Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD to Provide School Reopening Plan on Friday, July 24 – All Public Comment Due by Monday, July 27, 7 PM

Below is the letter regarding school reopening procedure from Superintendent Richard Gusick which was posted on the TESD website today. Although we expected the District to post its reopening plan this week – it turns out that the public will only have a few days to review and comment on the proposed plan. According to the letter, the District since has been “working non-stop in preparation for the new school year” since June.

The reopening plan will be posted on the District website on Friday, July 24 and public comments are due by Monday, July 27, 7 PM. The school board will vote on the final plan at a special board meeting on Wednesday, July 29, 7:30 PM.


July 20, 2020

Dear T/E Families and Staff,

I wish you all good health and wellness. As the summer progresses, I would like to provide you with an update on our planning process for the 2020-2021 school year and to announce some important upcoming dates.

Planning for Reopening

Since June, TESD has been working non-stop in preparation for the new school year. We have been meeting with stakeholders, receiving input, monitoring guidance and developing different plans and scenarios. A sampling of the preparation work happening over the summer includes:

  • Distance Learning Survey Results were compiled and posted on the District website.
  • The District continues to review feedback received through the Distance Learning Inboxes (open through July 31) on a daily basis.
  • A TESD Pandemic Team was formed to develop a formal reopening plan.
  • Teacher representatives and District administrators collaborated to review ideas for reopening.
  • District administrators met with representatives from TESD parent groups to gather additional input on reopening.
  • Review of the health and safety recommendations with local health officials and our school nurse team has been ongoing.
  • The District continues to monitor state guidance and recommendations from a variety of health and research organizations.
  • District administrators met with teachers by level to discuss reopening, receive feedback and answer questions.

New Guidance from the State Impacts Schools

New and ever-changing health guidance has required TESD to continually pivot and adjust our plans for how to reopen our schools this fall. You may have heard that on July 15, Governor Wolf released new directions for schools to help further reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. In addition, on July 16, the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health provided further clarification on these directions. This latest guidance includes limiting indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people and a recommendation for social distancing of six feet or more in schools. These changes prompted a complete review and reworking of the District draft plan.

Timeline for Reopening Plan Presentation and Approval

As mentioned previously, the draft reopening plan will be shared with the community this week. The plan will then be publicly presented to the School Board and voted on next week. Key dates include:

  • Friday, July 24 – Draft Reopening Plan to be posted on the District website on a new page dedicated to sharing emerging information about school reopening
  • Monday, July 27 – District Meeting to Present Reopening Plan and receive public comment at 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday, July 29 – Special School Board Meeting to take action on Reopening Plan at 7:30 PM

In accordance with state guidelines that limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, both upcoming meetings will be held virtually. Links to the live meetings will be available on the TESD website by 6:00 PM the day of the meeting. Directions on how to submit comments or to ask questions will be provided on Friday.

Elements of the Plan

Pennsylvania school districts are charged with developing a plan that describes how schools will operate under a red, yellow and green pandemic phase. Red phase plans operate under the assumption that school buildings are closed to students, and instruction is delivered virtually to all students. The virtual learning program will include increased live synchronous instruction at all levels. Yellow and green phase plans allow for a combination of in-person instruction and virtual learning. Because in-person instruction must follow the health and safety guidance, modifications to our typical program will be required. A 100% virtual learning model will be available as a choice for families in the yellow or green phases.

I trust that when we post our plan on Friday, some of your questions will be answered, but more will be generated. I would like nothing more than to open school safely on August 31 in the same manner as in previous school years, and I am saddened as an educator and as a parent that health directives will require major changes to what we normally do. Please know that we are doing our very best to maintain the safety of our school community and the integrity of T/E’s educational program delivered by T/E teachers and staff, either remotely or in person.


Dr. Richard Gusick
Superintendent of Schools

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  1. Typical TE. Trying to pull a fast one by holding the plan until the last possible second, and giving the parents 24 business hours to read, think about, and comment on the plan. We all know the school board is going to pass this plan no matter how horrendous it is. Why even pretend to give the parents a say? I know they certainly aren’t giving the teachers one.

