TESD Conestoga Teacher Debra Ciamacca Uses Her Powerful Voice to Speak out Against the Arming of Teachers!

By DEBRA CIAMACCA

Ciamacca, who served as a Marine from 1980-1984 and was in the reserves in 1985, is a high school Social Studies teacher in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Many years ago, I had the privilege of serving as a Marine Corps officer. I felt that serving my country was a calling and a duty. As an officer, I was charged with not only leading, but protecting the young Marines who served with me. I was not a combat Marine — I was an Adjutant/Legal Officer serving at the Camp Pendleton Correctional Facility. But I was trained to fire a weapon. Back then it was the .45 pistol and the M-16 rifle. I was an expert marksman on the M-16 and a sharpshooter on the .45. Not too bad for a nearsighted young Lieutenant who had never fired a weapon before.

Today I am a high school Social Studies teacher. I teach government and politics to some of the brightest young students in America. I love my job — and I love my students. I am responsible for protecting them too. But how far should that protection go?

I tell students at the beginning of each year, that if there is an intruder in the building we will exit my classroom to a second-floor roof through a window near my desk. Students usually laugh, because they think I am kidding. I am not. I have carefully considered the layout of my classroom and its proximity to doors and windows in the building. Going out the window makes sense. That is how I plan to protect my students.

But what else should I do? I will lock my door and barricade it with a file cabinet or a desk. I will pick up a heavy, stainless steel paperweight to use as a weapon to defend myself. I will call 911 and the main office. What I won’t do is pick up a pistol or a rifle or another lethal weapon. Why?

Guns have no place in the classroom. First of all, teachers are in constant close proximity to students. I teach about 150 students per day. The chance for an accidental discharge is guaranteed. Second, I am not trained to make instantaneous life-or-death decisions in a school environment with 2,400 innocent children as possible collateral damage. Even trained police officers have trouble reacting to threats and properly executing the use of deadly force. A good person with a gun can still make bad decisions, especially in highly stressful situations. Lastly, a gun acts as an impediment in my relationships with students. Teachers are guides and mentors and discussion leaders and lecturers. We talk; we cajole; we jump up and down; we clown around. We prance; we laugh; we instruct; we care. We put our whole selves out there to students so that they can see that we are real people. A gun is a barrier that separates me from my students. It says stand back instead of stand up. Weapons are not conducive to the teacher/student relationship.

But let’s talk turkey. The reason the President and the National Rifle Association and others are suggesting that teachers carry weapons in the classroom is that it sounds like a quick and cheap solution to a difficult and expensive problem. I find it incredible that people who don’t trust teachers to meet state and federal education standards now trust teachers to hold the sacred lives of children in their hands. I find it incredible that those who can’t find an extra ten cents in taxes to pay for counselors and psychiatrists and new “gun-proof” buildings can now find money for weapons and bonuses for gun-toting teachers.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I don’t trust folks who think they do. But I do know that we need to reframe this debate. Let’s not talk about school shootings in terms of gun control and mental health. Let’s talk about school safety. Let’s talk about whether we as a society have the will to keep our precious students safe in the place that most demands safety. It’s about getting all the stakeholders in a room: parents, teachers, police, politicians and students, rather than asking teachers to carry the entire load.

Parents must pay a bit more so that the schools can hire security guards and improve building safety features. Police must train a bit harder and faster. Politicians must compromise and risk their seats. And the NRA must stop its absolutist gun-freedom-at-all-cost position.

I pledge to do everything in my power to protect my students. I will run. I will fight. And I will hide if I have to. I will help students to survive an armed intruder if I have to. But I will not arm myself with a gun in my own classroom just because those in power refuse to wield the more powerful weapon of common sense. That is where I draw the line.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you get to the finish line, it just matters that you finish!

As an update to my last post, Tredyffrin Township supervisor Matt Holt presented his proposed resolution at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Holt’s motion on the resolution to support legislation for common sense gun control laws did not receive a ‘second’ when presented during new business.  A second to the proposed motion is required for the motion to have discussion from the Board of Supervisors.

Hearing no second to the motion, Chair Heather Greenberg attempted to move the meeting forward. To their credit, there was an immediate outcry from audience members demanding discussion. After several residents spoke out and a few comments from supervisors about the proposed resolution’s process, insufficient notification, representation of all residents, etc, etc, a new motion was presented by Murph Wysocki and seconded by Sean Moir. The Board passed the motion 7-0 and states that the supervisors will work together on a new resolution to support legislation for common sense gun control laws to present at the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, March 19.

