Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Anne Crowley

PA State House 157 Democratic Candidate Jed Grobstein withdraws, Marian Moskowitz (D) to challenge incumbent Warren Kampf (R) in November

The Chester County Democratic Nominating Committee held their convention this past Saturday. Prior to the election, Democrat Jed Grobstein withdrew his name from the PA State House 157 race and Democrat candidate Marian Moskowitz was endorsed by acclamation. Grobstein provided the following press release explaining his withdrawal from the race:

Jed Grobstein stepped back in the interests of party unity today to throw his support behind long-time Tredyffrin Township resident and Phoenixville developer Marian Moskowitz in the race for the Pennsylvania State House, 157th district. In a statement posted on his campaign facebook page and website, Jed said,

“I regret to announce that I am withdrawing my name from contention for the State House in the PA 157th. Over the last several weeks it has become clear that the Democratic Party has rallied around the campaign of Marian Moskowitz. With her endorsement at the County Convention she deserves all of our support. I believe that Marian’s achievements as an entrepreneur and as a prime architect in Phoenixville’s redevelopment make her exactly the sort of leader we need in Harrisburg.”

Further, he urged his supporters to focus on November, saying, “I look forward to supporting [Marian] as we all focus on defeating Warren Kampf, Tom Corbett and their ‘governance by crisis’ in November.”

Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) is seeking the vacated seat of Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania’s sixth district. The Chester County Republican Committee endorsed Costello at their nominating convention last week. The Chester County Democratic Committee endorsed candidate Manan Trivedi on Saturday at their convention This marks Trivedi’s third run for Congress and is hopeful that Gerlach’s retirement will provide him the opening he needs. However, it is my understanding that Democrat Mike Parrish, a successful businessman from Malvern, plans to stay in the race, making for a contested May primary.

The Chester County Republican Committee endorsed current State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) for another term and with the withdrawal of Grobstein, he will face challenger Marian Moskowitz (D) in November.

I was very surprised to see that former T/E School Board member Anne Crowley has quickly stepped back into politics. Not seeking a second term on the school board when her term ended in 2013, Crowley is the endorsed Democratic candidate for the PA State House 167 seat, currently held by Dwayne Milne (R). By a very narrow margin of votes, Milne defeated Crowley for the 167th District seat in 2006. As a personal note, Crowley’s presence is missed on the T/E School Board!

Clarification of TE School Board receipt of outsourcing alternative strategy

This post is offered as clarification regarding the ‘outsourcing alternative’ strategy that Neal Colligan prepared for the TE School Board’s consideration and the receipt of the document . On June 4, Neal sent the following email to the school board at the District email address ( ) with the outsourcing alternative document attached. (I was copied on the email). As previously explained on Community Matters, the document represented the collaborative effort between community members, District aides and paraeducators and, health care experts. (You can find a copy of the document at the end of this post).

As you know, a group of community members, along with many of the Paraeducators working in the district have been working on an alternative to the outsourcing strategy discussed at the May 13, 2013 Board Meeting. Attached is the result of these efforts. The many citizens of our community who have supported this initiative ask that the Board please seriously consider what we propose. In essence, we urge you to comply with the letter of the Affordable Care Act and keep these several hundred jobs in the District. We believe that this can be accomplished in a fiscally responsible and budget positive manner as you will see.

To be clear, we do NOT represent this employee group. They, like us, are members of our community searching for solutions to a community issue. Unlike those of us who have volunteered to help, they will be directly impacted by your decisions on this matter. Their input was critical in considering the design of this strategy. Many of these District employees are living in fear of workplace retribution for being a part of this effort. As such, we will not attach their names to this conceptual plan.

Finally, it is a conceptual plan only. As we did not possess all of the data necessary, we used estimates where necessary. You will not be limited by this lack of information. As in any conceptual plan, there will be issues to work out in the implementation process if you choose this alternative. We believe that this concept can produce a viable alternative to your current strategy that is good for the District employees, taxpayers and the community at large. As engaged members of the community, we are prepared to help in any way we can as you search for a solution to this issue.

