the Board Mary Itin. In her short time on the Board, Mary Itin has demonstrated who she is and where her allegiances lie, and they’re not with students, parents or tax payers.

    I have never met Mary Itins opponent Nick Lee. I was all set to cast my vote for him. I like what he says , and I know I don’t like what Mary Itin does. I’ve been tied up in knots since Nick revealed he’s an out of District High School teacher. As I have said many times, school teachers and Administrators should not run for the Board.

    This is a race in my voting region. I was going to leave this one blank and not vote, but I’ve decided to cast my vote for Nick.

    True, I don’t know what I’m going to get with Nick, but I sure know what I’ll get with Mary Itin and I don’t like it. And you can be sure, if Nick wins out over Mary, he’ll know who I am.

    1. It is very possible that as of the end of today, the Democrats will have put two former T/E teachers on the board and one T/E administrator on the board. When will it be enough? When there are five former T/E teachers on the board and four former T/E administrators on the board?

  5. Democrat Directors Todd, Roberta, and Kyle are burying their heads in the sand and shirking their responsibilities.

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