We thank Matt Holt for his proposal to support sensible gun law legislation and applaud the audience members who would not let the motion fail without discussion. Other than the fact that it was a freshman supervisor who initially proposed the resolution, it is unclear why further discussion and re-working is required — but we will look forward to the supervisors working together and presenting a new resolution on March 19.

Coincidentally, State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) sent a constituent email out two hours before last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, stating that he will introduce legislation to address mass shootings.  His proposal will focus on “… identification of potentially troubled individuals, especially young people, support for increased mental health and mental rehabilitation services, and commonsense actions to address firearm issues.”  Included in Kampf’s proposed legislation is the requirement for background checks on all gun sales, the prohibition of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines and funding for school security.

Rep. Kampf’s message read in part —

Unlike many who are playing politics or simply appealing to the simplest of emotions, I am making concrete proposals that have a chance of becoming law and making a positive difference. I know that I will be attacked by people on both sides of these issues. Pennsylvania is a diverse state and there are members of both parties who feel as strongly about enacting no controls as there are others who simply want to ban all firearms. We can either watch that fight continue with nothing happening, or we can follow a path toward intellectually honest action, and toward results. That is what I am choosing to do.

Don’t know whether it was Rep. Kampf’s message or the audience members at last night’s meeting who moved the Tredyffrin supervisors to continue discussion on a resolution to support common sense gun control legislation but I’m just glad it did!  Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you get to the finish line … all that matters is that you finish!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Enough is Enough — It is Time to Call for Action!

When will the madness end?

Today I grieve for the families who are in mourning.  Today I grieve for an angry, violent society that has lost its way.

Since last week, we have seen a horrible surge of sadness and anger from Americans all across the country — another mass shooting. Another one committed by a young man. One of the worst mass shootings in America – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – as if such rankings matter. From Arizona to Colorado, to Oregon to Connecticut, to Las Vegas to Parkland, Florida – these mass murders will not end.

Innocent children losing their lives.  How many more children must die before we say enough is enough? When are we going to have the responsibility to take care of each other? How can we let this keep happening?

It’s past time to face reality. We, as a nation, need to do better. In the wake of the unspeakable horror of children being killed while at school, now is the time for action and … for sensible gun control laws.

Gun control doesn’t have to mean no guns. Arguments can be made for shotguns and rifles for hunting and handguns for protection. Somewhere, between these moments – the legitimate use of guns for hunting, and the too-easy access to guns by children and the mentally ill – there needs to be a solution. For me, that solution lies in sensible gun control measures.

Sensible gun control, even while keeping the Second Amendment should be easy, but there are many politicians who refuse to act. Reasonable constitutional limits on weapons that have no other use than mass murder are achievable and the failure of our leaders to make this happen is unconscionable.

Common sense would dictate that Congress should act to implement sensible gun control legislation, including a ban on weapons like the AR-15. It’s time to ban assault weapons. We need to make this moment a movement and to actually make changes that need to happen in this country.

Enough … it is time to call for action.

As a nation, as elected officials and as individuals we are obligated to break the log jam against gun reform.

Do you know where your local elected representatives stand on gun control?  In Tredyffrin Township, we are about to find out where our locally elected officials stand on sensible gun control!

Newly elected Tredyffrin supervisor Matt Holt is stepping up to the plate on gun control at Tuesday, Feb. 20th Board of Supervisors meeting, 7 PM at the township building.  Matt will introduce a resolution calling for state and federal representatives to enact sensible gun control legislation.  Although local governments cannot pass gun laws, they can act as a voice for the people to push common sense reform.  (Proposed resolution follows the post).

I supported Matt in November’s election for his strong support of historic preservation – now a few months into his new role as supervisor; I know that I made the right decision. Although unclear as to why Matt’s proposed resolution in support of sensible gun control legislation was not permitted on the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda, he will present it under the township’s ‘new business’.

An easy first step to for sensible gun control legislation, it will be important for the public to know how Mr. Holt’s fellow Tredyffrin Township supervisors vote on the resolution supporting sensible gun control legislation.