    I don’t understand why our district is purchasing hundreds of cameras for in school learning when we could be spending that money on resources to create a better virtual learning experience. Our students and teachers deserve to feel and BE safe! People are pushing for schools to reopen, but has anyone thought about how different and scary it may be for students? They won’t get greeted by their teachers with a warm smile, no comforting touch when they’re struggling or upset, no contact with their classmates,.. no sharing books or toys, no playing games together… it sounds like a detention center- is that really what we want our children experiencing?

    1. Peeved in Paoli….it is my understanding, the cameras that were purchased for the remote learning. In other word, instead of simply having school assignments like last school year, the cameras will project the teacher actual teaching in class. Which sounds better than the failed experiment which occurred in the spring. Regarding your description of our kids not being greeted with smiles and it may feel like a detention center—for perspective, it’s a world wide pandemic! We are waging a war on a virus. Remember our history—-WW II And Rosie the Rivitor etc. those Americans came together and defeated Nazi Germany. Your student can stay at home and feel isolated our try to attend school and be with other classmates who are trying to create some sort of normalcy in a very wacky time.
      It is our hope, the school plan provides enough specifics to reassure that safety, for students and teachers are being provided.

      It is understandable, it is a very emotional situation involving our precious children. But we are all better served when we channel emotions and use our intellect and work together for useful solutions. (And Not spread rumors) Americans have done it before, we are capable of showing our kids we are capable of doing it now. Finally, we have effective therapeutics (Medicine) and there are several vaccines looking promising, we will get through this.

  2. I agree about the virtual program. It seems like putting time into that would have been productive. I saw somewhere (either here or Facebook) that there were only 3 sessions this summer, and many of our teachers didn’t get a chance to participate. I am worried the virtual option this fall is going to be a lot like what we had in the spring. But, I guess we will find out more on Friday. Fingers crossed for our kids and teachers.

    1. I recall that the school board agenda — I think it was June — listed three technology sessions for the teachers. However, I am not certain if/how it happened. At least one elementary school teacher has told me that he/she had NO sessions this summer but that one was planned for August, before school started. In anticipation of distance learning for the fall, other school districts held regular technology sessions in the summer.

      Other school districts did a much better job of keeping the public informed – one way was through a dedicated covid homepage displaying updates, etc. I read in the District’s letter that TESD is FINALLY getting a covid page on Friday, July 24 when the reopening plan is released. Shouldn’t TESD be leading rather than trailing other school districts?

  3. The spring remote learning was a total failure for my 2 elementary age kids! I look forward to seeing the reopening plan and learn what technology improvements the administration has put in place for the new school year.

  4. It says in this letter “in accordance with state guidelines that limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, both upcoming meetings will be held virtually “. This is to keep the people who attend the meeting safe. This is a meeting where they will be proposing putting a couple thousand students and staff together Indoors, 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. The irony of this is SCREAMING at me. HOW IS THIS EVEN REMOTELY OK?? If a 2 hour meeting with more than 25 people in attendance is not safe… how does anybody think that sending students and staff to school POSSIBLY be considered safe?

  5. The School Board is only giving parents a small window in which to consider their plan because they don’t care what we think.

    1. The school Board operates the way it operates because it is 100% controlled by the Administration. The Administration leads the school board to believe they are teaching them the way education works. They come to believe they have a profound knowledge of the way educations operates when in reality they are nothing more than extensions of the Administration. The Administration designs all policy, procedure and rules in a way that is written to protect and shield and benefit the Administration while parents, students and tax payers experience the brunt of their heavy handed ways.

      For good measure, our High School is referred to by a term that conjures negative feelings, thoughts and perceptions by none other than the person who leads it.

      The Big C- not a term of endearment. I think she and the others on West Valley Road who allow it, know exactly what they are doing.

      Maybe “they don’t care” because almost all of them don’t live in the District and don’t have children in our schools.

      1. How does “The Big C” conjure negative feelings exactly? I’ve heard that term used to refer to Conestoga since at least the early 80’s and never once considered it a negative expression.

  6. Proud Stoga Mom, I don’t disagree with you. This Board says they want public input, but give us a few days to comment. Actions speak louder than words sometimes. Same goes with transparency. They will say the process was transparent, compliment our administration for their parent and teacher meetings, and end the discussion. It is disappointing. The Board doesn’t know what we think, and they don’t care.

