Saturday, March 28, 2015

Senior Center News has Members Dancing

The West Chester Swing Kings provided the music for the 2015 Golden Apple Gala.








The Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center raised more money for their capital campaign with a swinging gala on Saturday, March 14. 

Nearly 100 people turned out for the second annual Golden Apple Gala at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown. 

The dress was formal, but the mood was light as attendees danced the night away to the sounds of Betsy Chapman on harp during the cocktail hour, followed by the West Chester Swing Kings.

The big announcement for the night came just before dinner when executive director Brian Parkes announced that renovations of the senior center’s new building on Moser Road would begin in early April. 
“I expect us to be moving in to our new building by the end of the summer,” said Parkes. “It is an exciting time for everyone who has been waiting and contributing for this.”

The gala raised nearly $15,000 for the campaign to complete the renovations of their building on Moser Road in Pottstown. The building is the former site of the Pottstown Health Club. 

Donations are still needed to offset the money the senior center is borrowing to complete the renovations, and the campaign will continue through the renovation process. 

Donations to the campaign may be sent to PASC, 288 Moser Road, Suite 1, Pottstown, PA 19464.

Once renovations are complete, the senior center will have more than 18,000 square feet of programming and office space where it expects to serve 200 seniors a day. 

Currently, the center is offering most of its programs and services from a temporary location at the Berean Bible Church on East High Street in Pottstown.

Major supporters of the Golden Apple Gala include Keller Williams, National Penn Bank, FastSigns, Wolf Baldwin & Associates, Thrivent Financial, Manatawny Village, Longacre Company, David Garner, Esq., Piazza Honda, Houck & Gofus Funeral Home, Sager & Sager Associates, Knies Insurance Group, Mauger & Meter, Manor Care, De Medio’s Building Maintenance, Home Health
Betsy Chapman volunteered to provide the
music during the cocktail hour at
the 2015 Golden Apple Gala
Care Management, Vlahos Dunn, Sabre’s Fine Jewelry, American Dental Solutions, Gibbons Fastag, Yong Shin, MD, Bercek & Smith Engineering, Catagnus Funeral Home, Academic Urologic Associates, Wolpert Schreiber PC, Andrew Hoff Agency, and Quality Degree.

The Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center serves adults age 50 and better with programs and services including information and referral assistance, a daily lunch, exercise programs, social activities, and much more. 

The mission of the Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center is to enhance the well-being of its members by providing services and activities that promote an independent and healthy life style. 

The Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center has more than 3,000 members residing in the tri-county area. Anyone living in the tri-county area (Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties) who is 50+ years of age is welcome to join the senior center. Learn more at www.greaterpasc.com.

Friday, March 27, 2015

There's Eggs Amid the Trees



Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Save Alliance Foundation:

The SAVE Alliance Foundation and the student organization Spark the Wave will hold a Forest Easter Egg Hunt in the Althouse Arboretum Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The arboretum is located at 1794 Gilbertsville Road in Upper Pottsgrove. 

Families are invited to come anytime during the event. There is no official start time. 

Parents and children will enjoy the outdoors together with a walk along the forested trails looking for hidden eggs. 

Eggs will be returned for prizes. The cost is $2 per child.

The rain date is Sunday afternoon, March 29th from 1-3 pm.

This community event is sponsored by The SAVE Alliance Foundation with its mission to “Inspire communities and their youth to forge the connections that promote environmental sustainability”.

If you have any questions, email Executive Director Ken Hamilton of the SAVE Alliance Foundation at khamilton@thesavealliance.org. or call 267-371-2288.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

For Whom the Plan Tolls




So once again, tolls on Route 422, as dead an issue as you can imagine, was debated by representatives of the eight municipalities which comprise the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee during Wednesday night's meeting.

Forced to the floor for debate by a resolution from East Coventry Township and a pending one from Lower Pottsgrove Township, the planners tossed the issue back and forth until a compromise was reached.

In the end, everyone agreed on a single sentence which satisfied all the concerns expressed.

(You will have to read the Tweets to learn what it is! :))

Also discussed was another $200,000 in regional recreational grants from the state; a regional train and open space stewardship plan and a development project off Bleim Road in Lower Pottsgrove.

