Thursday, November 27, 2014

What a Bunch of Turkeys

President Obama pardons "Popcorn" in 2012. Photos of this year's pardoning were restricted for security reasons.

Blogger's Note: Happy Thanksgiving gentle readers.

In honor of the day, I present to you the actual remarks made Wednesday by the actual president when he pardoned this year's turkeys, whose actual names are Mac and Cheese.

President Lyndon B. Johnson 
lobbies a Congressman from Tennessee...
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Please have a seat. Normally we do this outside. The weather is not cooperating today. But I want to, first of all, on behalf of Malia and Sasha, wish everybody an early Happy Thanksgiving. I am here to announce what I’m sure will be the most talked-about executive action this month. (Laughter.) Today, I’m taking an action fully within my legal authority -- (laughter) -- the same kind of action taken by Democrats and Republican presidents before me -- to spare the lives of two turkeys, Mac and Cheese, from a terrible and delicious fate. (Laughter.)

President Richard M. Nixon could not
believe this turkey was more popular
than him.
I want to thank Joel Brandenberger, the president of the National Turkey Federation; Gary Cooper, its chairman; and his son Cole Cooper, who personally raised Mac and Cheese. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.) Cole is keeping a pretty careful eye there on Cheese. (Laughter.) Uh-oh, he’s getting pretty excited about this.

Thanks to all those who voted online to pick the official National Thanksgiving Turkey. Cheese wants you to know that he won. (Laughter.) Mac, the alternate, is not so badly off either. Let’s face it -- if you’re a turkey, and you’re named after a side dish -- (laughter) -- your chances of escaping Thanksgiving dinner are pretty low. So these guys are well ahead of the curve. They really beat the odds.

It is important to know that turkeys have always had powerful allies. Many of you know that Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country. He is a bird of bad moral character…the turkey is, in comparison, a much more respectable bird.” (Laughter.) I think these two turkeys would agree with Mr. Franklin. And they’ll get to live out the rest of their days, respectably, at a Virginia estate with 10,000 {sic} acres of roaming space.

This turkey could find no weapon of mass destruction
on President George W. Bush.
I know some will call this amnesty -- (laughter) -- but don’t worry, there’s plenty of turkey to go around. (Laughter.) In fact, later this afternoon, Michelle, Malia and Sasha and I will take two turkeys that didn’t make the cut to a local food pantry that works hard year-round to make sure that folks in our Nation’s Capital have food to eat and clothes to wear. I want to thank Jaindl Turkey Farm in Pennsylvania for donating once again those birds for -- it's, in fact, been six years in a row that they’ve made these contributions -- and for making Thanksgiving dinner possible for some of our fellow Americans.

Finally, The Washington Post recently questioned the wisdom of the whole turkey pardon tradition. “Typically on the day before Thanksgiving,” the story went, “the man who makes decisions about wars, virus outbreaks, terrorism cells and other dire matters of state, chooses to pardon a single turkey … plus an alternate.”

"I don't know, a sea turtle?" responds President Ronald Reagan
when asked what kind of animal he was pardoning.
Tell me about it. It is a little puzzling that I do this every year. (Laughter.) But I will say that I enjoy
it because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it's nice once in a while just to say: Happy Thanksgiving. And this is a great excuse to do it.

Tomorrow is a pretty special moment when we give thanks for the people we love, and where we're mindful of the incredible blessings that we have received. We remember the folks who can’t spend their holiday at home, especially the brave men and women in uniform who help keep our country secure. And we celebrate a holiday that, at its best, is about what makes this nation great -- and that's its generosity and its openness, and, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said, our commitment, “to make a country in which no one is left out.”

Now, because I know everyone wants to get out of town, Mac and Cheese included -- (laughter) -- it
is time for me to engage in the official act. So let’s see what we can do here with Cheese.
"What did you say your name was darlin?" 
President Bill Clinton asked this turkey.

Come on, girls. (Laughter.) All right, are we ready? Cheese, you are hereby pardoned from the Thanksgiving dinner table. (Laughter.) Congratulations. (Applause.)

He looks pretty happy about it. (Laughter.) All right, if you want to take Cheese down, that's okay. (Laughter.) I will tell you, though, turkeys don't have the best-looking heads. (Laughter.) You know what I'm saying? You think they’re beautiful?

MR. COOPER: I think they’re beautiful -- they’re red, white and blue --

THE PRESIDENT: There’s a patriotism element to it. (Laughter.) Absolutely. (To Malia and Sasha) -- Do you want to pet him?

MALIA: No. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good to see you. Appreciate you.

Thank you, everybody. Happy Thanksgiving. (Applause.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

There's Still Time to Give for the Giftaway

The Giftaway Donation box at the Pottstown YMCA
There are still a few days left to drop gently used toys, books, puzzles, and stuffed animals for all ages for the GiftAway event to be held at the Pottstown YMCA on Dec. 6.