Proposed resolution to be introduced by Supervisor Matt Holt at Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors Meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 7 PM at Township Building:

A RESOLUTION OF THE TREDYFFRIN TOWNSHIP BOARD OF SUPERVISORS URGING STATE AND FEDERAL LAWMAKERS TO ENACT STRONGER PROTECTIONS AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE

            WHEREAS, an average of more than 108,000 people are shot and 32,514 people die from gun violence in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, and other shootings;[1] and

WHEREAS, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors recognizes the Second Amendment and the rights therein, such as the right to individual gun ownership and the right to self-defense, it also recognizes that said rights are not unlimited and support reasonable measures to ensure greater safety in the ownership, procurement and use of guns in our society; and

WHEREAS, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is charged with securing the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Tredyffrin Township, yet is not recognized as having legal authority to enact gun safety laws, and

WHEREAS, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors supports its police force in its ability to protect the safety of the citizens, and visitors to, the Township without threat from assault weapons or armed criminals, and

WHEREAS, this resolution has been considered and passed by multiple local governments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors believes additional gun safety laws are needed to protect the safety and health of our residents and urges the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Unites States Congress to enact laws to reduce gun violence, including:

  1. Preventing known and suspected terrorists, those convicted of violent hate crimes and those with a history of domestic abuse from illegally buying guns.
  2. Funding research into the effect of gun violence and gun safety technology.
  3. Requiring trigger locks on all homes where children are present.
  4. Banning access to assault-style weapons.
  5. Reducing the number of permissible cartridges in a clip or magazine.

This Resolution shall be distributed to current elected individuals:

The President of the United States
The Speaker of the House of Representatives
The U.S. Senate Majority Leader
The Governor of Pennsylvania
Congressman Ryan Costello
State Senator Andy Dinniman
State Representative Warren Kampf

[1] http://www.bradycampaign.org

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Updates: Station Square Redevelopment project moves forward & Aquilante’s catering property … another assisted living facility?

I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Planning Commission meeting this past week, along with an overflowing audience of residents.  The two items on the agenda attracting the attention – (1) Preliminary/Final Land Development approval on the Station Square redevelopment project, N. Valley Road in Paoli and (2) Consideration of a text amendment to the “Institutional Overlay” district.

The Linden Lane Capital Partners “Station Square Redevelopment” (LD-07-2017 application) project consolidates three parcels into one parcel for the redevelopment of the four existing two-story office buildings. The property is located next to the Paoli Train station at 37 N. Valley Road, within the TCD (Town Center) district.

To qualify in the Town Center District (and receive its various zoning bonuses) requires mixed use in the Station Square redevelopment project. The original plan called for three separate apartment buildings, each with a small 750 sq. ft. office for a total of 3 offices.  In the settlement decision with the township for conditional use, the three buildings were consolidated into one building (205,000 sq. ft) and instead of including three offices; the new plan only contains one 750 sq. office space.  There has been much discussion from the Planning Commissioners and residents that this imbalance between residential and office may constitute ‘mixed-use’ but is not the spirit or vision for Town Center District zoning.

The existing structures will be demolished in order to construct one new four-story mixed-use building, containing 153 apartments and first floor office space, plus above and underground parking, interior courtyard and swimming pool.

Proposed Linden Lane architectural rendering

The Station Square redevelopment project at the corner of Central and North Valley in Paoli is significant. The immediate neighborhood, which includes private homes and the Delaware Valley Friends School, is already challenged with the daily increase of traffic as commuters travel on East and West Central Avenue to avoid backups and traffic lights on Routes 252 and 30.  Traffic studies by the developer have yet to convince any of us that this project is not going to add more traffic to currently existing traffic problems.  But if you were to believe the developer and his attorney, the residents of this new multi-story apartment building are only going to travel by train, and additional cars will not be an issue.

As part of the redevelopment plan, approximately one acre of the Station Square property will be transferred through eminent domain to Amtrak and SEPTA for the proposed $36 million redevelopment of the Paoli Transportation Center and realignment of a bridge over Valley Road.

The pitch for preliminary/final land development approval for the Station Square project included a list of proposed waivers.  What caught everyone’s attention was a landscaping waiver asking for a reduction in shade trees, evergreen trees and shrubs – a total reduction of 200 plants! The Planning Commissioners, most notably Denise Waite, were as troubled by the landscaping waiver request as were the neighbors. David Falcone, developer’s attorney argued that plantings on N. Valley would be the responsibility of Amtrak not his clients.  A very petty argument on such a costly project; in the end, Falcone was told to work with the township staff for resolution.

I liked the suggestion of one neighbor – if there was a problem finding room for the shade and evergreen trees have the developer offer them to the neighboring Central Avenue residents. It will be interesting to see what ends up in the final plans.

———————————————————————————

The second item on the agenda of interest to many residents was ZA-01-2016 “Institutional Overlay Amendment”.  It took me awhile to realize that this was the Aquilante property at 950 Cassatt Road in Berwyn.

The Nolen Properties development group was previously in front of the Planning Commissioners with a plan for a “residential care facility for older persons” in December 2016. They sought to re-zone the Cassatt Road property from R-1 (Residential) to O (Office) and to petition for the O (Office) district to permit a residential care facility as a usage.

