Monday, June 26, 2017

Ziegler Joins Principals for Fair Funding Push

Pottsgrove High School Principal Bill Ziegler speaks in the Capitol rotunda about the need for fair school funding.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Pottsgrove High School Principal Williamk Ziegler.

Bill Ziegler, Principal at Pottsgrove High School, joined with other principals from across Pennsylvania to advocate for increased funding for public schools at the state capitol in Harrisburg recently.

PA Principals Association hosted the Principal Advocacy Day to give an opportunity for school leaders to speak with their area legislators and to advocate for increased funding for schools. 

Principals Jessica Quinter of Juniata Elementary School, Christopher Gregaris of Crestwood High School, Melissa Patschke from the Spring-Ford School Area District, and Ziegler all spoke in the state’s Capitol rotunda on the need to increase funding for our public schools. 

Paul Healey, Executive Director of the PA Principals Association, closed out the time by emphasizing the important role of school leaders and how they need to be supported through increased funding, funding for professional development, and a fair evaluation system. 

In addition, Ziegler and the other principals spoke out encouraging legislators to fully fund the Fair Funding Formula for public schools.
Ziegler said, “Students in our public schools need the help of legislators in Pennsylvania as there is a funding crisis in our public schools. PA Principals has joined the Fair Funding Campaign and we thank our legislators and the Governor for signing this into law. However, we still need to significantly increase school funding." 

"Statewide survey data shows that 85 percent of school districts plan to raise taxes, 50 percent plan to reduce academic or extracurricular activities, and 48 percent plan to reduce staff resulting in larger class sizes,” Ziegler said.

Furthermore, Ziegler asked state legislators to oppose House Bill 1213 which enables significant property tax reductions for commercial properties. 

“If this bill passes, the Pottsgrove School District could potentially lose more than $1.7 million in tax revenue from commercial properties next year alone,” he said.
Ziegler shared how Keystone Testing disrupts learning for two straight weeks and he challenged state legislators to reexamine Keystone Testing at the high school level. Ziegler also asked legislators to revise Act 82, The Educator Effectiveness Law.

In closing, Ziegler reminded legislators how the principalship is one of the most rewarding positions in our commonwealth and a position that needs the unending support and encouragement from its legislators. 

Ziegler asked legislators to contact their local school principal to see how they can support them in their most important responsibility of leading the education of our state’s children.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Student Defends Pottstown Middle School

Photo by Evan Brandt
Pottstown Middle School's MoniYah Henderson, a rising seventh grader, stopped by The Mercury to deliver her letter in person.

Blogger's Note: Last week, The Mercury published an article about both Pottstown Middle School principals -- David Todd and Matthew Boyer -- resigning and complaints from Federation of Pottstown Teachers Vice President Michael DiDonato about behavior problems at the school.

Student MoniYah Person Henderson decided to stand up for her school and submitted the following defense, which we have published here in full. A shorter version will be published in The Mercury. 

Please be reminded that The Digital Notebook welcomes responses to its posts. They may be posted as comments below the posts or emailed to
Dear Pottstown Mercury,

Hello I am MoniYah, I'm 12 years old and I reside in Pottstown on Walnut Street! I'm going into seventh grade this coming fall. I have been going to Pottstown Kindergarten through 6th grade soon 7th. I get very great grades in school and I love school, so it didn't make me very happy when I saw some disappointing and upsetting things about my school online and I knew I had to do something.

Pottstown is suppose to show "Pottstown Pride" right? Why are you guys showcasing bad. People are saying and I have heard them "Pottstown has to much trouble" or "that school district isn't good" One thing to know is that there is good and bad anywhere you can't just judge one place. I could go down south to a nice quaint town and it could be very nice but that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be fights there at that school it's very possible and I could go to a school here and that doesn't mean that there can't be good here. 

I don't like showcasing the bad I like showcasing the good. Some parents are looking for their children to go to our school and if you post things like that on the Mercury parents are going to be turned away that's not good. I actually put a review up about the Pottstown Middle School and how much I love it. My mom also posted a very good comment about Rupert Elementary school, another great school in the district that I went to and currently my sister goes to, it was a very nice comment and a few days later a lady messaged her on Facebook saying that her review actually helped her choose where her daughter should go. She said that she heard bad things about Pottstown so what you're putting on the Mercury people actually see that and that's not good for them to see those bad things. 

Now I do understand about the children walking home on Franklin Street what they did was very wrong and disrespecting authority it isn't good. Thing is though if we keep showcasing these kids doing the wrong thing they're going to keep doing the wrong thing because they're getting showcased for doing bad. They want the attention and if you keep giving it to them they're going to keep doing what they're doing. You can tell them not to throw snowballs or not to curse and yell at teachers or mailmen, but they are children and not every child listens. 