Until Nov. 29, the Moms Club of Pottstown/ Pottsgrove will be accepting donations of those items to be provided for free to needy residents of the Pottstown and Pottsgrove school districts.

Local drop-off locations are the Pottstown YMCA on North Adams Street; the Pottstown Regional Public Library at the intersection of High and Washington streets; and Proximity Cafe, at 1450 E. High St.

In particular, the group is looking for some gifts for "tweens" and teens, the availability maybe limited.

If you have a larger item you need picked up, leave a message on the event's Facebook page; or e-mail

The event itself  is open to any adult who lives in the Pottstown/Pottsgrove School Districts and may need a little extra help this year with getting presents under the tree. It is open to parents and grandparents. There is no registration required or income verification.

It begins at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6 and it is and it is first come, first serve.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Finding Just the Wright Words

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

Several students representing Pottsgrove High School recently won high honors in this year's
WordWright challenge, a competition for American high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

In the year's first meet, held in October, freshmen Natalie Lobello and Tyler Montgomery, sophomores Zachary Rieker and Jacob Schumacher, junior Janine Faust and senior Elizabeth Driehaus all earned near-perfect scores.

Junior Eric Maynard and seniors Brianna Costira, Meganne Natale and Brianna West earned honorable mention at the same time.

The school's participation was overseen by English teacher Todd Kelly.

More than 60,000 high school students from 47 states entered the meet.

The premise of the WordWright challenge is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students learn at school.

The texts students must analyze for the challenge can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or John Updike to poetry as old as Shakespeare or as recent as Margaret Atwood's.

Thought the texts vary widely in voice, tone, subject and length, they have one thing in common: style.

The texts for the first WordWright meet this year were a short story by Ron Rash for ninth and tenth graders; and an Atlantic Magazine essay by James Parker for 11th and 12th graders.

The students will participate in three more meets over the coming months and medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who achieve and/or improve the most in the course of the year.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Volunteers in the Vanguard

Photos  by John Armato

Volunteers from Vanguard Investment Corporation helped spruce up Pottstown High School during a "Day of Caring." Even a dummy ion the health occupations room can see the value of that.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.

The Pottstown School District and community taxpayers benefitted from a result of a partnership of volunteers from the Vanguard Investment Corporation, United Way, and the Pottstown School District. 
Vanguard employees (referred to as crew members) along with family members and representatives of the Pottstown School District participated in the annual “Day of Caring” sponsored by United Way of Southeast Pennsylvania. 

Both young and old gave up the pleasure of sleeping in late on a Saturday morning for the satisfaction that comes from working side-by-side with others for a worthy cause. 

This year’s projects included painting of the Pottstown High School Health Occupations Suite and landscaping of Barth Elementary School’s courtyard.

Dave Siravo, Vanguard Project Leader said, “The Vanguard Corporation’s philosophy includes a strong component of community involvement and commitment. Our crew members are dedicated to making a positive difference in the community. I am particularly proud of the fact that many of our crew members bring their younger children along so that the seeds of community service are sown early.”

The day’s project goals were accomplished quickly because, as always, the Vanguard crew comes with enthusiasm, organization, and focus. 

Working side-by-side with Vanguard volunteers were Barth Elementary School Principal Ryan Oxenford, Michaela Johnson, Health Occupations Teacher; Danielle McCoy, Director of Career and Technical Education; Nick Yonas, member of the Buildings and Grounds crew; and John Armato, Director of Community Relations. 
Mr. Oxenford said, “It is exciting to see so many people willing to give of their personal time to make a difference in our community.” 

Nick Yonas, who is also a Pottstown graduate, was responsible for the onsite organization of materials and work crews. He said, “This is an exciting experience for me. Seeing so many people willing to give their time to help our school district makes me proud to be an alumni.” 

Michaela Johnson, also a PHS graduate, said, “My students will be surprised when they come to class on Monday and see that their classrooms have a warm and inviting atmosphere because of the efforts of the Vanguard crew.”

John Armato, Director of Community Relations and honorary graduate of 2014 Pottstown High School, took part in the day’s events. 

 “Partnerships, such as these, help to save valuable taxpayer dollars while completing much needed school district projects. The adults and young people today served as role models and have done their part to ensure that our community moves forward in a positive fashion. Today’s events are just another reason for us to say, Proud to be from Pottstown.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Breakfast With Santa & More at Sunnybrook

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the non-profit SunnyBrook Ballroom Foundation.

Bring the family to breakfast with Santa at the Historic SunnyBrook Ballroom on  Nov. 29. Chef Doug Pickett is cooking up a great breakfast for the family. 

 “Ursala” SunnyBrook’s vintage theatre organ will ring out the sounds of Christmas. 