In the interim year, the development company purchased additional land and the property now has 10+ acres so that it meets the minimum size requirement for the Institutional Overlay district. As we learned at the meeting, because the R-1 property on Cassatt had been operating as Aquilante’s catering business (and apparently a slaughterhouse before the catering usage), the nonconforming usage passes with the property – thus making it a ‘by-right’ use for commercial development, including a residential care facility.

What is this Institutional Overlay district and why was it important to Nolen Properties? Because with certain criteria – a Residential property (such as Aquilante’s) with a min. of 10 acres, that is adjacent to a commercial zoned property, qualifies for many more usages, such as schools, churches or in this case, a residential care facility for older persons.

Important to Nolen Properties is that the IO district allows for a density of “30 beds per acre” in its proposed care facility – yes, the proposed change to the ordinance would allow for 300 beds on the Cassatt Road property!

To fully understand the potential size and impact of this proposed project on Cassatt Road – you must drive by the Brightview Senior Living project on E. Conestoga Road (behind Whole Foods) in Devon which is under construction. This project is over-sized for the space, wedged next to the train tracks and has 196 beds!  For perspective, if the text amendment change is granted on the Aquilante property, the proposed residential care facility could come with 300 beds!

Every time I hear the ‘text amendment’ I am reminded of the Daylesford Crossing.  You may recall the abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, an assisted living facility on the site.  The approval for Daylesford Crossing was a long, drawn out redevelopment process in 2012 that required a text amendment to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning.

Although the Aquilante property is in the preliminary land development stage, residents had plenty of questions and comments, many having to do with the potential traffic impacts of the development, including cut-through traffic on Westwind  Drive to Contention Lane and points east. Many neighbors attended the meeting — all voicing their opposition to the proposed plan.

When asked what other properties in the township could be impacted by the proposed ordinance change, no one knew the answer. It seems to me that there needs to be an answer to that question before this proposal can advance.

It should also be noted that Berwyn Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas attended the meeting and commented on the potential increase of emergency calls at assisted living facilities — remember the fire companies serving Tredyffrin Township are combination departments, paid staff and volunteers.

I guess my question is how many residential/assisted living facilities do the residents of Tredyffrin Township need (or want)?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

PA House Bill 1213 – An answer to ‘Spot Assessments’ or tying the hands of school districts and municipalities? State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) and TE School District take opposing sides

In the last few days, local residents have received notices from the TE School District and State Representative Warren Kampf (R-157) with opposing views on PA House Bill 1213.

What is HB 1213 and why does the school district oppose the bill and why does our state representative support it?

In summary, the PA House Bill 1213 would establish that school districts and municipalities may not appeal the assessment of property based on purchase or sale of the property.

When the HB 1213 first surfaced last year, the TE School Board passed a resolution in May 2017 opposing the proposed legislation, believing that it would restrict the District’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals. In its February 2, 2018 newsletter, the District restates its opposition to the bill, stating the following:

HB 1213 is harmful to Pennsylvania schools for a number of reasons:

  • HB 1213 restricts a school district’s ability to initiate property tax assessment appeals.
  • If commercial or residential properties are permitted to pay taxes below the market assessment, remaining taxpayers will pay higher taxes to maintain school programs.
  • The bill maintains the property owner’s ability to appeal their assessment, setting up an unfair system. To date, TESD has lost property tax revenue in excess of $5 million through taxpayer-initiated appeals.

Over the past four years, TESD has successfully appealed properties that were undervalued based on economic factors using market-based sales data and the courts have agreed. These TESD-initiated property assessment appeals have produced almost $600,000 in new property tax revenue to fund the District’s educational program.   Lost revenue opportunities may lead to program cuts for students, increased fees for families, or higher taxes to property owners who already pay their fair share.

As sponsor of PA House Bill 1213, State Rep Kampf has previously stated that, “As the law now stands – without the enactment of House Bill 1213 – some of our state courts have given the 500 school districts and more than 3,000 local townships and municipalities in Pennsylvania the power to pick any single property and appeal its County assessment. As a result, they can (and do) challenge the assessment of a single property and, in the end, they raise taxes on that property owner alone. This is called spot assessment.”

Kampf challenged TESD’s latest newsletter as “misleading and plainly incomplete explanation of the bill” with his release of ‘Setting the Record Straight on House Bill 1213’ to residents yesterday, making the following points:

1/ The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this summer unanimously ruled that school districts were not allowed to target only commercial properties for spot assessing. This means that, if school districts undertake spot assessments, from now on they must do so to every type of property – including homes like yours and mine. Which home is picked is up to your school board to decide. That I know of, T/E has never spot assessed a home, but now—because they apparently have chosen to go forward with the practice—they must by law also target homes.