Read and learn, and look for full stories on these issues in upcoming editions of The Mercury.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Record Retention, Budgets and an Election Dilemma

Photo by Evan Brandt
Technology Director Michael Wagman presents the proposed
technology budget to the Pottsgrove School Board.
Tuesday night's Pottsgrove School Board meeting was a nice way to spend an evening if your areas of fascination are records retention policy and departmental budget reviews.

And when I expressed sympathy after the meeting to
superintendent Shellie Feola and Business Manager David Nester for their endurance of a 3-hour webinar on Gov. Wolf's budget and then another 3-hour board meeting mostly devoted to budget, Nester reminded me in 6 words why I admire him.

"This is what its all about," he said.

And he's right, when it comes to public education, the budget is where the rubber hits the road. My hat is off to both of them. One three-hour board meeting almost wiped me out.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about.

Previously when covering Pottsgrove School Board meetings, I have included in my conglomeration of Tweets, Twitter responses from the community and even from those sitting alongside me in the audience.

I've always considered it a nice way to get community concerns and response out there and into the conversation.

But its election season, and a team of candidates have, to their credit, created an account very honestly called "New School Board."

They not only re-Tweeted my Tweets, for which I am quite obviously grateful, but also responded to them and commented on them.

I confess I had not anticipated this.

I am torn about what to do. After all, this is all new ground for an old dog like me.

On the one hand, I think included those Tweets in the "Storify" down below is part of the public discussion during the electoral process and good for democracy.

On the other hand, the incumbents running and running and board meeting and don't have the same opportunity to participate.

Back to the first hand, incumbency has always been a HUGE advantage in elections and so perhaps they should taste a little of the disadvantage of the challenger for a change.

But on the second hand, this is the Pottsgrove School Board, not the U.S. Senate and its not like incumbents are enjoying huge campaign contributions from giant corporations (who might be people.)

Not sure what to do, in an abundance of caution I decided against including the Tweets from the team of challengers, for now.

But I would be curious to hear from the voting public, and from both the challengers and the incumbents, how this should be handled.

I will be honest, I won't guarantee I will follow your advice, but I would love to hear it.

Anyway, post a message on the bottom of the blog or on this post on The Mercury Facebook page and tell me what you think I should do.

In the meantime, here are the Tweets from the meeting.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heroes, Supporters and Closed Doors

Photo by Evan Brandt

From left, Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, Michelle Evans
and School Board President Judy Zahora.
Monday night, the Pottstown School Board recognized an every-day hero; recognized the year-after-year help of a partner in education, and failed to recognize that just because you CAN hide something from the public, doesn't mean you have to.

I should say MOST of the board failed to recognize that.

Board member Ron Williams said while he recognizes that the executive session the board held Monday to discuss the fate of Edgewood school is probably not illegal, he still refuses to take part in it.

He refused, he said, because he believes the taxpayers who paid for that school and own that school and property, should have the opportunity and the right to have a say in what happens to that school and property now that it is no longer being used for that purpose.

We (at the Mercury) have some doubts about whether discussions of "should the property be sold, or 'mothballed' or a number of other options" are legally the subject of "executive sessions" which exclude the public.

We tried to put a stop to it at the meeting, noting that the state's Sunshine Law allows a closed-door "executive session" to discuss the "purchase" of real estate, but not the "sale of it," but School Board Solicitor Stephen  Kalis cooly replied that a 2008 court decision made Monday night's session legal.

As I have written here many times before, "legal" and "right" are not synonyms.

And so the initial discussions of "what should we do with Edgewood" went behind closed doors.

The board would like you to think, having excluded you from offering input, that your input will be valued once they have already framed the options, but apparently, they do not want you to hear what the options are

But be re-assured by School Board President Judyth Zahora's exhortation that "I have never suggested that we are anything but transparent."

And in that, I suspect we agree.

Their choice to exclude the public not because they should, but because they can, is entirely transparent. Once they have decided what's best, they'll allow you do agree.

This was a golden opportunity to put truth to that statement. For the board to say: "we have to make a decision. Before we get too far along, tell us what you think."

When we posted the story about the issue on our Facebook page, there were no shortage of opinions.

In fact, more than 115 opinions were posted there. But instead, the default position is: "we can discuss this behind closed doors, so we will. And then tell you how transparent we are."

And they wonder why no one wants to get involved....

Anyway, rant concluded.