Mike Kropp and Makin’ Music will provide additional entertainment while the kids get their creative juices flowing by making a craft to take home. 

Ursula, the SunnyBrook organ
And of course, a certain Jolly Old Elf will be on hand.

Bring the camera to take that one of a kind picture for keepsake.

Admission for the event, open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, for ages 10 and under is $5.95; ages 11 and up $9.95

Breakfast with Santa is a part of SunnyBrook’s 2014 holiday celebration which includes:
  • Flamin’ Dick and the Hot Rods on Nov. 26;
  • SunnyBrook’s Holiday Ball with the Sounds of SunnyBrook Dance Band on Nov. 28;
  • Breakfast with Santa on Nov. 29; 
  • Twelve Twenty-Four and the music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on Dec. 19; 
  • And wraps up with New Year’s Eve with the Sounds of SunnyBrook and Emmy award nominee jazz vocalist Amanda Carr on New Year's Eve.
The Historic SunnyBrook Ballroom reopened in 2008 as an entertainment venue through the work of scores of community volunteers.

The facility’s casual fine dining restaurant and Chummy’s Lounge was reopened in 2011. The venue is owned and operated by the SunnyBrook Foundation.

During the heyday of big band music, the historic ballroom was a regular stop on the tours of all of the era’s big bands. Benny Goodman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong are just a few of the names of nationally known performers who filled the room with the music of the era.

The venue has hosted political rallies, community meetings, weddings, wedding receptions, class and family reunions, high school proms, and other events.

The SunnyBrook Ballroom decked out for the holidays.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Open Space for Athletes

More athletic fields may be available in the coming years thanks to the township’s purchase Monday night of nearly 16 acres off Chestnut Grove Road.

The property, known as the “Boerner tract,” is 15.89 acres and across the street from the playing fields run by the Police Athletic League.

Once slated for 33 single family homes to be developed by the Danny Jake corp., the property, located at 1458 Chestnut Grove Road, will instead be developed to expand the athletic field capacity of the PAL fields, said Township Manager Carol Lewis.

“The concept is to develop them in conjunction with neighboring municipalities as a regional sports facility,” Lewis said.

“It will probably be several years before those plans are developed. “Until then, we will probably contract with a farmer to farm that land, like we usually do,” she said.

The purchase was made after a closed-door executive session at Monday night’s commissioner’s meeting.

It is the latest in an aggressive range of open space purchases undertaken by the township over the past five years to create a trail system, passive open space and more active open space.

In 2006, Upper Pottsgrove voters supported a referendum to adopt an earned income tax of 0.25 percent in order to finance the acquisition of open space from willing township sellers.

The money is also used as a revenue stream to pay back bonds borrowed to purchase open space as it becomes available.

The 2015 budget now available for public review shows the open space fund revenues at $1,516,150 and expenses at $292,221.

Township Commissioner Herb Miller, who is also a member of the township’s open space and recreation board, said Monday night that he and several other officials met with Pottstown officials in the hopes of connecting Upper Pottsgrove’s growing trail system with the walking/biking routes recently funded in the borough.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Knowing the Score at Pottstown Schools

Photo by Evan Brandt

This breakdown of Pottstown's School Performance Profile shows areas in blue, where the district is doing well, and those in red and yellow where more work is needed.

Tis the season for school scores and last night, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana reviewed those for Pottstown.

"The numbers are positive, but we have also identified areas where there is still room to grow," he said.

He also pointed out, as The Mercury will examine more closely in a story set to publish in Monday's edition, that the scores are "highly correlated with student demographics."

So the fairest comparison, Sparagana argued, is to compare Pottstown's performance with districts
where similar demographics are found.

"When you compare those apples to apples, you see our schools are tremendously good," he told the board.

However, comparing the most recent score to the one from just a year ago is not a terrible good comparison, he said.

As The Mercury reported last month when we first previewed these scores, it has been a period of change in the district with four elementary schools either finishing or beginning renovations or closing, four new building principals or assistant principals and the entire fifth grade being moved to the middle school.

A comparison of last year's scores at the high school, 

with this year's scores.
Add to this, changes within the way the school profile scores are developed and its hard to undertake a year-to-year comparison.

In fact the only school in which he felt that would be relevant was the high school.

There, he said, there was only one percentage point of change in the school's overall score, downward,

High points included a 10.18 point rise in math and algebra achievement and an 18.35 point hike in reading and literature scores, followed by an 8.18 point rise in biology.

There was a decrease in the SAT index, but that is probably due to fewer students taking the test, Sparagana said.

Growth indicators were all in positive territory at the high school, he said.

Look for my report in The Mercury on this presentation in Monday's paper, as well as a look at how increases in poverty in Pottstown often equal a decrease in scores.

In the meantime,  here are the Tweets from last night's meeting.