Sunday, April 19, 2015

Pasta, Sauce, Meatballs and Music

6th grader Julian Paskel, ready to play.
And this girl, was ready to eat.
Another year, another Jazz and Spaghetti Dinner at Goodwill Fire Company.

As always, organizers, headed up by Kevin Owens, President of the Pottstown School Music Association, did a bang-up job.

Food was cooked; tables were set up; chairs were placed; tablecloths; balloons (news this year); trash taken out; sauce ladled; music performed. It was, in other words, a smashing success.

The event raises money to pay for music education in Pottstown, including performances outside the area, spreading the word about Pottstown musicians.

Mike Vought, John Armato and Kevin Owens.
Of particular note this year, to this seasoned veteran anyway, was the quality of the younger bands.

The elementary jazz band was excellent. Unfortunately, they played first and, as the official ladler of sauce, I was unable to escape my duties and get a recording.

But trust me, they were good.

I know the high school jazz band gets a lot of ink from me. That's because my son plays with them and I am at most of their performances.

I was going to try to scale back, but they unveiled a new number yesterday and it is one of my all-time favorites -- "Birdland," which I was introduced to through the version by the jazz fusion band Weather Report. (Click here for a link to a live performance video with the great Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and the always mighty Jaco Pastorius.)

So here it is the Pottstown High School Jazz band's version of the classic (I'm told they only practiced it twice, maybe three times.):

Jo Ann Bathurst and her mom,
Florence Schumacher, 103
And really stepping up their game was the middle school jazz band, which was remarked upon by many, not just myself. In fact, I would say to the high school jazz band, you had better watch your back, those middle school kids are gaining on you.

Also noteworthy was the presence of four generations of the Bathhurst/ Schumacher/ Francis genome.

Florence Schumacher, 103,  was there, as she was last year. She is the mother of Jo Ann Bathurst, who is the mother of School Board member Amy Francis, who was there with her husband Julian, who are the parents of Gabe and Chloe Francis, both of whom are jazz band members.

So, good-on-ya I say.

Anyhoo, a good time was had by all, and there were lots of willing hands to help with the clean-up, including School Board member Kim Stillwell and her retinue.

This video gives a quickie over-view of the fun, and is followed by the Tweets and photos I managed to sneak in between lading sauce and spooning meatballs.

And here are the Tweets:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mudballs for Mom on the Colebrookdale Railroad

The Open Car on the Colebrookdale Railroad's Secret Valley line is an ideal place to enjoy this Saturday's "Mudball Express."

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Colebrookdale Railroad.

This Saturday, April 18, the Colebrookdale Railroad will host the first ever “Mudball Express.”
The Mudball Express is all about the flowers, and the canopy, which
will be set up in case of inclement weather.

The first train of its kind east of the Mississippi, the Mudball Express will allow children of all ages to sling mudballs — yes, real mudballs — from the train. 

 The mudballs plant wildflower seeds along the route.

“The Mudball express is a clever idea aimed at sowing native wildflowers along the historic Colebrookdale railroad line. Planting native wildflowers is more sustainable and supports a variety of important species in our ecosystem,” said Kimberly J. Murphy, CFRE President, Berks County Conservancy. 

Wildflowers will bloom in time for the railroad’s Mother’s Day High Tea Trains.

The railroad’s open car will be covered in the chance of rain. 

Local foods available in cafe car and old fashioned sodas available in open car a la carte.

Trains leave from Third and Washington Streets, Boyertown, 1:30 and 3:30 pm. 

Tickets available at or at the railroad, 610-367-0200.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What's In the Water in West Pottsgrove?

So the West Pottsgrove Pool is closed again.

"What's that?" you ask. "But I thought they just voted to open it."

They did, after they voted to close it. Then they voted to open it.

But now, with the last vote, they closed it.

It's closed because of a 2-2 vote on the contract for the company they approved last time with a 2-1 vote.

Yeah, you read that right.