  7. The amount of negativity in many of the posts and comments regarding the TESD School board clearly resonates across many of the topics on the Community Matters site. I am in no way a School Board Apologist. Please keep in mind that as residents, we have the power to vote for other candidates. If you are dissatisfied with any or all members, exercise your right to vote them out. School board members are really more in alignment with state legislators and act as agents for the legislature.

    With regards to the school board plan, I wholeheartedly agree that compared to some other districts, TESD appears to be behind the curve. However I would guess that the TESD plan will be similar to others in Chester County as they are providing a fair amount of guidance on the subject. We have 3 kids in college and each one has “pivoted” from original stated plans at least once if not twice on their approach to teaching in the fall. And, most importantly, the chances of satisfying every individual concern, learning scenario, potential medical issue, etc. of every tax payer, parent, student, teacher is zero. The district has a responsibility to all. But knowing how diverse the opinions are on some of these topics, not everyone will end up happy with the plan to move forward.

    There have been references to the catastrophic results of the spring distance learning that took place at the end of this past school year. However the board had an OPEN survey for students, parents, teachers to respond. By the numbers, it looked like a pretty good representation filled it out. The results are posted on the district website. As surveys go, they appear to be ok to pretty decent. I can tell you that my spouse is a teacher in TE, and she felt that it could have been a better experience for the kids. But considering the relatively short amount of time each school district had to plan and put in place a program, I would contend it was not an unmitigated disaster. So, differing opinions will always be there.

    Finally, just my additional two cents..Since I have lived here, Conestoga High School has always been referred to as The Big C by students, teachers and parents. Always.

  8. The current Administration LOVES to tell us they’ve been in power for decades.

    Because THEY have been referring to OUR high school as “The Big C” for decades, does not justify it.

    Google “The Big C” and see what it says.

    If we kept doing things the way we’ve always done things, women wouldn’t not be voting, girls would not attend college and gays would not have the right to marry.

    The term has a negative, derogatory connotation and I believe that’s why they use it.

  9. I have lived here for 33 years. I have never heard anyone, Parent, Student or teacher refer to CHS as “the Big C.”

    I only see it referenced in official letters from the CHS Principal.

  10. I have four kids here and zero idea about “the big C”. After looking it up, as someone above suggested, I see it’s either cancer or a bifurcated sex toy. Either option seems utterly ridiculous to me.

  11. As a CHS graduate in the 70s, the term “the big C” was first used by Dr. Jack Rittenmeyer, the beloved Conestoga principal from 1972 until 1988, when he tragically died in a car accident. Given the many serious failings of this District and the CHS administration in recent years, it seems the community should be focused on more substantive challenges than the use of “the big C”.

    1. Agree. Tragic for all in TE in the 70’s and early to mid 80’s.

      The term “The Big C” has a completely different connotation now, in 2020 than it did in 1970. I doubt any Principal in today’s time would burden their school District with the label given its meaning and perception.

      I know many in the community who graduated from CHS in the 70’s and 80’s. I will ask them about this and report back. I have yet to speak to one parent, student taxpayer or teacher who refers to CHS as “The Big C.”

  12. Has anyone seen the plan yet? It was supposed to be released today b it I haven’t seen anything on the district website yet.

  13. Pattye,

    I’m wondering why you posted a new essay and then quickly took it down. Did V. President of the teachers union Amy Alvarez call you and ask you to take it down? It was a very good, very informative essay with inside information rarely seen by the public.

    I think you should repost it, it provides information that answers a lot of questions and clears up a lot of confusion.

    1. As background, the last Community Matters post was only up for about an hour. (For the record, I can name on one hand how many times I have ever taken a post down in 10 years!). Earlier today I was sent a copy of the TEEA email which Ms. Alvarez sent to the teachers. The TEEA email referenced “Community Matters blog”. The TEEA email I received did not contain any confidentiality statement — if it had, I would not have put it on Community Matters.

