Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learn More About Fair School Funding Thursday

The meeting will be held at Rupert Elementary School, starting at 7 p.m.

I know, I know; the phrase "joint school board/borough council meeting" does not have you rushing to your calendar to check your schedule.

But maybe you should  -- at least if you care about fair public school funding, an issue which is currently giving Pottstown the very short end of a very sharp stick.

Right now in Pennsylvania, the amount of resources your public schools can bring to bear on your child's education has more to do with your zip code than the innovative financing of the administration.

In fact the innovation is more likely to be found in places like Pottstown and Daniel Boone school districts where enfeebled tax bases make the raising of local public revenues both burdensome and unequal when compared with wealthier locales.

In a state where about 34 percent of public school funding comes from the state -- the national average is closer to 44 percent -- that means local taxes make the difference.

So while financial contortions are happening in places that are stringing together programs with Scotch tape and wishful thinking, places like the Merions (Upper and Lower), resplendent in the benefits of more affluent households, an opulent tax base, and a funding formula that favors the already favored, build a second pool.

Well if this kind of situation burns your bunions the way it burns mine, you might actually want to pencil in the Jan. 29 joint meeting.

Because one of the featured presenters on the agenda is Lawrence Feinberg. 

"And just who is Lawrence Feinberg?" you ask.
All photographic evidence suggests
Lawrence Feinberg has a sense of humor.

I'm glad you did, because I'm about to tell you. 

In addition to being a Haverford school board member and the operator of an extremely helpful and informative list serve of articles about education in Pennsylvania, he is one of Pennsylvania's 11 circuit riders.

"And what....?" Hold on, I'll tell you.

A circuit rider is someone who is trying to build support, or "political will," among educators to support a fair funding formula for public education.

Currently the matter is being reviewed by a task force set up by former Gov. Tom Corbett and this group has some thoughts on the results.

The guidelines for what they would like to see in a new formula are simple and straightforward:
  • Accuracy is important: The formula should be based on real costs, and real data;
  • Students and schools need stability: The new system must be transparent, sustainable, equitable, and long-range — and supported with sufficient, stable, and broad-based resources
  • Responsibility is shared: The new system must operate based on shared fiscal responsibility among the local community, the state, individuals, and commercial taxpayers;
  • Accountability is required: The new system must include strong accountability standards to ensure that schools invest efficiently and effectively to boost student achievement and help ensure post-secondary success
And Feinberg is no slouch.

In 2011 he was the Recipient of Pennsylvania School Boards Association’s first annual Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. 

In 2012, Feinberg was the Recipient of Media Area NAACP’s Foot Soldier for Justice Award; and was part of a group of 40 education leaders from Pennsylvania invited to meet with President Obama’s senior education policy advisors as well as top staff from the U.S. Department of Education.

And, among other things, Feinberg is Founder and Co-Chair, Keystone State Education Coalition, a statewide, bipartisan grassroots advocacy organization of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from Pennsylvania school districts who evaluate, discuss and inform their school boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest.

Let's face it, the list goes on and on. In other words, this guy knows his stuff and, if you get your butt over to Rupert Elementary School Thursday, he's going to share some of that knowledge with you and the school board and borough council

The meeting starts at 7 p.m., and if you want a tour of the newly refurbished Rupert Elementary, get there at 6:30.

Be warned, after the joint meeting, the regular school board meeting that was postponed Monday for a snow storm that never showed up, will take place.

But don't worry, you can leave whenever you want.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Vote for Pottsgrove Library, Help Them Win Money

Blogger's Note: The following was found on the Pottsgrove School District web site and re-produced here to spread the word!

Pottsgrove High School is in the running to be named one of the world’s most innovative schools and it needs your support to win.

There’s a share of $200,000 on the line, and the best way to help Pottsgrove get a share is to vote..

A few weeks ago, Danielle B. Small, library media specialist, entered the Follett Challenge, a program created by Follett to find and reward schools for their work applying technology, content and creativity in ways that engage students, foster literacy and promote critical thinking. 

As part of the competition, she created a short video about what makes Pottsgrove's program unique.

You can support them by viewing the video and voting for the submission at FollettChallenge.com website under the “View Entries” tab or at the following link: http://follettchallenge.com/video.cfm?id=543

Twenty percent of the total score is based on how well the district spreads the word about its video and earns votes! 

You can cast one vote per day until to January 30, 2015, so be sure to visit daily.

Your vote could make the difference in helping our school be crowned the Follett Challenge champion!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hill School Architecture Subject of Lecture

Interested in the architecture at The Hill School?

Well, this year’s David R. Dougherty Senior Teaching Fellow in American History is Michael J. Lewis, the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art History at Williams College. 

And he will be lecturing about The Hill's architecture on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Arts off Beech Street.

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is about the architecture of The Hill School and its American historical context.