Oh yeah, and Commissioners President Pete LaRosa resigned.


But wait! not from the board, he said in a later call; only as president.

Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Here's video of his statement, you can decide for yourself what conclusion you would reach.

West Pottsgrove used to be such a sleepy little town.

Here are the Tweets from last night's meeting

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pottstown Students 'Pay it Forward' With Pizza

Photo by David Woodley
Pottstown High School students read messages posted by those who helped to feed the homeless through Rosa's Pizza in Philadelphia.

Blogger's Note: The following was written by Pottstown High School Management Information Systems teacher David Woodley and re-printed here with his permission.

On Friday, in Philadelphia, I had a moment. A moment I wanted to share with everyone.

After touring the Linc, we went to Center City for lunch. Upon arrival, students had the options of going to the Reading Terminal Market or Rosa’s Fresh Pizza for lunch.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza is a one-of-a-kind pizza shop. Mason Wartman, the owner of Rosa’s, left his job on Wall Street to start this $1-a-slice pizza shop in Philadelphia. Pizza slices for only a dollar isn't the only thing Rosa’s offers its customers. 

It also offers them the chance to donate slices of pizza for the homeless population of Philadelphia. If a customer decides to buy a slice of pizza to donate, they pay $1 and they place a post-it note on the wall with an inspirational message. 

Photo by David Woodley
Pottstown student Maverick Somich reads through some of
the messages 
left by those helping feed the homeless at Rosa's Pizza.
When a homeless individual enters, they approach the counter and ask for a slice of pizza “off the wall”. The homeless individual then receives a free slice of pizza paid for by a good Samaritan. On Friday, those good Samaritans were our students.

Upon entering, students were overwhelmed with the number of post-it notes that were on the walls, each representing a donated slice of pizza. I attached a picture of the restaurant so that you could see the amount of post-it notes on the wall. 

Students were educated on the theme and purpose (Pay It Forward!) of the pizza shop and were informed that they did not have to feel obligated to donate if they did not want to.

As each student ordered, the number of donated slices continued to grow. 

All students that entered the pizza shop that day donated at least one slice of pizza. One student donated five slices while another student donated nine slices. 

On Friday, our students donated over 30 slices of pizza for the homeless of Philadelphia. 

Photo by David Woodley
Pottstown student Thomas Scharneck writes
his own message after buying future slice 
of pizza for a homeless person
As I stood back and watched, I couldn't do anything but smile.

As students continued to order, homeless individuals came into Rosa’s. As those individuals ordered, I called some of the students over to where I was standing so that they could see their good-deed in action. It left them with a good feeling and a smile on their face!

While eating, Thomas Scharneck and Chase McKain told me that they would be right back and they wanted to see if the homeless man sitting down the block knew about Rosa’s. 

They even took two slices of pizza that they purchased for the man. 

I followed close behind them as they talked with the homeless man who was well aware of Rosa’s and thanked them for the offer but he had already had pizza today. 

He asked that they share the news and the pizza with another individual who may not know about Rosa’s and that is exactly what they did. 

Seeing two students take the initiative to spread the word about Rosa’s after visiting was very cool to see. 

"I thought it was a great way to give back to the people who need it the most. It was an experience I'll never forget, and a great way to pay it forward," said Scharneck, who is a junior.

Some of the most important lessons cannot be taught in a classroom with a textbook.

"It was a wonderful way for us to realize how great we have it and be grateful for what we have. It was a great opportunity to give back to people who really need some help," said senior DJ Kurtz.

"It was a nice experience to feel like I was giving back, especially because I knew it was being used for the hungry and not to buy drugs," senior Anthony Gazzillo said.

"Rosa's Fresh Pizza gives everyday people a way to make a direct impact on the life of someone in need," said 12th grader Anthony Oglesby.

Students that were on our field trip are currently enrolled in one of the following classes: Management Information Systems, Web Design, Computer Applications and Career Explorations(I and II) or Economics.