Please accept this in the spirit it is intended…as an attempt to help. Let me know when you receive as I can send this attachment in another format if necessary.

Neal Colligan

Rather than a response from the School Board to this email, a receipt from business manager Art McDonnell was sent to Neal. It was unclear whether the Board received the information. Because the outsourcing alternative document was to be publicly distributed on June 5, and because it was important that each Board member receive a copy in advance, I forwarded Neal’s email (with accompanying outsourcing strategy document) to each School Board’s personal email address (Neal was copied on the email) with the following message:

All –

I am re-sending Neal’s email and attached ‘Outsource Alternative’ on the outside possibility that you may not have received it.

Over the course of the last 3 weeks, we have met with many of the aides, paras and substitute teachers and I’m certain that as Board members, you share our interest in saving these District employees and their jobs. It is impossible to fully measure the value that this group of employees brings to the District’s children and their families daily. Understanding the current economic requirements of the school district, I hope that you will give Neal’s plan the complete review that it deserves. We both believe that the aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers are valuable assets to this community and their jobs need to be preserved, not outsourced.

Please let Neal or me know if there is anything we can do to help, as you review the various options.

Kind regards,

Pattye Benson

Following the re-sending of the email with the attached outsourcing alternative document, I received no notice of receipt from any Board member nor was there any response from the District. As a result, it remained unclear if individual Board members had received the information. A couple of days after sending the initial email, Neal did receive a personal email from Anne Crowley (no other Board member or myself were included on the email) stating that she would review the information he had sent regarding the alternative proposal. She went on to thank him for his “attendance, comments and thoughtful participation regarding school board issues.”

Other than the private email from Anne Crowley to Neal, I am unaware of no other school board or District communication to Neil in regards to the outsourcing alternative document – official or otherwise. Neal received no Board ‘thank you’ for his efforts as was stated at the Finance Committee meeting. And for the record, there was no response to my email (above) by any School Board member. I hope that this clarifies the matter and I apologize for any misunderstanding.


Click here to read the outsourcing alternative strategy as provided by Neal Colligan.


Easttown Region III School Board Members Betsy Fadem and Anne Crowley decide not to seek re-election to TESD

As a follow-up to my last post on Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates and TESD School Board candidates, I have updated information on the two Easttown, Region III positions on the T/E School Board. The two current Region III Board members Betsy Fadem (R) and Anne Crowley (D) are not seeking re-election.

Exceeded in longevity only by Pete Motel, who is in his fourth term on the School Board, Ms. Fadem has decided that three terms on the Board is her limit. Ms. Fadem was elected to the Board in 2001 and 2013 marks her twelfth year in office — she will finish her third term this December. Currently Ms. Fadem chairs the Finance Committee and serves on the Facilities and Policy Committees.

When I asked Ms. Fadem if there was a reason behind her decision not to seek re-election, she responded with the following:

I have decided not to seek re-election for a fourth term as a T/E School Director and will complete twelve years on the Board in December 2013. I believe it is time for a new generation of members to serve.

I am proud of the work and accomplishments of the Board and the District during my tenure and I look forward to other opportunities to serve the community.

The other currently serving Easttown, Region III Board member, Anne Crowley, has also decided not to seek re-election. Ms. Crowley was elected to the Board in 2009 and currently serves on the Policy and Legislative Committees. Behind Ms. Crowley’s decision not to seek a second term on the Board, is the idea of giving others in the community an opportunity to serve.

Since the first of the year, there have been two particularly important votes taken by the Board – the vote to hire former police chief Andy Chambers as the District security expert and the vote to approve a consent agenda that included administrator raises (therefore not allowing for public discussion). In both of these important votes, Ms. Crowley cast a dissenting vote. Lack of Board transparency was her stated reason in both of these votes. Transparency in our government’s actions is very important; thank you Anne for also making it a priority. I would be remiss if I did not also say that Rich Brake, like Ms. Crowley, cast dissenting votes on these two issues, stating lack of transparency as his reason.