      I received an email from Ms. Alarez stating that her TEEA email had a confidential statement and that it was to be removed immediately from Community Matters. She also included the original TEEA email, which showed the statement. Her email was all that was required for me to remove the post. But — sadly, Ms. Alvarez decided that she needed to reinforce her message with a phone call.

      I CANNOT recall the last time that a complete stranger spoke to me the way Ms. Alvarez did — completely unnecessary, with a raised voice and tone that was abrasive and intimidating, demanding that it be removed immediately. It was so upsetting – the call left me shaken.

      To this point, I have been supportive of the parents and the teachers — my mantra has been transparency and communication from the school board and the administration. Apparently, Ms. Alvarez doesn’t see it the same way.

      1. In defense of Amy Alvarez, she probably took some heat and was understandably upset. Sounds like her original email had a confidentiality statement and whoever forwarded it to you either deleted it or did not include it. Maybe think twice before using that teacher as a source again.

        As a ‘Stoga parent, my kid had Ms. Alvarez for a teacher and she was a favorite. During the pandemic, her classes were robust and had good content. She isn’t an easy teacher, but is fair and wants every kid to learn.

        I would cut her some slack.

        1. Thank you for your comment. Let me be very clear here — I made no reference to Ms. Alvarez teaching ability one way or the other in my comment.

          I have had several occasions over the years to interact with TEEA and TENIG leadership. These interactions have always been pleasant and respectful on both sides and I have been supportive. (As I have been recently, of our teachers).

          As I stated in my comment, the TEEA email I received did not include a confidentiality agreement. My point in the comment was that an email from Ms. Alvarez to inform me of the confidentiality agreement and, then to request the removal of her TEEA message should have been all that was required. But to additionally receive this intimidating phone call was unnecessary and completely unwarranted.

        2. Stoga Parent,

          I completely disagree. Pattye, DON’T think twice about using the teacher who had the courage, integrity, decency and character to forward you that e-mail written by Vice President of the teachers union Amy Alvarez. Teacher who forwarded the e-mail to Pattye—-THANK-YOU, you did the right thing. Teachers have a RIGHT TO KNOW what reopening plans are and you should be and should have been part of the planning process. So should have parents, tax payers and students. Teachers, do not be intimidated by Amy Alvarez. Send your information to Pattye. Thank-you.

      2. Pattye, having read the previous post that you had to take down it seems clear to me that the union leadership has been largely left in the dark by the District. While it is unfortunate you felt shaken the lack of transparency, as well as a teacher sharing confidential information with you (multiple times this week) gives a pretty clear indication why Ms. Alvarez may have been frustrated when she called. Her letter indicated the teacher sharing information with you led to the District refusing to preview plans with the union. Perhaps the greater focus should be that is after 6 PM on Friday and we are still without the plan. The lack of transparency from district administration with the teachers, union, and community is the ultimate issue.

        1. Thank you. Yes, we do indeed have a problem with communication and transparency.

          As TEEA leadership, I am certain that Ms. Alvarez is “frustrated” as are many parents (and teachers) in the community. However, her email to me should have sufficed, I did not need to be on the receiving end of that follow-up phone call.

        2. TE Resident,

          You are confusing the point. Pattye was shaken by the intimidating way Amy Alvarez spoke to her, not because of the way Ms. Alvarez was left in the dark by the way the Administration treated her.

          The greater focus should be on how immature, unprofessional, small, petty, mean, disrespectful, rude and unacceptable out teachers and Administrators are to taxpayers, parents and students. Get rid of these people. They DO NOT reflect the values and decency and high standards the taxpayers in this District expect and deserve.

  14. Thank-you Pattye and I’m sorry you had to experience the hateful, mean, cruel projections of Vice President of the teachers union Amy Alvarez. I have also experienced her distain, resentment and animosity towards students and parents.

    Our District is a mess. We have allowed the teachers and the Administrators to amass way too much power. They fight with each other, don’t communicate and ignore taxpayers who pay for their outlandish salaries and benefits. We need to take back OUR District from the immature, petty, small and angry people we entrust with our children. This is beyond insane.

  15. Amy Alvarez, (Vice President of the teachers union)

    I find your treatment of Pattye and taxpayers and parents who pay your very generous ballooning salary and your benefits and your pension we pay for but don’t get……extremely disrespectful, unacceptable, inappropriate and rude. Who do you think you are?

    We have a big problem on our hands folks, and it isn’t the corona virus.

    1. Thank you. I encourage everyone to review the plan! We’ve got a short timeline as all comments are due by Monday, 7/27 at 7 PM.

      1. Pattye,

        Our comments don’t matter. Our comments are bla, bla, bla to them. Get rid of these people.

        1. Trying to be the optimist here — “How” the District opens the schools is important and maybe the public’s comments will matter this time!

  16. I find this comment troubling for a number of reasons, but I take the biggest issue with your comments regarding Ms. Alvarez as they are borderline libelous.

    Additionally, what exactly do you mean by take back “our” District?

  17. Libelous? Are you kidding me? Alvarez defends and protects teachers who verbally, emotionally and psychologically abuse children. She is the VP of a teachers union who stands by and watches while children get sexually abused and hazed. She doesn’t care about the children she teaches. She cares about her big salary and her outlandish benefits and pension. Read ALL the lawsuits tax payers fund so she can stand by and watch teachers break the law. Libelous? Really?

  18. Dear Confused,
    The teachers do not have the power that you seem to think they have. The teachers are in the same position as the parents and tax payers.

  19. As a TE parent, I have always been impressed with the quality of education provided by the teachers. I am disappointed that this is turning into an attack and opportunity to disparage a teacher based solely on Pattye’s account. Pattye, your instructions about comments say that things that could be perceived as offensive would not be tolerated. “Confused”’s comment in regards to Ms. Alvarez reeks of offensiveness to me. I hope you will not allow this to go on further.

    1. Although I was offended by Ms. Alvarez phone call, I appreciate your point. The community should now focus on the District’s reopening plan – families and teachers have much to review and consider! No further comments will be posted regarding Ms. Alvarez.

  20. Me,

    42 teachers at “the big c” (wow, so condescending, where in the world would Amy Meisinger go to get the pay she gets in TE) should be prosecuted for standing by, watching, facilitating, enabling children to be sexually abused. Hazed, verbally and emotionally assaulted by teachers on a DAILY basis.

    The teachers are in no way in the same position as parents, tax payers and students. You are protected and shielded by the Administration whether you know it or not. Try the REAL WORLD. Get a job in the private sector. None of you would last a week.

  21. Dear Confused,

    Are you seriously claiming that the T/E teachers verbally and emotionally assault students on a daily basis? Please stop with the alarmist rhetoric and hyperbolic claims. It’s ridiculous.

    If you think teaching is such a cushy and easy job, why not become one yourself? Or look into substituting? I think you may find it a rewarding experience and walk away with more empathy for educators.

    1. Anonymous,

      Thank-you for asking. Yes, I am claiming that teachers verbally and emotionally sssaukt students on a daily basis. I wrote all of them e-mails. Not one wrote me back. The Directory of Accoubtability sent an e-mail to me saying I would not receive a reply. I noticed a letter to parents on the District website right after that informing parents they we’re no longer allowed to e-mail teachers. Right before the pandemic hit, I addressed the school Board about one of them at a Committee Meeting. The President of the School Board was most concerned about me not mentioning the teachers name in public. They asked me no questions and clearly did not care about what I was telling them. I could tell they believed me, they just didn’t care. They don’t care because they know it doesn’t matter. Teachers can say and do what they want and they will not be fired. They/You have 100% job security.

  22. Well, if you review the timeline, your comments that you send before the deadline on Monday will be carefully curated and shared with the school board per the Admin’s discretion. They will not be shared verbatim, but instead curated for a pretty presentation ensuring everyone that the public is Happy!