The field trip included a tour of Lincoln Financial Field and the Art Institute of Philadelphia along with a Philadelphia Phillies night game against the Washington Nationals. 

The field trip was organized by Rebecca Heiser, Career and Technology teacher and chaperoned by Steve Anspach, Economics teacher and myself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Council to Review Fire Company Merger

Once again, Monday's Pottstown Borough Council meeting proved that a meeting does not have to be long to contain news.

Probably the most significant news to occur last night had to do with the borough contentious plan to merge all four volunteer fire companies into a single volunteer department, a most that, until now, the Philadelphia Steam Engine Company, had been the only company to resist.

However, Monday night, Dave Saylor, the Deputy Chief of the North End Fire Company, told council that its time council met face to face with the fire companies.
Some of the firefighters at Monday night's meeting.

He said there are "other options" other than the one being proposed by the borough, which may be "appealing."

Saylor also noted that North End and the Phillies are "interested in making the best decisions for the community."

Then, at the end of the meeting, Councilwoman Sheryl Miller, saying she wanted to hear for herself what the fire companies had to say, made a motion to hold that meeting as Saylor had requested. It was seconded by Councilman Joe Kirkland.

Council President Stephen Toroney, Vice President Travis Gery and Councilman Dan Weand cast the "nay" votes.

Gery took the time to explain that he did not think a "special meeting" is needed as the firefighters can come to any council meeting and say what they have to say -- something they been doing for several months now.

Toroney said the borough's representative, David Woglom, will be at the meeting as well and Mayor Sharon Thomas said the talks should focus on "equity and cost savings."

Borough Manager Mark Flanders was charged with setting up the date.

Here are the Tweets, links and videos from the meeting.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spaghetti, Meatballs and Jazz, all for $10

So you like spaghetti right?

You like live music right?

You like live music performed by talented students, all for one low price right?

Then you know what you're doing next Saturday.

You are heading down to the Goodwill fire station on High Street, slapping down a mere $10 and then enjoying an all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner while you listen to Pottstown students jazz up the evening.

The meal offers homemade meatballs on that spaghetti; bread; beverage and dessert, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that your enjoyment helped to fund music education in Pottstown.

Can't beat that with a stick.

Here's a taste of how much fun you'll have (sorry, I have no video of the middle school jazz band. Hope to get some thins year):

Below is a performance of last year's high school jazz band at the spaghetti dinner where they debuted a new number.

If we're lucky, they'll do that this year too!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pennies, Lattes, Java and Jazz in Pottstown Schools

Rupert Elementary Teacher Susan Paravis, right, and her Second Grade Class.

Blogger's Note: A few items from around the Pottstown School District:

Pennies for Patients

Rupert Elementary had another great year with our Pennies for Patient fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

The winning class, which raised $249.93 in memory of Andy Paravis and in honor of Jack Williams, was Mrs. Paravis's 2nd grade class. 

They earned a silver pennant to hang in their classroom and a pizza party. 

Three other classrooms raised more than $100 each. 

James Strohecker's 1st grade raised $187.42, Diana Dotterer's 4th grade raised $178.76, and Jacinda Bartolucci's 5K class raised $114.04, and they each will receive a bronze pennant. 

Rupert Elementary also earned a $100 gift card.

Student Jazz at Sunnybrook

The U.S. Army Band Jazz Ambassadors
The Pottstown High School Jazz Band will open for the US Army Jazz Ambassadors on Tuesday, April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Sunnybrook Ballroom.

Admission is free.

The high school band will perform from 7:30 to 8 p.m. and the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors will start performing about 8:15 p.m.

This is part of the Berks Jazz Festival and more information can be found at their web site:

De-Caffeinated Kids

Also at Rupert, the Java for Gents and Lattes for Ladies events attracted hundreds of parents who come in the early morning before school starts to spend some time reading to their children.

A good book for the students and some refreshments for the parents is a great way to start the day.

Here are some photos: