Monday, May 25, 2015

Can We Talk?

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

As part of an ongoing initiative to seek community change through family engagement, the Pottstown School District is inviting the district's parents and caregivers of elementary age children and younger to a series of community conversations in the coming weeks.

In relaxed conversational settings, parents will have the opportunity to talk with other parents, enjoy a meal and win raffle prices as ideas about upcoming events, programs and activities for kids over the summer are discussed.

Child care and Spanish interpreters will be available.

The dates and locations are as follows:

  • Wednesday, May 27 from to 1 to 3 p.m.: CCLU First Baptist Church, 301 King St.
  • Wednesday, May 27 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: St. John's United Church of Christ, 11 S. Price St.
  • Thursday, May 28 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: St. Peter's Lutheran Church, 564 Glasgow St.
  • Tuesday, June 2 from 6 to 8 p.m.: YWCA, 3125 King St.
The initial series of conversations were held in the spring and fall of 2014.

Feddback received from parents and caregivers at those talks aided PEAK (Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten Readiness) and the Pottstown School District in obtaining a three-year $1,250,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for early childhood education and family engagement.

For this initiative to be successful, participation from all social and ethnic groups is crucial.

Your feedback is needed. 

Please come out, have your voices hear and be part of a brighter future for our children.

In addition to the Kellogg Foundation, the project is also supported by the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Project for Civic Engagement.

The grant is aimed at finding ways to strength the partnership between home and school, to increase family participation and improve support for all children's growth and development from birth through elementary school.

For more information, contact Jane Bennett, PEAK Community Engagement Coordinator at 610-256-6370 or

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In Automotive Memory

Photos courtesy of Christopher Moritzen
Detail of the memorial bench dedicated earlier this month at the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center in honor of automotive teacher Steve Bruno. 

A car show earlier this month at the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center was the occasion to dedicate a very special bench fashioned in honor Steve Bruno, an automotive teacher who died last year.
Bruno's widow Margie, woman in red shirt, at the dedication.

Last year, the Joint Operating Committee that oversees the school that educates students from Pottsgrove, Spring-Ford and Upper Perkiomen approved funds for the memorial.

It was created using a 1956 Ford Station wagon, that Mr. Bruno had brought in to fabricate into another project before he passed away.

After his passing the staff and students thought it was fitting that an automotive teacher have a memorial that is based around the automotive world.

"Over the last 12 months teachers and students in Collision, Environmental Design, Carpentry, Metal Technologies, and Auto Tech have been working to create this wonderful memorial, "Mortizen wrote in an e-mail to The Digital Notebook.

"It is located just outside the employee entrance/ administrative offices. it was chosen because it sees the most foot traffic for staff and visitors."

All of the pin striping was done by hand

Over 600 dollars was raised for the Steve Bruno memorial fund which is a scholarship fund to provide students with tools of the trade or scholarship money for a post secondary institution.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Excellent Teachers and Zero-Tax Budgets

Inadequate photo by Evan Brandt
From left, Pottstown School Board President Judyth Zahora, high school social studies teacher Maureen Rieger, Franklin Elementary teacher Jane Hospador and Superintendent Jeff Sparagana.

As much as this is the season of spring concerts, graduations and field days, it is also the time of the school year when excellence in teaching is recognized.

Some of that recognition occurred at Thursday night's school board meeting.

The first teacher to be honored was Jane Hospador, who teaches at Franklin Elementary School and was a finalist for the Montgomery County-wide Voices of Inspiration Award.

Here is a short video with Superintendent Jeff Sparagana reading why Hospador was recognized.

After Hospador, it was Pottstown High School social studies teacher Maureen Reiger's turn.

She was recognized by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution as one of the teachers the organization recognizes each year "as an extraordinary educator."

It is presented to "a teacher whose instruction on the era from 1750 to 1800 demonstrates education efforts in the classroom that exceed and excel above the current, accepted curriculum requirements.

Rieger will not compete at the state and possibly national levels.

Here is a short video of the ceremony in her honor Thursday.

Of course that wasn't the only newsworthy thing that happened Thursday night.

There was also the small matter of a $57 million proposed budget that was adopted unanimously and will not raise taxes in the coming year.

But we both know that will get splashed all over the front page of The Mercury, so I thought it would be nice to lead off with the teachers since, to be honest, that will likely not make the paper.

And that's why The Digital Notebook's motto is "All the News That Doesn't Fit Into Print."

Speaking of non-print news, here are the Tweets from Thursday night's meeting.

(Be sure to scroll your way through to the bottom to see lots of photos from the district's first Elementary Math Olympiad, held at Rupert Elementary, as well as photos of students helping to establish a new community garden at Charlotte and Walnut streets.)

Friday, May 22, 2015

There's a Rack for That

Have you ever seen a place that you might like to bike, but you don't want to or can't bike to get there?

There's a rack for that.

And its on the front of Pottstown's signature PART buses.

VeloPorter bike racks, funded by a PennDOT grant, have been installed on all PART buses.

This allows bike riders to easily load their own personal bicycles, or any of the free Bike Pottstown bikes, onto the bus and ride to their biking destination.

A kick-off event with practice loading and explanations about how the service will work will be held today at Smith Family Plaza in front of borough hall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Pottstown is growing as a multi-modal destination," according to Jennifer Ridgway, PART's director of operations.