In one article in the Mercury it states and I quote "The mercury found zero teachers and students at the middle school have a high respect for teachers there but 97% categorized students respect is low or very low" I disagree with this statement 100%! My teachers has told my class were very respectful and nice! Also wasn't just my class it with others to I don't believe that one teacher said students DO respect a student and I can say because I go there so I'd know.

To be honest I really don't see a lot of disrespect going around in classrooms so I find that very hard to believe that the teachers actually said that. They're very respectful to us and we're very respectful to them. I have walked inside a fifth grade classroom to help one of my old teachers and it was very nice and the teachers are respectful and the students were respectful because respect has to go both ways of course, and I have walked there numerous times and they were so nice. I have been in the six grade classroom because I was in six grade in my class was very respectful, and not just my class and other classes as well. Our teachers tell us that we make them proud to be from Pottstown. Why can't you guys put that in your newspaper? You should be putting that Pottstown has a very respectful class and not just class but school.

Another thing which makes me extremely upset is on the Mercury post about discipline problems, what I don't get is that you have a picture of random children that you don't know in the paper about discipline problems. That picture has two of my best friends and some of my other peers. My friends aren't the ones doing wrong why would you put them on their. They were simply walking the halls going into the next class. That makes them look like the bad people when they did nothing wrong at all they were just going to class they didn't even know that picture was taken because I've even ask them myself they didn't realize that picture was being taken. They weren't very happy to see that picture at all either, especially with that title. 

If we want to stop bullying then we should not be helping it, kids can get bullied because other kids are saying that they're bad because of that post. Kids can get picked on because some random newspaper came up and took a picture of them saying that Pottstown is having bad discipline problems. That doesn't make sense at all to have children that didn't do anything wrong at all, on the cover walking in the hall. Why couldn't you make it positive or not speak about those fights at all? 

I am very upset and I would like to have a meeting with the Mercury about this problem. I love Pottstown a lot, it's an amazing school district so we don't need this bringing us down and this issue really needs to be resolved and I will do a lot for this to be resolved. I am going to the next school board meeting to talk to them about this too. It's not good to write bad about your own town. Pottstown is amazing and many need to realize this. Pottstown isn't very city but is it to country either it's right in the middle and it's very comfortable, and it's awesome because they really try their hardest to do a lot for children to seniors. I love my little town Pottstown. Pottstown is phenomenal and we shouldn't and bring things down.

Thank you for reading this letter and I really hope that this can be resolved because this is very very serious and important to me. 


MoniYah Person Henderson

Thank you MoniYah for sharing your opinion with us and our readers.

Friday, June 23, 2017

YWCA Holding Summer Camp at Fellowship Farm

YWCA Tri-County Area is offering two day camps this summer at Fellowship Farm outside of Pottstown.

YWCamp Adventures, for boys and girls ages 4 through 12, begins July 5 and runs through Aug. 18. Campers can attend one or more weeks, Mondays through Fridays. 

Campers will explore the outdoors on the farm’s 126 acres of woods, fields, and pond, will take part in games, crafts, and sports, and will have swim instruction and free time in the pool.

Camp tuition is $200/week; CCIS child care subsidy is accepted.

For information about YWCampAdventures, call Sheri McDonald at 610-323-1888, ext. 203.

Girls entering grades 4 through 7 can “Nuture Your Nature” at You Grow Girl! camp, focusing on health and well-being, including yoga, healthy meal preparation, hiking, swimming, STEM projects, team-building projects, and special outings.

You Grow Girl! camp runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 26-30, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 17-21. Girls may attend one or both weeks. Camp tuition is $50 for one week, or $90 for both weeks.

For information about You Grow Girl!, contact Kelly Grosser at, or call 610-323-1888.

Pick-up and drop-off for both camps will be at YWCA Tri-County Area, 315 King St.t, Pottstown.

YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YW3CA is a leader in advocacy for women and girls, works to eliminate racism, and empowers women through quality affordable childcare, adult literacy, and a host of programs to support the health and vitality of women, girls, and families.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pottsgrove Students Re-Defining 'Americanism'

The Pottsgrove High School winners of the Sanatoga American Legion Post 244 "Americanism" awards were Ryan Finn and Anthony Catanzaro

Sanatoga American Legion Post 244 recently presented its "Americanism" School Awards to four Pottsgrove students.

They were asked to define "Americanism" in their own words.

The American Legion defines Americanism as: "the love of America; loyalty to her institutions as the best yet devised by man to secure life, liberty, individual dignity, and happiness; and the willingness to defend our country and flag against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

The Pottsgrove Middle School winners of the Sanatoga American Legion Post 244's Americanism contest were Riley Simon and Rocco Achuff

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Joint Meeting Focuses on Getting PAID

Peggy Lee Clark was in an unusual spot Tuesday night.

As the new executive director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development, Pottstown's economic development arm, she was obligated to give a report on the activities of her predecessor, Steve Bamford.