There are four Easttown, Region III candidates for the School Board. Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner and Maryann Piccioni are cross filed, Republican and Democrat and Jean Kim has filed as a Democrat only. The Tredyffrin, Region I candidates for the School Board, incumbent Kevin Buraks (D) and Peter Connors (R) are cross-filed, Republican and Democrat and Tredyffrin, Region II candidates for the Board, incumbent Rich Brake (R) and Scott Dorsey (D) are also cross-filed Republican and Democrat.

Andy Chambers Hired, Superintendent Waters to Retire and TESD Tax Increase not to Exceed 1.7%

Highlights of 1/28/13 TESD Meeting —

Adoption of the 2013-14 TESD preliminary budget: By a unanimous vote the Board approved a resolution not to raise taxes above the Act 1 Index level of 1.7%.

Reconsideration of District Safety Consultant, Andy Chambers: Former police chief Andy Chambers attended the TESD meeting last night. Chambers offered no comment; however Superintendent Waters defended his choice in Chambers, offering a list of his qualifications, and firmly stating that the hiring was not cronyism as some in the public had suggested. TESD solicitor Ken Roos stated that he was of the opinion that the Board had not violated the Sunshine Act with the consent agenda approval of January 7 to hire Chambers. However, Roos recommended the ‘reconsideration’ of Chambers so as to avoid possible legal costs to the District, if the Board’s January 7 action was legally pursued.

There was no mention from Waters, Roos or the Board members with regards to the issues surrounding Chambers departure from the Tredyffrin Twp Police Department. A few residents spoke in favor of hiring Chambers with only one resident asking about the “two sides of the story”, referring to the Finance Committee meeting and the dialogue between myself and Chambers and Kevin Buraks.

Although all members of the Board supported Chambers as qualified to serve as District Safety Consultant, two Directors voted against his hiring. Using the lack of transparency in the process as reason, Anne Crowley and Rich Brake did not vote with their fellow board members to hire Chambers. Crowley read a prepared statement, saying that although Chambers’ was qualified; she spoke of the need for transparency and that other candidates (besides Chambers) should have been reviewed in the process. Chambers was approved as District Safety Consultant 7-2.

Consent agreement and the inclusion of the Supervisory, Confidential and Administrator Compensation Plan, Compensation Adjustments for 2013-14 and One-Time Bonus: Ray Clarke asked if these items could be separated from the consent agenda for Board and public discussion. Board President Kevin Buraks response to Ray was that the discussion of these items could occur after the consent agenda approval.

Buraks took the vote to approve the consent agenda without discussion. The Board voted to approve the consent agenda with the exception of two members. Although voting with their Board members on the rest of the consent agenda, Crowley and Brake excluded their approval of the compensation plan , adjustment and bonus (#C2 and #C3), again using transparency in the process as the reason.

Following the consent agenda approval, Waters explained the compensation plan and budget impact. Unfortunately, at this point it was 11 PM, and I did not understand his explanation of the specifics of the costs. (If anyone has the details, please offer them as a comment.) Again on the defensive, Water defended the compensation plan, etc. listed as a consent agenda item – stating that this is the way it has been done for 10 years. My response is – does that therefore make it right? I have previously stated that the purpose of the consent agenda is for routine items (such as meeting minutes or financial reports) and I do not view a multi-year compensation plan and bonus as routine.

The other noteworthy item of the evening, occurred during Waters’ explanation of the compensation plan and budget impact — Waters announced his retirement at the end of the 2014/15 school year, explaining that he wanted to have the compensation plan in place for his successor.

For the record, between Waters and Roos talking about ‘blogs’ and ‘blog comments’ and the presence of Andy Chambers at the meeting, I found the meeting more than a little intimidating. Although Community Matters was never mentioned ‘by name’, the continual reference to the blogosphere was not lost on me.