Here is some information about Dr. Lewis:

B.A. Haverford College (1980)
Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania (1989)
Publications — Books
· American Art and Architecture (Thames & Hudson, 2006)
· Gothic Revival (Thames and Hudson, 2002/ Japanese translation, 2004)
· Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind (W. W. Norton, 2001)
· Monument to Philanthropy: The Design and Building of Girard College, 1832-1848, with Bruce Laverty and Michelle Taillon Taylor (Philadelphia: Girard College, 1998)
· Drawn from the Source: The Travel Drawings of Louis I. Kahn, catalogue of an exhibition at the Williams College Museum of Art, with Eugene J. Johnson (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996)
· La Geometrie de la Fortification: Traites et Manuels, 1500 – 1800/ The Geometry of Defense, Catalogue of an exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1992)
· Frank Furness, The Complete Works, with George E. Thomas and Jeffrey A. Cohen (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1991/ revised edition 1996)
· The Politics of the German Gothic Revival (New York: Architectural History Foundation and MIT Press, 1993)

Also, Lewis has:
· Written numerous essays and review in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Commentary, New Criterion, Architectural Record, Chronicle of Higher Education, etc.
· Authored National Historic Landmark Nomination of the John Coltrane House for the National Park Service, 1998
· Is a historical consultant for restoration of Old Economy Village, Pa. for Pennsylvania Museum Commission, 1988-89
· Served on architectural juries, including memorial to Kurdish victims of Halabja poison
gas attack, Teheran, Iran (1992) and choosing Awards of Merit and Conservation Awards, Natal Institute of Architects, Province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (1995)
· Organized and conducted study tours for Society of Architectural Historians of Hudson River Valley (2006) and architecture of Harmony Society, Pennsylvania (2007)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Considering Downtown Pottstown

Photo by Evan Brandt
From left, PDIDA Board members Ross Belovish, Cindy Brower, 
and Main Street Manager Sheila Dugan at Thursday's meeting
After the weather postponed the first attempt, the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority held its annual meeting with merchants Thursday night.

Merchants were briefed on upcoming events, asked to remit their "assessments" in a timely manner, warned that they need to clear the spaces in front of their stores of obstructions if they want the plows to clear their parking spaces.

Further, Police Chief Rick Drumheller addressed the audience of about 25 on the police efforts to keep downtown safe.

Also, Parks and Recreation Director Michael Lenhart briefed merchants about upcoming events for the bicentennial celebration of the borough's incorporation and invited them to get involved.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Day of Service Aimed at Education

Some of the 100 SAT prep kits packed during the day of service in Pottstown.

The packing underway.
Before the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day fades too far into our memories, let's take another look at one of the service projects undertaken in his honor.

Members of United Way of Greater Philadelphia "Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow" program undertook a program at the Ricketts Community Center that day.

They packed 100 SAT prep kits and 600 literacy kits for youth in Philadelphia and Pottstown in honor of the 2015 MLK Day of Service.

Other service projects in the area including community work by a number of Hill School students.

-- Assisted with small jobs at the Ricketts Center;
Hill student cleans up around Ricketts.
-- Built book shelves for the Ricketts Center;
-- Painted, cleaned and performed other small tasks at the Steel River Playhouse;
-- Baked cookies and muffins for the Pottstown Cluster;
-- Made cards for children who are in the hospital.;
-- Addressing envelopes for an upcoming Pottstown Police Athletic League mailing.

Another project involved several days of organizing donated shoes at the new warehouse for the non-profit In Ian's Boots which provides footwear to the needy.

Literacy kits for youth included this Dr. Seuss classic.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Going Halfsies

When questioning the need for the borough authority to help
pay for a 
new borough public works facility, Board Member
Aram Ecker said he 
the borough will make
the same mistake it did with borough hall, 
which he called a "Taj Mahal."
After some carping, the Pottstown Borough Authority unanimously agreed Tuesday night to pay for half the $4 million cost of a new public works facility on Rice Street.

That means borough taxpayers, who are on the hook for a $4 million loan, are instead on the hook for only half the cost.

The other half will be paid by rate payers of the water and sewer system which includes not just borough residents, but system users in West Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove and Lowerr Pottsgrove as well.

The vote was justified by the fact that more than 50 percent of the work done by public works employees is related to work required by the authority.

But, as the Tweets below will show, it didn't happen without some discussion and a little bit of bitterness.

Monday, January 19, 2015

And the (Inter-County) Band Played On

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Spring-Ford School District.

This year the Spring-Ford Middle School Band, under the direction of Mrs. Kris Jennings will host the 59th Annual Inter-County Junior High School Band Festival on Saturday evening, Jan. 24.

The concert will be held in the Spring-Ford High School 10-12 Auditorium beginning at 7:30 P.M.

The Concert Band consists of 125 selected 7th, 8th and 9th grade musicians from eleven surrounding school districts. The directors from the participating schools will each conduct one selection during the concert. 

The directors include: Kathy Williams, Pottsgrove; Mike Agatone, Boyertown East; Brian Leonard, Arcola; Michael Jordan, Boyertown West; Jason Hess, Owen J. Roberts; Kris Jennings, Spring-Ford; Cassidy Nalepa, Upper Perkiomen; Bill Bonnell, Phoenixville; Paul DiRenzo, Perkiomen Valley East; Dawn Krown, Perkiomen Valley Middle School West and Ben Hayes, Pottstown. 

The select Inter-County Jazz Band will also perform during the concert. 

The Jazz Band will be under the direction of Mr. Paul DiRenzo, the band director at Perkiomen Valley East Middle School.

Here is some video from last year's concert:

Selections from the concert will include traditional works like “William Tell Overture” by Rossini and “Nimrod” by Elgar, along with works from some of today’s well-known composers and arrangers of contemporary band literature.

There will be 11 seventh, eighth and ninth grade students representing Spring-Ford in this festival. These talented musicians are: ninth graders Morgan Turner, Niva Pandya, Kayla Christman, Lauren Knab, Dillon Rumsey, and Charlie Nawa; eighth graders Sarah Chiaradonna, Allie Platchek, Kristine Luo and Ainsley Bittner, and seventh grader Eli Siron.

Tickets for the concert are available in advance from any member of the Inter-County Band or at the door the evening of the concert. The cost of the tickets is $4 for adults and $3 for students.

If inclement weather would cause a postponement, the concert would be held on Monday, January 26th at 7:30 P.M.