Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TESD Board Meeting on Monday, June 14: Will This Mark the 17th Straight Year for a Tax Increase? Non-Agenda Item: Critical Race Theory Has Parents Looking for Answers

On Monday, June 14, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School, the TE School Board will hold its first in-person regular board meeting in over a year. (Click here for the agenda). The lengthy agenda (400+ pages!) for the meeting includes the discussion and adoption of the 2021-22 final budget and virtual programming. Will the school board break the cycle of annual tax increases?

Regarding virtual programming, the school board will discuss and vote on the District’s recommendation as follows:

1. To decline K-8 virtual pilot for 2021-22 (based on insufficient enrollment commitment) and consider possibility of offering in future year and

2. To pilot on Personal Finance Course at CHS in a combination virtual format for the 2021-22 school year.

For many TESD residents, the focus on Monday will be on the school board and the vote on the 2021-22 final budget.  Included in the agenda information are three budget options – 0% tax increase, 2.5% tax increase and 2.7% tax increase. Given the school board discussion at the last finance committee meeting, the fact that a zero percent tax increase is included as a budget option is remarkable.  All school board members attended the finance meeting and as far as I could tell there was only one school board member (out of nine) advocating for 0% tax increase – and that was Rev. Scott Dorsey.

For months, some on the school board would have us believe that a zero-tax increase was an actual possibility, but is it really?  At one of the finance or budget workshop meetings at least one school board director suggested that a zero percent tax increase was disingenuous. (I took the remark to mean there would be a tax increase included for the 2021-22 budget). And at several meetings, another school board member repeatedly suggested that Harrisburg didn’t think that we (the TE taxpayers) were taxed enough, although there was no evidence presented to back up the remark.

For those that have only recently moved to the TE School District, you may think that a 2.5 or 2.7 percent tax increase is no big deal; particularly if your move here is based on a perceived quality of the education.  On the surface, I would probably agree but the problem is that a tax increase is an annual event in T/E.  If the approval of the final 2021-22 budget includes any tax increase – it will mark the  17th straight year of tax increases.

But it’s more than an annual tax increase that is troubling — questions continue to swirl regarding fictitious budgeting (underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses). Although residents regularly comment and ask specific questions regarding the District finances, there is little response from the school board. Clearly the answer should not be to simply follow the business manager, wherever he leads!

Critical Race Theory … Is the District teaching?

In addition to the scheduled agenda items, it is anticipated that parents will have questions for the board and administration regarding “critical race theory” (or CRT). There is confusion (or at least I should say that I am confused) about whether the school district is teaching critical race theory in the classrooms.

Critical race theory isn’t a simple – or single – idea. So … does the District teach CRT? There are those parents who claim that TESD teaches CRT and that it should continue. Conversely there are parents who do not support CRT in the classroom (and say that it is taught). And then there are those (including at least one school board member) who says that the District does not teach CRT. This should not be so difficult — does TE School District teach critical race theory?

The District has a contract with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), national consulting firm which provides racial equity training. Does this group provide CRT curriculum information/suggestions to the District?

I don’t have the answers, but parents should have no confusion on whether CRT is taught in TESD. According to District Policy 6132, “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum …” and “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum.” If followed, the policy takes away the confusion and parents can easily know what their children are taught. So other than the question about whether the District teaches CRT, is Policy 6132 followed?

This week, three Change.org petitions related to critical race theory and the TE School District began to circulate around the community.  The below links include the originator or group name, petition title and current number of signatures. To understand the position of those behind the individual petitions, click on the links. Review the petitions and read the comments.

Start Date: June 7, 2021
Originator: Concerned Parents
Title: Families Stop Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 493
https://www.change.org/p/families-stop-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 9, 2021
Originator: TESD Resident Anita Friday
Title: Support Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 123
https://www.change.org/p/change-org-support-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 10, 2091
Originator: United TE Parents & Community
Title: Uniting Tredyffrin-Easttown for Accuracy, Equity, & Respect
Current Number of Signatures: 264
https://www.change.org/p/the-entire-tredyffrin-easttown-community-uniting-tredyffrin-easttown-for-accuracy-equity-respect

Bottom line, whether it is the budget, yearly tax increases or critical race theory, the school board meeting on Monday, June 14 (7:30 PM, Conestoga High School) is important … please make the effort to attend.

Our collective voices need to matter more!

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39 Comments

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  1. CRT has no place in our schools. That is what they are teaching, sign the petition and show up to have your voices heard.

  2. Rosanna and Beth,

    There’s a lot of talk about CRT having no place in our schools and calls that it’s racist etc. What exactly is CRT? What does it teach our children? Why does it seem to make you and others angry and afraid? What will be the affects on our children if it is taught in the schools? Thanks

    1. To Curious
      If you are truly curious, you may want to do the research on your own. The internet provides information.

      From my research, Pacific Educational Group (PEG) is a left wing, one sided, consulting group that informs teachers that they are racist. During their consultations, they go on to teach the teachers that they see students by the color of their skin. You can do the research and see what you come up with. Dig deeper than PEG’s website. Look up PEG member’s backgrounds etc.

      TESB needs to be transparent and provide the specific details of PEG to the public regarding the results they want to achieve, including the budget costs (are they hiding the costs in “Other Expenses”) they are charging the community to divide our kids by race.

      Since PEG was initiated when Scott Dorsey was president of TESB, he may be a good resource. His insight would be welcomed.

      1. Rev. Dorsey’s insight into the situation would be welcomed. When the District signed a contract with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), I thought it was for a specified time and recall is was for one year (I could be wrong). However, I see that the relationship with PEG continues and is included in the District’s 2021-22 final budget.

        1. My recollection is it was a one year contract. When I was a school board member, I pointed out that it was inappropriate for parents not to review the educational materials the group was providing our children. I beleive PEG has a Marxist background and approaches. In light of this, I think careful scrutiny needs to be made of its approaches and contributions to our district. Such organizations tend to make the world into oppressors and oppressees and divide the world like Marxists do to benefit their cause. Additionally, a three year spend of $300,000 seems excessive. The truth about racial injustice needs to be taught in our schools. However, I am not sure this organization merits our confidence, particularly at this ongoing price. Too radical. Also,TESD is perfectly able to teach equality without the controversial PEG.

          1. Thanks for your comment Ed. According to some tonight, the PEG contract has been going on for 4-5 years and it was approved to continue in the 2021-22 budget.

          2. Ed,
            I recently saw the video of the TE Schoolboard meeting back in August 2018 where the PEG training was discussed. I was hoping to see you at the 6/14 SB meeting to shake your hand and thank you for your thoughtful concern about PEG and your experience of the training you went to. Diplomacy can be trying. You gave the parents, children and community a voice – you spoke up for us. Sadly, minds were already made up and the board clearly had no intention of showing taxpayers the respect of being informed, consulted with and a consensus formed. We were told last night that the SB signed a non disclosure agreement with PEG and that we have no right to see the materials being presented to our children. I don’t know about you but this is not how it works. Obviously there must be something to hide. We will find out what is being presented and there are legal means open to us to do so. When you follow the money trails, it will become clear what is going on. There are some communities where SBs have been tossed out. As long as we taxpayers are paying the bills, we WILL have a voice and we WILL have a say. Thank you again Ed for trying. Your heart was in the right place,
            Barbara

  3. You are correct, wherever Art McDonnell leads, the school board follows. We elected the school board directors but where’s the leadership? I love how they moan and groan and wring their hands about not wanting to vote for a tax increase but in the end, they always do. Other districts manage to keep their spending under control, why can’t TE?

  4. Not sure if it’s possible,but the School Board may want to put the CRT craziness at the beginning of the agenda, otherwise there are going to be a bunch of really anxious people hanging around for hours…

    1. Agree, with over 400 pages included in the agenda, it’s going to take hours to get to public comment. For those unfamiliar with school board meetings, residents are permitted to speak at the beginning but only comments pm agenda topics are permitted. And since CRT is not on the agenda, any of those resident comments would technically have to be at the end of the regular meeting. Yes, it would be better for ALL, if residents could make their comments at the beginning on CRT!

  5. You know CRT is not taught in public schools K-12. I’m sure most did not. I advise to educate yourself before you make an argument. But see you Monday!! Lol

  6. NOTE: I just received an email from a Community Matters reader with an excellent comment regarding tomorrow’s meeting.

    I looked up Pacific Education Group (PEG) in the agenda materials for the meeting — and found that PEG is listed on pg. 61 of the agenda, under contracted services for 2021-22 school year. As I said in an earlier comment, I was surprised that the contract continues with PEG, as I had recalled it was for a set time period, and thought that it was 1 year.

    Because PEG is included in the meeting agenda, I would suggest that parents could use the comment at the start of the meeting for their remarks. (Of course, this would assume that parents believe that there is a correlation between PEG and the teaching of critical race theory in the classroom.)

  7. Why do I keep seeing Kyle Boyer posting on social media that critical race theory is not taught in TE yet in reading Anita Friday’s petition, it says keep CRT in the schools. Can’t be both ways, which is it? I sure hope that the school board plans to address this situation at the meeting.

    Just sign me confused parent in TE!

  8. From Page 61 of 2021-22 TE School Budget…

    Plus, TESD just created a new “equity” position paying six figures. (they sure are making a lot of money off our kids)

    It has to be said, this community voted two African American men onto the TESB yet, we never had so many consultants teaching our teachers & students how racist they are/the community is.

    Anti-Defamation League Peer Leadership Program Training $4,000/year

    Concentrics, Inc. Induction Training In-person session $1,250/year; Virtual
    Session $1,450

    Bernard Hall, Ph.D. Urban Teacher Education, Virtual
    Learning Experience & Book Study $500 per workshop

    Racially Conscious Collaboration
    (Tony Hudson)
    Systemic Racially Conscious
    Collaboration -Family & Community
    Engagement Consulting
    $7,000 per full day of training

    Christopher Amari Johnson African American Studies Consultation $154/hr, Guest Lectures $450

    Pacific Educational Group Professional Development & Student
    Sessions on Equity Training not to exceed $6,000 per day

    Laura Roy
    Trainings (series of 3) to increase Staff
    ability to engage in anti-racist practices
    in classroom, school and community
    $5,000 for 3 sessions

    University of Pennsylvania, Graduate
    School of Education (Dr. Howard
    Stevenson)
    Workshops and Professional
    Development $1,500 per workshop

    Lori A. Watson Racial Equity and Social Justice
    Consultant
    Facilitation: $4,200 in person full day;
    $600/hr in person or $500/hr virtual;
    Coaching/Planning/Support $200/h

  9. Question(s)…
    There are three petitions:
    1-Against CRT
    2&3 For CRT

    Doesn’t the second petition’s originator (for CRT) have children who attend private schools? Why would you create a petition if your children are not affected by CRT in TE?

    Also, the 3rd “United TE” petition was started by TESB’s wife? In other words, it’s not organic and started by the public? That’s why it certainly has a political view point.
    More importantly, isn’t the view of the TESB that CRT is not being taught at TESD? Then, why would they start a petition for CRT?…Very confusing.

    Would help if we had some clarification/transparency to these petitions.

    1. Yes, this entire issue has me completely confused — and I have no idea the District is including CRT. At least one of the board members says CRT is not included in the curriculum yet there are parents who say that yes, it is included. During covid, many parents were working from home and therefore were more aware of the educational programming. I’m hopeful that parents will be allowed the opportunity to comment and ask questions at the meeting — and that the school board/administration will be honest and straight forward in the responses.

      1. Pattye,
        There have not been any lessons taught in CRT – other than the survey the HS students competed. Yet, all the staff is in the process of being trained in CRT. In fact, the teachers also took this survey, calculated their scores, and were asked to stand in a “color line” based on their score. What’s next? Our students asked to stand in a “color line”?

        1. Whats next? Teachers being required to wear colored armbands based on their color line score? Always thought the District / Admins were a bunch of power-drunk idiots, but this color line exercise should scare the crap out of everyone.

        2. I am a teacher in the District. @quietteacher is full of it – I have no idea what they are talking about.

          We are also not being trained in CRT. I am really unsure as to why this term is being thrown around. We are participating in social and racial equity professional development.

          1. Haha. I wish I was full of it, but that is not the case. If you have had the Courageous Conversations training, you have been put into a “color line” based on your score from that survey. That is a fact. This training is disguised as “diversity training”. How is a “color line” not a racist activity?

  10. During last Monday’s Finance Meeting, I brought up the points that presented in Pattye’s last post about discrepancy between budget and actual in the last few years to our school board. Doug and Ray also provided factual data to school board members advising them look into the way how our budget is formulated, if we should have any confidence in this year’s number.

    However, one of our board member still kept emphasizing on how much of the Special Ed and PSER expenses increased over the last 10 years, not mentioning how much of the district revenue also increased in that same period. She was trying to justify the tax increase and telling us that is the ONLY way we can buy a good school district to live in. The point is that response from her is just irrelevant to our questions. We were not asking about which expenses have gone up, we were asking why the projected budget was never aligned with the actual.

    To me it is just impossible to understand, why it is so hard to listen to our community member’s advice, to really face the fact and to look at the real problem? What is more important to our school board members? The community voice or their own opinions? Do they know they were elected to represent the constituents? Not just exercising their own judgements? Where is the spirit of public servant?

    I am curious to see how they would vote in this coming Monday’s meeting on our tax rate. With so much anger in the community since last year’s tax increase and so many questions that they never answered, will they finally listen or still act in their own arrogance? Residents, please make all the effort to attend this meeting. We need to witness how they play out to be our representation.

    1. Deana Wang,

      Thank-you for your comment. What you describe is astounding but nothing new to many of us who have been fighting this for years.

      Doug, Neal, Ray, Mike, Carol and Pattye have been making the same points you just made in your comment to the Board(s) for the ten years I’ve been paying attention so probably longer than that. Most of the responses Board members give to citizens have nothing to do with the question the citizens ask. And I get the strong feeling that they were given what answer they do give to citizens by Administrators who tell them to say it no matter what citizens say. Citizens are treated like unwanted nuisances in meetings that are orchestrated and executed by Administrators whose sole goal is to get approved what they want to get approved by the Board.

      What I don’t understand is how the Administration gets Board members to act in the best interests of the Administration election cycle after election cycle. Candidates go in the process just like you are doing. They say exactly what you are saying. Then, after they get in, it’s as if they become members of an elite club that only they and the Administration are members of and they listen and are influenced only by each other.

      IMO, all Board Members understand how the budget is formulated. They know Art overestimated expenses, underestimates revenues and uses this to raise taxes only to realize a surplus that is never returned to citizens year after year after year. An attorney named Arthur Wolk sued Lower Merion School District for the exact same budgeting process a few years ago. He won.

      If you win, I hope you will become the first elected Board Member besides Ed Sweeney (IMO) to stand up to the Administration and do what’s right for the tax payers in this district.

      1. Deana Wang,

        You say:

        She was trying to justify the tax increase and telling us that is the ONLY way we can buy a good school district to live in. The point is that response from her is just irrelevant to our questions.

        Board Members are trained to believe that there is a direct correlation between our highly ranked school district and our high taxes. There is no correlation between our high ranking and our high taxes. Our high ranking is due to the smart hard working kids who go to school here here because they’re smart educated hard working parents move here and send their kids to school here. It has nothing to do with the high salaries teachers and Administrators rake in at the expense of hard working taxpayers.

      2. Dear Concerned Citizen,

        I share your frustration. Because I came a long way serving community in various capacities in many years, I understand what does a public servant mean. Be honest, be humble, be sensitive and be courageous to hold onto the principles and do the right things for the people.

        1. Deana,

          Stacey Stone shared my frustration too telling me how she sympathized with BUILD parents who researched and worked hard to pick the best reading program for students. Then she turned against them the minute she got elected and voted in an inferior reading program asking few questions and voting for an even higher cost for the inferior reading program than the original half a million dollar cost with little to no discussion about it and fewer questions asked. I was there. I saw her do it. At least when Kyle Boyer votes against the parents who got him elected, he’ll say “I know I’m voting against the people who got me elected.” Wow. Then he’ll vote against the people who voted him in. Now Stacey is announcing in School Board meetings that the state says our taxes aren’t high enough.

          So Deana, you’re saying all the right things but I go by what people do not by what people say. And since you haven’t done anything, I have nothing to say.

  11. They should be cutting our taxes. They are top-heavy with useless drone administators.
    I sent this to the school district:
    Dear TE-SD:

    I am writing to urge you to do your part to ensure that our schools are returned to normal for the 2021-22 school year.