2/ House Bill 1213, in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, would limit spot assessments by school districts to protect all property taxpayers from unfair targeting. Again, a spot assessment is where the school district targets and reassesses only your property, but does not reassess your neighbor’s even though your neighbor’s property is also under-assessed. Quite simply, spot assessment is inherently unfair and could even be maliciously undertaken if a school district chose to do so. The district is under no obligation to reassess all properties in a neighborhood or commercial district. They can simply pick one property and spot assess it alone.

3/ T/E says in its email it opposes HB 1213, which means they are going to start picking some homes for spot assessment. I would venture to say, since Chester County has not had a reassessment since 1997, virtually 80% of our homes are under-assessed, many significantly.

Your school district has decided that it will follow a path resulting in significant increases in valuation and property taxes for only select homeowners; these homeowners could see school property tax increases of 100%, or even 200%.

As we learned in recent arguments in the Supreme Court, it is also clear that very few school districts across the state follow this practice in any way. They either keep costs within the existing tax base, or they raise taxes on all properties, but they do not target individual properties.

Apparently, T/E finds it more important to obtain revenue than it does to protect you. I am further shocked that our school district would say such a practice is acceptable to them given that the amounts the school district admits to raising from this practice in the past equal 1/2 of 1% of their total annual budget.

4/ The school district also made a conscious decision to withhold in its email important information about HB 1213 as it is amended today. Currently, the legislation (at the request of school districts) allows a school district to try to raise the assessed value of a property if the property owner had previously obtained a reduction of that assessed amount by their own appeal. This addresses any issue of fairness.

In closing, Rep Kampf stands behind the PA House Bill 1213, stating that he “cannot sit by and allow school districts to target certain properties and create both a risky atmosphere in which to own a home, and an unpredictable place to make an investment.”

So … As a Pennsylvania resident, do you support or oppose the proposed legislation?

Do you believe that without the enactment of PA House Bill 1213, that (as Pennsylvania residents) we are at risk for “spot assessment” by our school districts and local municipalities?

Or, do you believe that the passage of PA House Bill 1213 would tie the hands of school districts and municipalities to challenge under assessed property taxes, therefore making it more unfair to the average homeowner?

Couldn’t the problem be solved with regularly scheduled property assessments?  On a personal note, my husband and I have purchased several investments properties on the South Carolina coast in the last couple of years — in South Carolina, property assessments are routine, every 5 years, eliminating the need for proposed legislation, like PA House Bill 1213.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Easttown Township Supervisor Appointment Goes to Local Attorney Not Third Place Finisher

At Easttown Township Board of Supervisor meeting last night, the board vacancy was on the agenda. The supervisor appointment was announced and it did not go to Michael Wacey (D) who received the third highest number of votes in the November election.  Rather, the decision was to appoint Republican Karl Romberger, an attorney to the Board of Supervisors.

Although the supervisor appointment was to be made by the four remaining members of Easttown Township’s Board of Supervisors (all Republicans), it should be noted that they were split in their decision with Jim Oram and Betsy Fadem voting for Michael Wacey and Marc Heppe and Chris Polites voting for Karl Romberger.  In the case of a tie, 2-2, Easttown’s Vacancy Committee (Kim Richards) was to cast the deciding vote.

After I wrote the initial post on this issue, I was contacted by a member of the Easttown Township Democratic Committee – she wanted to explain the timing of Brandon Adams departure, the election results, etc. I asked her if it was true that Mr. Adams was aware (prior to the General Election) that he would not be able to serve if he were elected. I had previously heard this information and wanted to verify and she said yes, that his company had been acquired and that employees were not permitted to serve in this capacity. Fair enough; through no fault of his, the candidate would not be able to serve and it was too late to have his name removed from the ballot prior to the election.

What I did not understand (and stated it to the Easttown Dem representative during our phone call) was why didn’t either the candidate or his political party make a public statement prior to the election to notify the voters.  All voters may not have received the message prior to the election but it certainly would have been a more open and transparent way to handle the situation. In my opinion, had the public known that Brandon Adams could not serve if elected, it is quite possible that Democrat Michael Wacey would have moved into second place when the votes were counted and would now be sitting on the Board of Supervisors.  (I did not want to mention this point on until after the Easttown Board of Supervisors had made their decision so as not to taint their decision in advance.)

Do I think that Michael Wacey should have been chosen as the replacement supervisor? Yes. His running for  public office proved his interest in sitting on the Board of Supervisors and he received nearly 1,400 votes. But at the same time, I hold the Easttown Township Democratic Committee somewhat responsible for the outcome of the situation.