It’s important that the public‘s business be done in public, so that we can be fully informed. When the right to public discussion is removed, it becomes our responsibility to speak out … our ‘collective voices’ are important. An easy cure for lack of transparency is full visibility.

Tredyffrin Teachers Union Accepts Fact Finder Report, T/E School Board Rejects

The results from last night’s special meeting of the T/E School Board were anticlimactic and expected. Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association, the teachers union, voted to accept the fact finder’s report from the PA Labor Relations Board. With a vote of 7-2, the School Board voted to reject the report. Kris Graham and Anne Crowley provided the two dissenting votes in support of the fact finder’s report. The recommendations in the fact finder’s report must be accepted or rejected in its entirety.

According to Jeffrey Sultanik, TESD contract negotiator, no public discussion of the fact finder’s report is permitted until the report is published. It is expected that the PA Labor Relations Board will release the report today. During the next 10 days, the public can weigh in on the report and on then at a second special meeting on Monday, August 20, the school board will take another vote on the report. If the school board votes again to reject the report, traditional negotiations will resume between TEEA and TESD.

There’s Money in Naming Rights for School District Athletic Fields, Concession Stands, Auditoriums, etc. – T/E Explores the Possibilities

I attended last night’s School Board meeting, primarily for the presentation from Market Street Sports Group, a marketing advertising company from Lancaster County specializing in event sponsorships and ‘naming rights’ opportunities. Two Market Street representatives, Frank Hoke and Tracey Brubaker, explained that they have worked with various school districts using Hempfield School District in Lancaster County as an example and one of their clients. Through corporate sponsorships and naming rights on fields, concession stands, etc. the company raises additional funds for their clients.

The Market Street presentation answered some of the advertising and marketing questions. The school board would retain final approval on all corporate partners, proposals and contracts. Certain types of advertising is prohibited including advertising of lotteries, promotion of the sale or use of alcohol or tobacco products plus any service, product or point of view that is not acceptable to the school board. The Market Street Sports Group process includes creating an inventory of available resources for naming rights. Signage strategically placed in certain approved areas of schools, athletic fields, gyms, concession stands, auditoriums, or cafeterias are some possible naming locations.

Naming rights and signage can be lucrative to school districts – representatives cited that Hempfield School District earns $100-130K per year with various naming opportunities. A specific example was a banner over the concession stand on one of the school fields earns $30K for a 3-year contract, $10K per year. The cost of doing business with Market Street Sports Group does come with a price – a commission rate of 30%. As explained, the first 10% goes to the sales rep at Market Street (for selling the sponsorships), the next 10% to the local TESD representative and the final 10% to overhead costs (billing sponsors on monthly basis, credit card fees, etc.) The process involves more than just hanging a banner on a field – the sponsors require value for their marketing dollars as well as the school districts gaining additional funding. Through ‘active engagement’, the sponsors reach customers in a specific demographic area through public address announcements, website advertising, promotions and giveaways at sporting events, etc.

Hoke, who serves as chief financial officer of Market Street, was asked if the 30% commission rate was negotiable and his response was vague and not positive. An audience member who quickly Googled the Hempfield School District (which was used as an example by Market Street) suggested that the average income level in Hempfield was probably half of the average income level in T/E. She suggested that the T/E community had the capacity for making more money for Market Street (with no greater effort) so perhaps that should be considered when looking at the commission rate. Although the representatives were polite, I am not certain that the 30% would be negotiable.

School directors questioned how Market Street would find (and hire) a local representative in the TESD. Working with the school district and administration, the company would look for a community person interested in part-time work and extra money – possibly a TESD teacher. It was important the person be a local hire, someone who understood the area as Market Street Sports Group is from Lancaster County.

School board member Anne Crowley questioned the company representatives on how they handle competing local companies that might want to participate in naming opportunities, such as three dry cleaners. Market Street sales rep Tracey Brubaker offered that this competing situation had never occurred and if it did would be solved ‘creatively’. Brubaker’s response was not satisfactory; her suggestion that this situation had never occurred seemed unlikely. Well, I think I understand why – after a bit of research, I determined that Brubaker only joined Market Street Sports Group last month. In her 5 weeks with the company, my guess is that the situation of competing advertisers has not occurred but I believe does require further consideration.