Here are the Tweets from what was the very short "public" portion of a meeting by a public agency, about a public property, bought with public funds and whose final disposition will, quite obviously be decided with minimal, after-the-fact input from the public.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Another 'Outstanding' Jazz Performance


Photo by Evan Brandt
The four soloists featured on "Stolen Moments" are,
from left, Sherif Mohamaed, John Johnson,
Justin Beasley-Turner and Marley Bryan.
The Pottstown High School Jazz Band was the only local band out of 11 to perform Saturday at the 25th Annual Jazz Festival at West Chester University's School of Music.

To mark the occasion, the band unveiled a new number, "Stolen Moments," which features four soloists.

A source inside the band informed the Digital Notebook team that this new number was performed after only two rehearsals.

Once you listen to it I think you'll agree that's pretty damn good for only their third attempt at it.

Here is the full video of "Stolen Moments:"



The show proceeded then as previous ones have with "Midnight Voyage:"



This was followed with their big closer, "R U Chicken?"






The band earned a rating of "Outstanding" from the three judges, Dave Kenney,
Neil Wetzel and Tom Wolfe.

Further, tenor saxophonist Marley Bryan won another award for his solo work.

He also received a scholarship to a summer program at West Chester University.

This year's jazz band season has been curtailed by the weather and two performances, one at Pottsgrove High School and another, scheduled for Friday at West Chester High School, were both cancelled due to snow.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Uniforms, Edgewood and a Defense of The Mercury

Thursday night's Pottstown School Board meeting was only about an hour, but provided some interesting information.

Perhaps topping that list for Pottstown taxpayers was the indication that the board is getting ready to start discussing the fate of the Edgewood School property.

Located adjacent to The Hill School, rumors about its sale to that school have been persistent, said school board member Ron Williams.

And so, perhaps moved by the spirit of Sunshine Week, he declared he did not want the subject restricted to executive sessions from which the public would be barred.

Other board members agreed -- to a point, and said they would be guided by their solicitor, Stephen Kalis, who apparently sent an e-mail asking for an executive session Monday to discuss the subject.

If Twitter traffic is any judge, of grater interest to the student body was the report from student member Emmanuel Wilkerson on the students proposal to ease uniform restrictions for students at Pottstown High School.

Everyone, students, board and staff, praised the district's production of "Grease," and Superintendent Jeff Sparagana pledged there will be another musical next year.

Speaking of "Grease," some of you may recall that earlier this month, Mayor Sharon Thomas chided The Mercury at a council meeting for not "covering" the district's first musical in six years, and instead running a three-day series about crime.

I have no problem with that. She is entitled to her opinion and we addressed concerns about our coverage of the arts on Facebook. And the readers weight in as well.

But at the same meeting, Councilwoman Carol Kulp piled on and complained that  during her son’s wrestling team’s success during championships 25 years ago “we had to practically beg The Mercury to cover it,” she said. 

Since Mrs. Kulp is allowed to hold a grudge for 25 years, I am allowed to hold one for a month.

You see, it bothered me that anyone would complain about The Mercury's wrestling coverage, even coverage that happened long before I arrived in Pottstown, because, well, I worked for years with the late Don Seeley, a member of the Wrestling Hall of Fame,  and a longtime member of The Mercury staff and our former sports editor.

I had a very hard time believing Don would have allowed a championship wresting team in our coverage area go uncovered or even be under-represented. It just suck in my craw.

I'm not enough of a sports guy to know how much coverage was Don, and how much was other staffers, but as much as Don irritated me in the office (newsflash,m I'm easily irritaed) , he was a remarkable writer who I couldn't help but respect both for his craft and for how much he truly cared about his chosen subject.

Frankly, I thought we owed him a defense since he is no longer around to defend himself, but I had no evidence to refute Kulp's claim.  It just seemed like a cheap shot to me.

And then, like the thorn being pulled from my paw, John Armato produced a scrap-book of our wrestling coverage from that self-same year, for which I thank him most sincerely. 

Page after page (more than 20 of them) showed exactly what I had expected to see, your local newspaper's coverage of local kids making good.



The video above shows a brief over-view of that scrap-book, which includes a photo and write-up of Mrs. Kulp's son and reveals her jibe for the cheap shot that it truly was.

Understand, I'm not saying that we don't have faults at The Mercury. We've got them by the boat-load. But we live local coverage and local sports and next time you want to cast aspersions at us Mrs. Kulp, it might be helpful to have at least a few facts on hand to support those aspersions.


Here are the Tweets from the rest of the school board meeting.