  23. Anonymous, as former Stoga grad (within the last 10 years) I must agree that SOME of the teachers there were awful, but its mainly the principal and administration who rug sweep and avoid transparency. I had a teacher tell us it didn’t matter what he taught us because he had tenure and we were just an accelerated class and not honors or AP so no one cared if we finished the curriculum. I had teachers who were extremely touchy feely (giving shoulder rubs to female students in art classes) I’ve had teachers make who would embarrass and make students cry in front of the class. I had a friend who was constantly put in uncomfortable positions with a teacher who was later arrested for raping a student and nothing happened after she complained to the guidance counselor. I had a guidance counselor who laughed when I went to talk about my best friend trying to commit suicide and tell me “obviously she isn’t right in the head” she was in an inpatient facility for several weeks because she was deemed a danger to herself.
    I know how fortunate I am for being able to attend one of the best schools in the state, many of the teachers I had were inspiring and loved their jobs, but there were enough bad experiences that I will forever have a tainted memory.
    I remember my freshman year a student spread awful reputation and ruining rumors about me, and Amy Meissinger was the freshman assistant principal at the time. I went to her about this rumors and she GRILLED me on why he would say that, did I know him? Did I lead him on? Was I supposed to have done what he said? I was 14 years old and mortified to have to answer these questions when I didn’t even know the person who started them or why he’d target me.
    There are so so so many times administration has covered up terrible events at our schools, we had an under ground gambling ring, students incessantly sold drugs IN THE HALLWAYS, we had a student bring a gun to school after beating his mother, and when my brother called my dad to ask him to come get us and tell him what was happening, a teacher seized his phone for having it out in school. They wouldn’t return the phone, and my dad had to come in and retrieve it from the principal, who was adamant my brother had no reason to have his phone out… later the school came out and said it was an airsoft gun and nothing to worry about.
    It wasn’t. It was a hand gun that he showed other students and that he had threatened to kill his mom with the night before and was arrested for.
    Our school is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, you see what they want you to see, but you’ll never actually know what goes on there or
    how deep it truly goes.

    1. Peeved in Paoli….I want to Thank You for taking the time and provide insight into the Real TE. Culture.
      As parents, it’s good to get an insiders perspective. In this #MeToo environment, teachers also need to know we will NOT tolerate, touchy, feely
      Hands on our children….tenured or not tenured….they can hide behind a Union but they can not hide behind the law.
      You named the current principal of Conestoga HS, could you provide other names we should be aware of.
      Thanks again.

    2. Peeved says:

      “”””I had a friend who was constantly put in uncomfortable positions with a teacher who was later arrested for raping a student and nothing happened after she complained to the guidance counselor. I had a guidance counselor who laughed when I went to talk about my best friend trying to commit suicide and tell me “obviously she isn’t right in the head” she was in an inpatient facility for several weeks because she was deemed a danger to herself.”””

      This happened 10 years ago to “Peeved” and the same thing happens today. Children are encouraged to “talk to “counselors,”, spill their guts to them, they are told counselors are there to help them.

      Counselors are there to gather personal information on students. Counselors take advantage of students naïveté, youth, innocence and eagerness to please. When students ask for help because they don’t know how to handle a teacher who is treating them in an inappropriate, abusive, illegal way, counselors cut them off at the knees by doing nothing and blame the students for the teachers bad behavior. The students then feel hopeless, helpless and worthless and stop reporting because they have been trained that when they do report, they are blamed. Counselors then use information students give them against them and other students. Administrators do this too. It’s the TE way, the culture that was created long ago and is alive and well today.

  24. Holding- the touchy art teacher has since retired (Dr. Kerschner) the teacher who was arrested (I can’t remember his name but it was a news story a few years ago) was the tv teacher. And the teacher who said he didn’t have to finish the curriculum was Mr. Hughes, a science teacher. I cannot for the life of me remember the guidance counselors name, I will ask my friends and see if they remember him! I can only hope since it has been nearly a decade since I went to school there that the awful teachers have moved on or retired! There are definitely more fantastic teachers at CHS than there were awful ones, but the awful ones were kept for years even though their behavior was common knowledge.

  25. Be careful what you believe! The administration has been I closing the union amy Alvarez is t telling the truth she has you all FOOLED

    1. MaryPat,

      Could you please expand on your claim that the “Administration has been including” the teachers union in on the reopening plans. And could you please explain what you mean by Vice President of the teachers union Amy Alvarez isn’t telling the truth.

      Why would Amy Alvarez tell the teachers the administrators aren’t communicating with her when they are communicating with her. What benefit would Amy Alvarez get out of saying that when it isn’t true?

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