The occasion was the quarterly joint meeting of Pottstown Borough Council and the Pottstown School Board, a meeting of such import only three members of the school board bothered to show up.

Nevertheless, there was some news to be found amid the reports.

Clark reported that for the second time, a grant application to the state for the refurbishment of the former Ellis Mills building on High Street was turned down. Now the owner, Scott Bentley, who spend a fair bit of change trying to clear the interior, is now interested in selling.

On a brighter note, she said a deal for the purchase of the former Prince's Bakery on South Washington Street is close to closing and the new owners aim to transform the space into a restaurant.

But perhaps the best news of all is that Cedarville Engineering LLC, has not only moved from Chester County to Pottstown, but brought 35 jobs along the way, projected to expand to 50 by next year.

The will move into what is now the BB & T Bank building at the corner of High and North Hanover streets. The top three floors of that building have been vacant for 20 years, but Cedarvill will occupy the top floor and has right of first refusal for the two floors beneath it, Clark said.

"We want development that provides living wage jobs," Clark said.

Both boards also talked about the need to prepare for the pending sale of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center to Reading Health Systems and the loss of nearly $900,000 in tax revenue for the school district and less for the borough should the property come off the tax rolls because the new owner is non-profit.

Here are the Tweets from the rest of the meeting:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

No Tax Hike, Leadership Vacuum at Middle School

Issues at Pottstown Middle School were front and center again at Monday night's school board meeting.

At this point, it hardly bears mentioning that the Pottstown School Board adopted its third consecutive final budget without a tax hike Monday night. It hasn't changed much since it was first presented more than a month ago

Monday night there were no questions or comments from the public, or the school board for that matter -- at least the school board that was there.

One might suppose that adopting a $62 million budget -- the single most important act a school board undertakes -- might at least attract interest from the board members themselves.

But only five of the nine members showed up Monday -- the absolute bare legal minimum for passing a budget.

It is surely a coincidence that none of the four who were absent -- Kim Stilwell, Polly Weand, Emanuel Wilkerson or Ron Williams -- are up for reelection this fall.

But on to more important things.

Michael DiDonato, middle school teacher and vice president of the Federation of Pottstown Teachers, triggered an overdue public conversation when he said the union is concerned about behavior problems at Pottstown Middle School.

Matthew Boyer, the principal of the fifth and sixth grades has left for greener pastures as principal of Pottsgrove Middle School and Thursday's agenda revealed that David Todd, the principal for the seventh and eighth grades has also tendered his resignation.

No word on where he is headed.

DiDonato pointed to a 50 percent staff turn-over in recent years; sky-high referrals to the guidance office and nurse; a record number of staff injuries "in the line of duty" and rampant disrespect and violence among the student body.

Board member Kurt Heidel even said his daughter's pending entry to the middle school "is a fear for my entire family."

DiDonato said the teachers appreciated the appointment of Beth Berkhimer as "dean of students in the middle of the year," which helped, and said the staff remains pledged to helping improve conditions any way they can.

I guess we'll see where it all goes from here.

That said, here are the Tweets:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Learn About Pottstown History on Thursday Walk

On this tour, you can learn more about historic Pottstown buildings that are still standing ...

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown Historical Society

The next tour in the ongoing series of the Pottstown Historical Society Walking Tours will be Thursday, June 22, 2017, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m. The free tour will cover a portion of the 200-block of High Street, between Hanover and Penn Streets which, although a short block, encompasses more than twenty historic addresses.

All history buffs are invited to learn about two major fires on High Street, one of which destroyed five buildings. 

Try to guess the oldest building on the block, look for the building with its owner’s initials on the edifice, find Pottstown’s first Sears & Roebuck, and learn about the contributions to Pottstown by local notables Bunting, Beecher, and Drinkhouse.

Those interested should meet in the lot at 220-222 High Street. Groups will depart approximately every 15 minutes, depending upon attendance. 

Arrangements have been made for parking to be available in the parking lot, accessible on Queen Street along the railroad tracks, via North Penn Street or North Charlotte Street.

The tour is being held again this year in conjunction with the downtown Pottstown FARM program. Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase fresh produce and locally made products directly from the producers, like townspeople in the 1800s.

The Pottstown Historical Society was founded in 1936 under the direction of Mrs. Marjorie Wendall Potts to restore the Pottsgrove Manor. Since 1999, the Society has been headquartered at 568 High Street after purchasing the old Oliver Christman Gift and Flower Shop building. 

The Society’s mission is to collect and preserve archives pertaining to Pottstown’s past. The Society houses hundreds of old photographs, along with records on churches, early families, newspapers, local forges and other businesses. The headquarters building is open on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month from 1:00 pm-4:00 pm, and other times by appointment. It remains an all-volunteer organization, welcoming everyone to participate, visit, support, and learn.

... as well as buildings which are no longer standing.