The presentation from Market Street Sports Group was interesting. However, I think it was obvious to the school board and members of the audience that this topic will require further study and discussion.

School Board Votes Against Continuing EIT Discussion at this Time

The vote last night by the T/E School Board stunned me – they voted 7-2 against sending a notification letter to the Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships that the school district would consider a voter referendum on the EIT on the May ballot. Their vote last night was only to continue the process of discovery – there was no downside to the notification to the townships. The School Board would still have until the March 18, 2011 deadline to decide whether to take it to voter referendum in May. Kevin Mahoney and Anne Crowley believed that it was important to continue the public discussion and voted in favor of sending the notification to the townships; the other 7 members of the school board voted against.

I do not understand this school board decision. Faced with a $7 million deficit that needs to be funded, why would these seven board members take an option off the table prematurely? The school board may not have enough details now to make a decision about the voter referendum but the beauty of the vote last night was that they did not need to make a decision now – just buy themselves some more time by notifying the townships and continuing to work towards a March decision. After continuing to research their options, if the March 18, 2011 deadline came and the School Board was not comfortable with a voter referendum on the issue, they could decide then not to take if any further. However, by taking it ‘off the table’ last night, seven members of the School Board took away that option.

Why did the School Board go to the trouble of having a public meeting on EIT if this was going to be the outcome? Why not handle the decision democratically and let the public weigh in? Whether it is an increase in property taxes, imposing an EIT, cutting programs and/or staff . . . something is going to have to change and there will be a cost to the taxpayers and/or to the school district programming. Again, why remove one of the options unnecessarily without full discussion?

A reason to vote against continuing the process by some of the School Board members could be the thought that the EIT referendum would fail out the polls in May . . . but without a crystal ball, how could they know?

In my opinion, with the school district facing a $7 million deficit, keeping all options on the table as long as possible should be the goal of the school board, rather than second-guessing the future. Perhaps the 7 members of the School Board have some kind of funding solution in mind for the future . . . taking on the teacher union at the next contract negotations?

Ray Clark attended last night’s School Board meeting and provided the following notes:

At its meeting on Monday, the School Board voted 7-2 against sending to the Townships a letter of intent regarding the implementation of an EIT in 2011/12 and for setting up a Commission to study the issue between May and September 2011. Kevin Mahoney was in favor of sending the letter to allow continued discussion this year, while Anne Crowley wanted further information for another Board meeting before the November deadline for the letter.

The most common reasons advanced in favor of the delay were:
– An EIT could maybe be a good idea, but in the opinion of the Board, the voters would vote it down if presented with options and asked next year.
– There is not enough time (5 months (October 26 2010 to March 18 2011) to resolve the many unknowns (versus May to September 2011?).
– Because T/E will have to solve the $8 million gap problem by cutting education programs, drawing down the fund balance and/or going to a property tax referendum, there will be pressure on the unions to accept compensation reductions in the contract beginning 2012/13 and 2013/14.
– Harrisburg will eventually fund PSERS at no incremental cost to T/E.
– That an EIT will harm property values more than a property tax increase.

Betsy Fadem introduced a nice piece of analysis by calculating the percentage of residents (seniors, income earners, children, maybe pets [just kidding!]) who are currently paying an EIT, and implying that all the remaining residents would have to pay an EIT if it were introduced by T/E. Thankfully Kevin Mahoney was able to point out that there are five residents in his household, but only one is, and would be, paying an EIT!

Separately, but relatedly, Karen Cruickshank noted that the Education Committee had voted in favor of increasing teacher workload at CHS and of an effective reduction in CHS periods (combined expense-saving potential, assuming workforce reduction through attrition, approx $1.5 million per year).

I would definitely encourage residents to watch the replay of the meeting to assess their representatives’ perspectives.

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