Good for Betsy Fadem and Jim Oram, both Republicans, who stepped up and voted to appoint Democrat Michael Wacey, rather than letting partisan politics govern their decision. And lastly, congratulations to Karl Romberger on his appointment to Easttown Township Board of Supervisors.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The Votes from Election Day 2017 are Counted — But Easttown Township is Looking for a Replacement Supervisor!

When you turned the calendar to 2018, you probably thought that Election Day 2017 was finally in the rear view mirror.  Not so in Easttown Township.  Although the election results are in, the township finds itself looking for a replacement supervisor.

On Election Day, Easttown Township residents were voting for two supervisors – four candidates appeared on the ballot, two Republicans and two Democrats. When the votes were counted, incumbent Betsy Fadem (R) received the most votes, followed by Brandon Adams (D).  Michael Wacey (D) received the third highest and Fred Pioggia (R) the fourth highest number of votes.  The supervisor seats went to the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes – in this case, Fadem and Adams.

With the New Year, Fadem continues to serve on the board of supervisors with Adams set to begin his first term.  That is, until the residents learned Brandon Adams cannot serve – apparently his employer was acquired by a company (since the election?) that prohibits his serving in local government.

This is an unusual situation and there does not appear to be an automatic process to fill the vacancy. Although there isn’t an automatic process, wouldn’t it just make sense for the vacancy to go to the person whom received the third highest number of votes, which in this case was Michael Wacey.  Both Democrats, it would seem a reasonable solution for Wacey to step in as supervisor for vacating Brandon Adams. Of course, that solution is only viable if Michael Wacey was available and willing to serve but according to the agenda from the January 2 meeting of the Board of Supervisors he is.

Wacey read the following statement at the January 2, 2018 meeting which was provided to the township in advance:

My name is Michael Wacey and I live at Beaumont Road, Berwyn. I want to thank the Easttown Board of Supervisors for all the time and careful thought that they put into their work. We are very lucky to have this Board to manage the affairs for our township. In the fall, I ran for Easttown Township Supervisor and came in Third. Ms. Betsy Fadem, an incumbent appointed Supervisor, came in first and Mr. Brandon Adams came in second. Mr. Adams will most likely resign on January second rather than take the office. He is doing this for personal reasons beyond his control. As the third-place finisher in November, the citizens of Easttown would reasonable expect this board to appoint met to fill the vacancy. The board has met with Mr. Adams. I have express to the board, in writing, my desire to serve the people of Easttown. As I see it, the board has three options in 15 days: 1) Appoint me in recognition of the wishes of the Easttown voters; 2) Appoint someone else such as Mr. Pioggia, the four-place candidate in November. Or someone who did not run; 3) Ignore the voters and conduct a search and appoint someone who did not run in November. As this directly affects me, I am here tonight to ask the board to let the citizens of Easttown know what the Board plans are.

The day following the meeting, on January 3, 2018, the vacancy on the Board of Supervisors was posted on the township website as follows:

Easttown Township seeks applicants for consideration of appointment to the Board of Supervisors. The term for this appointment is for two years, expiring on December 31, 2019. Interested residents should send a letter of interest/resume to Township Manager, Dan Fox, via email by end of business day on Wednesday, January 10, 2018.

The process for how the township would fill the supervisor vacancy was not obvious from the press release (above) on the township website. However, if you look at the meeting agenda of January 2, you find the following explanation of the selection process to fill the supervisor vacancy by Easttown Township Board of Supervisor Chairman James Oram :

The Board vacancy occurs if the elected official, Mr. Adams, announces his intention not to serve at the Board meeting on January 2, 2018. If this vacancy does occur, the Township will begin accepting resumes from interested candidates for one month beginning on January 3, 2018. If the Board cannot agree on an appointment for this vacancy, a fifth vote will be cast by the member of the Vacancy Committee.

According to the notice on the township website, today, January 10, 2018, is the last day to receive applications for the supervisor vacancy.

I know that the four remaining members of the Easttown Township Board of Supervisors are trying to do the right thing, especially given that the selection process to fill the vacancy is not automatic. However, here’s my vote to keep it simple and drama-free by appointing Michael Wacey as the replacement supervisor.  Wacey received the third highest number of votes in November and has stated that he is willing to serve. This should be an easy, uncomplicated decision.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A New Year — Swearing In of Tredyffrin Supervisors and TE School District Projected $6.8M Budget Imbalance & Discussion of 5-Year Superintendent Contract

A New Year … and so it begins.  This is the time of year when we say goodbye to the old and welcome the new; to review 2017 and judge whether we are better or worse off than we were 12 months ago.