    The COVID-19 school guidelines passed down by the CDC all across the nation are unnecessarily harming our kids.

    Many school districts and local health departments are basing their face mask policies on this CDC guidance. But the CDC has flip-flopped on its position several times since March of 2020, leaving many confused. Now the CDC is recommending that children wear masks all day long in schools, despite the fact that these practices are not evidence-based and there’s no longterm safety data on such practices. Moreover, of the small amount of children who contract COVID, only 0.00%-0.19% of children are dying from it. Ten states have reported no child deaths. Credible international reports suggest that children are at extremely low risk of harm from COVID, with a 99.99% recovery rate. In fact, scientific studies show that the virus is almost entirely transmitted by adults.

    When the benefit of a medical intervention is in question, it is crucial to consider the potential harm. Social isolation through mandatory school masking and contact tracing causes substantial harm for children. For kids, there’s nothing more important than facial expressions, according to a world-renowned psychiatrist and medical ethicist Peter Breggin, M.D. Being in a masked environment, isolation or quarantine isolation goes contrary to that.

    In past pandemics, we have trusted parents to make responsible choices for their children — choices like keeping kids home when they’re sick. The presence of a novel virus that barely affects children is no reason to remove parental choice. Nor is it a valid reason to experiment with novel medical interventions that have not been studied for safety in children and where the “benefits” obviously don’t outweigh the documented harms.

    I urge you to reflect on the multifaceted damage that we are inflicting on our children and to move our state forward by putting kids first. It’s imperative that we restore trust in our communities — and place that trust back where it belongs; with parents.

    Please immediately support policies to lift harmful COVID-19 guidelines in our schools and return our kids’ learning environments to normal.

    Tom McCarey
    Berwyn

  12. Mission creep.

    When did our schools change their mission from educating students to become productive well rounded citizens, to becoming future Leftists?

  13. The comments on social media in response to the petitions keep saying that CRT is not in the schools. This is not true as it is 100% is in there, they just aren’t openly saying ‘CRT’. It is posted right on the School District page what content they are using from the Pacific Education Group. The “Beyond Diversity Training” is the framework for CRT. PEG has recently removed the description from their website of the course, but schools across the country are using that program hand in hand with CRT. T/E Posted this link in 2020 to explain the partnership with PEG: https://www.tesd.net/cms/lib/PA01001259/Centricity/Domain/1882/PEG%20Update.pdf Again, you can support CRT or oppose it, but it already is in existence in the schools on some level. Here is another section of what the TESD says they are using from PEG : https://learn.courageousconversation.com/courses/1049776/lectures/22235072 Critical Race Theory is required reading for the PEG Affiliate Practitioner Course. I am sure there are plenty of valuable components of the TESD Equity Initiative, but using PEG approved terminology doesn’t make it any less of an intro to CRT. And if you talk to a teacher who isn’t afraid to speak up, they will tell you that they have had to discuss topics in their classes (all classes, not just history or SS) that they are uncomfortable with and self admittedly unqualified to facilitate discussions on. I encourage you to do research on the PEG section of the TESD website. Other schools are openly calling it CRT in their handbooks which a quick google search will show.

    1. I am truly confused (and now troubled) by this issue — if, as you say, teachers are uncomfortable and possibly unqualified facilitating discussions, how is this helpful to the students, the parents, etc. There just has to be a better way — the community needs answers.

    2. There are many teachers troubled by this issue, but cannot speak out. There are some heavy hitters (teachers) in the district pushing CRT/diversity training…whatever term you’d like to call it. The district truly tries to honor parent and community input, so it’s vital for parents and the community to voice concern and present research proving this type of training creates more divisiveness and conflict. They listened to you when you demanded in-person learning (thank you for that), so I am remaining positive that the district will listen to opposition to this training. Thank you all for staying strong!

  14. Did anyone catch Kyle Boyer’s comments after most of the crowd left the CRT discussion?. He complained that he had to endure the micro aggressions of the community members who expressed concerns about CRT being taught in the district. It was at that point I decided to leave. The comment speaks to the Mr Boyer’s intolerance and racism. Yes, it goes both ways. The community is owed an apology if not a resignation. Disagreement does not equate with micro aggression. This comment though does serve as an example of the outcome of this type of CRT mindset.

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