She said being able to walk, bike or ride a bike to work or to school "is an affordable and sustainable alternative to traveling by car."

"The success of Bike Pottstown is no doubt related to the growing demand of the Pottstown community to explore our region, achieve a healthier lifestyle and enjoy the outdoors," said Tim Fenchel, grants coordinator for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area.

"The PART Bike & Ride Program will only enhance the user experience for bicyclists in the Pottstown area," he said.

PART, which stands for Pottstown Area Rapid Transit, serves a 54-mile area in the borough and the townships of Lower Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove, West Pottsgrove, Limerick and North Coventry.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vets Ride Colebrookdale RR Free for Memorial Day

The Colebrookdale Railroad continues to make progress toward full operation as well as partnering with area organizations to make the most of what’s working now.

For example, all this weekend — Saturday, Sunday and Monday — veterans can ride for free on the Secret Valley Line excursion train from Boyertown to Pottstown and then back again.

“We deeply thank all of our vets for their service to this great nation. Please join us in memory of those we gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Nathaniel Guest, director of the Colebrookdale Preservation Trust, which operations the railroad.

The offer is for military personnel, both currently serving and retired, so long as proof of service is offered at the Gatehouse.

On Saturday, the railroad has partnered with the Boyertown Relay for Life, which will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, hoagies and other items to support Relay for Life’s fundraising efforts to fight cancer with the American Cancer Society.

And on Saturday and Sunday, the Other Farm Brewing Company will offer hard cider and freshly baked apple pie.

On Memorial Day, in addition to food and drink, a special flag-raising ceremony will be held at the Boyertown Railroad Yard at noon to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in their nation.

There will be a moment of silence during the playing of TAPS.

Built is 1869, the Colebrookdale Railroad was completed by soldiers home from the Civil War just four months after the Transcontinental Railroad united the East and West.

The Colebrookdale is an 8.6-mile long record of epic engineering and heroic human drama.

To make your reservations or to learn more about the Colebrookdale Railroad, go to

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Dead Weight of Democracy

Lots of campaign signs at the Lower Pottsgrove Township Building
Tuesday, but not a lot of voters.
The real story from the primary election yesterday is not who won, but who elected them.

Proportionally, it was just a few lonely souls, who took it upon themselves to go out and do their duty as American citizens.

This tiny proportion of the population, which hadn't even broken the 30 votes mark by 5:30 p.m. at one Pottstown polling place, made all the decisions about who will make all the decisions.

Those who did not vote?

They are just Democracy's dead weight.

They are the ones who gripe and complain, who throw up their hands, who say everything is screwed up and money ruins the whole thing -- and by their inaction make their viewpoint a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Its not hard to get people worked up about the sacrifice our veterans made to preserve our freedoms and our rights -- this despite the fact that we mostly treat them terribly when they return from war and, in most cases, won't even bother to turn out for the parade or ceremonies planned to honor their dead next week.

But those of us who have not served, owe them more than just a debt of gratitude for preserving our rights. We owe them the minimal diligence of living up to our responsibility of being citizens.

Being informed.

And voting.

You would not believe, looking at the seven largely empty polling places I visited Tuesday that people once fought for the right to vote.

This country was founded largely by the landed gentry who didn't much care for how England's
By the time I saw Councilman Ryan Procsal 
shown here at St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church just before
6 p.m., voting totals for the two precincts were 46 and 27.
landed gentry was treating them, and so rebelled.

They feared the mob and limited voting to property owners.

Then to white males.

Then to women.

Finally, grudgingly, allowing African-Americans the franchise as well.

In each of those cases, a group of Americans fought vehemently to secure that right for future generations.

Our failure to honor that sacrifice mocks their efforts and makes us the laughing stock of the free world.

"Beacon for Democracy?"


In so many of our wars, our veterans fought and died to ensure that the right to choose our own leadership would be preserved.

I wonder if they look at voter turn-out here, and elsewhere in this country, and wonder why they even bothered.

One might think, from the money and effort spent to splash
campaign signs everywhere, that elections are a big deal around here.
If we had any self-respect, we would be ashamed.

Because voting is obviously not a right that we cherish, much less exercise.

As Phil Thees told me at the polling place at St. John's Byzantine Catholic Church, now the polling place for both voting districts in the First Ward, "a tiny minority is now making the decisions for the majority."

Maybe we need to  promote legislation limiting who can vote.

Maybe then we would begin to appreciate it as the source for all the other freedoms we profess to value so highly.

Maybe the only way to make us appreciate the value of what we have is to try to take it away.

As Joni Mitchell so perfectly phrased it, "don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till its gone?"

Here are some Tweets from my travels on Election Day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two Townships, Two Meetings, Little News

We started our evening in Gilbertsville, where the Douglass (Mont.) Supervisors met for a little less than an hour and conducted the business of the township with dispatch.

Supervisor Fred Ziegler, currently facing charges for a variety of crimes related to his position as a township supervisor, was not present.

The meeting proceeded apace and the big event of the evening, if there can be said to be one, was the apparent success of the township's Trout Rodeo on Saturday.

That done, I hustled myself down Gilbertsville Road to the Upper Pottsgrove firehouse, where the Upper Pottsgrove Commissioners were in the midst of wrapping up their meeting.

I sat in till the end, but I would be lying to to you if I told you there was big news in either of the meetings.

In other words, the Tweets tell it all.