Whether you were delighted with the politics of 2017 or devastated, we can all look forward to expressing ourselves in 2018 (and hoping that it will make a difference).  We live in challenging times but staying informed and engaged is the catalyst that makes this grand American experiment work.

Starting off the new year, is the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting tonight at 7 PM. The 2018 organizational meeting, will elect the Board chair and vice chair — for 2017,  Republicans Trip Lukens and Sean Moir served as chair and vice chair of the board.

The November election in Tredyffrin saw a historic increase in the number of Democrats serving on the Board. The Republicans still retain a 4-3 majority, including Paul Olson, the longest serving supervisor in the history of the township.  Included on the agenda tonight is the swearing in of new supervisors – Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell will be sworn in for their 1st term and Murph Wysocki will be sworn in for this 2nd term.  Best wishes for a successful year to all seven supervisors!

On the TE School Board side, the school board starts off the new year tonight with their January school board meeting at 7:30 PM at Conestoga. Click here for agenda.

Two priority discussion items on the agenda — first, the Board will consider options to close the projected budget imbalance of approximately $6.8M for the 2018-2019 school year.  Sounds like the start to tax increase discussion to me.  For the record, TE School District residents have seen their property taxes increase for 13 straight years.  You would have to go back to 2004-05 for the last zero tax increase year.

The second priority discussion is the reappointment of Dr. Rich Gusick as Superintendent of the District.  Originally, Gusick was given a 3-year contract, July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2018. The superintendent agreement under discussion tonight is for 5 years, July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2023.

Much has happened in the District in 2017 including ” a federal lawsuit against the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and Amy Meisinger, principal of Conestoga High School alleging administrators and teachers at the High School created and tolerated a culture that emboldened Arthur Phillips, a 67-year old instructional aide, to repeatedly sexually abuse a female student.”  Phillips was sentenced to 10-20 years for his criminal action and the Federal lawsuit remains open against the District.

Also in 2017, the public learned that Christine Towers, a former teacher’s aide and coach at Conestoga was sentenced to 11 to 23 months for a sexual relationship with a 16-year old learned disabled student at Conestoga that she tutored.

In May of 2017, Tom Batgos, the assistant Conestoga High School football coach fired by the District in the aftermath of the alleged hazing and sexual assault filed a lawsuit against District administrators, including Dr. Gusick citing defamation of character, misrepresentation, fraud, improper termination, etc. and seeks damaged of at least $50,000 in compensation plus punitive damages. I do not think that this lawsuit has yet been resolved.

The latest employee incident occurred on November 21. David Walker, an employee in the District’s IT Department was arrested by Tredyffrin police on November 21 (on school district property) for “open lewdness” and “indecent exposure”. This case is set for its preliminary hearing tomorrow, January 3 at 9 AM in the Easttown court of Magisterial District Judge Thomas W. Tartaglio.  It is unclear how this arrest affects Mr. Walker’s employment in the District.

In the midst of outstanding legal issues of 2017, including the potential of a very expensive Federal lawsuit against the District, will this have any bearing on the Board’s decision to grant a 5-year contract to the Superintendent (six months in advance of its expiration)?

A New Year … and so it begins!

____________________________

UPDATE:  Republican Heather Greenberg was elected Chair of Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and Murph Wysocki (D) was elected Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  Congratulations Heather and Murph!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No Prepayment of 2018 Property Taxes Permitted in Tredyffrin

The new tax reform bill signed into law by President Trump reduces the amount of state and local taxes a person can claim as deductions on his or her 2018 federal tax return and fewer people may itemize deductions on their 2018 return because there’s a larger standard deduction. The federal tax legislation that takes effect January 1 will cap the state and local deductions on federal tax returns at $10,000. Since the passing of the tax bill, there’s been much discussion about whether or not residents could prepay their 2018 property taxes before the end of the year.

t’s official in Tredyffrin Township and the answer is no to prepayment of property taxes. The bottom line is, unless there’s an assessment and a bill issued, you’re not able to take the deduction The notice below was posted on the Tredyffrin Township’s website yesterday:

2018 Property Taxes Pre-Payment Information

To all Township Residents:

This notice is being posted to address inquiries we have received from several resident homeowners about prepaying 2018 real estate taxes.  Please be advised that Tredyffrin Township cannot accept prepayments of 2018 real estate taxes.

The Township is prohibited by the Pennsylvania Local Tax Collection Law (specifically, 72 P.S. §5511.15) from collecting taxes that have not been assessed yet.  The Township does not issue the new tax assessment until January of 2018 and therefore cannot accept payments before that point in time.

Also, be aware that the IRS issued an advisory notice on December 27, 2017 that it will not allow any deduction in 2017 for 2018 property taxes unless those taxes were assessed and paid in 2017.  As stated above, the Township’s assessment will not be made in 2017, because the millage rates will not be set until January 2, 2018 at the Organizational Meeting of the Board of Supervisors.  The IRS’s advisory notice can be found at: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-advisory-prepaid-real-property-taxes-may-be-deductible-in-2017-if-assessed-and-paid-in-2017.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Justice: Former TE School District Aide Receives 10-20 Years for Sexual Abuse of 15-Year Old Conestoga High School Student – Where Do We Go From Here?

It seems that in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding movie producer Harvey Weinstein, allegations of sexual harassment and assault against powerful men are flying left and right.

Actors, politicians, lawmakers, newscasters – each day brings new complaints alleging “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace”. From Hollywood to the White House, prominent men are accused of using their status to take advantage of women in unconscionable ways.

The men accused of sexual misconduct with adult women are very, very wrong. Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore is accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with children. This is not the same thing. They are not comparable. When an adult in power – whether a teacher, clergy member, coach, or in the local TE School District case an instructional aide —initiates sexual contact with a minor child, the incident is child sexual abuse, period.

Sixty-seven year old Arthur Phillips, a former instructional aide in Conestoga High School’s television production studio, sexually abused his 15 year old female victim for months. According to the police investigation, the alleged victim said that Phillips sexually assaulted her from January until April of this year on more than 10 occasions in various areas in Tredyffrin, despite saying no. Investigators alleged that Phillips made the student have sex with him. Police said that Phillips would grope, touch and kiss the student in his office at the high school. The investigation revealed that Phillips and the victim talked about “sexual issues” via text messages and at least once, he sent her a picture of his genitals.

In April, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan criminally charged Phillips with 100 counts including statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and endangering the welfare of a child, among other related charges.

In June, a Federal lawsuit was filed against the TE School District by the parents of the victim, seeking at least $75K in damages and calling for the resignation of Conestoga’s Principal Dr. Amy Meisinger. The lawsuit claims that the District was aware of the improper conduct of Phillips and “created an environment that allowed the assaults to occur”.

According to the lawsuit, a Visual and Performing Arts teacher at the high school was aware of the ‘relationship’ between Phillips and his 15-year student and that with her husband, “double-dated” for dinner to celebrate the victim’s birthday.  The lawsuit contains the names of 14 District administrators, teachers and aides who were aware of Phillips’ inappropriate relationship but took a “blind eye” and failed to take steps to investigate or halt the conduct. The Performing Arts teacher lost her job in the District last month.

We learned from Caroline O’Halloran’s Savvy Mainline that the District has responded to the lawsuit against it and Principal Meisinger on August 14 with a 28-page “motion to dismiss”.  The court has yet to rule.

Last week Phillips had his day of reckoning before Chester County Court of Common Pleas Judge Patrick Carmody.  As a former Chester County Assistant DA, Carmody has handled thousands of cases from white crime to homicide and we now know he has no tolerance for child sex offenders. We learned from the Daily Times, that Phillips pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, institutional sexual assault, and corruption of minors and in a plea agreement was given a sentence of 10-20 years in state prison.  Phillips will also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

According to the Daily Times article, Judge Carmody was particularly incensed that Phillips apologized to his wife, his daughter, his son-in-law, and to his friends but not to his victim.

The judge told Phillips, dressed in a plaid shirt and a black jacket and speaking in a nervous whisper,  that the only reason that he was accepting the proposed plea agreement and sentence offered by the prosecution and defense was that its specifics amounted to a near life term for the 67-year-old. If not for Phillips’ age, he would reject the agreement as too lenient, he said.

“You may never leave jail, you understand that?” Carmody asked. “You’re going to be sitting in jail for at least the next 10 years.”

As the accusations of sexual harassment and assault fill the national news daily, there is much talk of “fixing the problem”.  What about the outstanding federal lawsuit against the TE School District and Principal Meisinger.  Having read the lawsuit filed by the parents of the Conestoga student, it certainly appears to provide substantial evidence. I do not claim to be an attorney but it seems to me that the Phillips guilty verdict will only strengthen the case against the school district and the principal.

So the question is, where do we go from here? Although it remains to be seen how Phillips’ guilty verdict will impact the federal lawsuit,  shouldn’t the larger issue be, has the school district “fixed the problem”? Are there policies now in place to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again? Are our children safe?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Community Matters © 2017 Frontier Theme