Saturday, May 27, 2017

Good Healthy Fun at West Pottsgrove Elementary

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

West Pottsgrove Elementary School celebrated Healthy Kids Day with an evening families, fun and fitness. 

West is in it’s third year of looking at how to incorporate wellness and student well being into the culture of the school and this year we took it a step further and added an evening event to include our families into the initiative. 

Through the work of the building Wellness Committee we reached out into the community and brought a variety of community organizations on board to provide resources to our families on opportunities for fitness and wellness outside of school.

During the event, families could take part in an Escape Room Fitness Challenge where they had to complete several challenges and unlock the code to “escape”.

Next Level Martial Arts instructors were on hand to give a demonstration for students. An instructor from Premier Dance Studio engaged students and parents a dance lesson and 422 Sportsplex engaged children and families in a soccer demonstration. 

McCormick Chiropractic was on hand to provide information and consultation to interested parents.

Cindy Hontz, our food service director from Chartwells served up smoothies that can be made without a blender. Cindy had samples to try and the students were also able to try their hand at making their own smoothie. We had other snacks and water on hand provided by generous donations from Wawa, Giant Food Stores and the Pottstown Health and Wellness Foundation. 

PMSI Comprehensive Healthcare was the generous sponsor of the event. Through their generous donation, we were able to provide an inflatable obstacle course for the children to enjoy. This was a big hit for all in attendance. 

JAMB party rentals supplied the obstacle course and they were generous enough to leave the course for all of the children to enjoy during the school day on Friday. We were also able to offer fitness themed door prizes throughout the event.

Other community organizations were on hand to provide information for the families:
  • Art Fusion offered a make and take art workshop. 
  • The Pottstown Library provided families with information on summer programs and how to get a library card. 
  • Community Health and Dental Care brought along their mascot to share information about the many services they offer. 
  • The Pottstown YMCA shared information about their summer programs. 
  • Head Start shared information on their program for the children of the community. 
  • Creative Health was on hand to share information about their programs and services.
Plans are already underway for next year’s event and the team is looking forward to expanding our relationship with the many community partners involved. If success can be measured in smiles, the event was an overwhelming success.

The West Pottsgrove Wellness Committee members are Tom Yenchick, Julie Farris, Jean Randall, Melissa Holloway, Marianne Harrison, Matt Pawlik, Leah Quigley and Terri Koehler.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Solicitor Peddles Solicitation Update in Lower

I put my money on 20 minutes for Thursday's Township Commissioners meeting as the agenda was so light.

The ever-wise Joe Zlomek, publisher of the Sanatoga Post, said because they were considering three new ordinances it would be more.

But I would have won if Commissioner Ray Lopez had not raised the idea of changing the title of Code Enforcement Chief Joe Groff to the head of the Licensing and Inspections Department, similar to what was done in Pottstown a few years ago.

There was a lot of hemming and hawing and no decision was made, but it made me lose my bet and I'm pretty sure I owe Joe Zlomek a drink.

Otherwise, the most significant discussion -- no votes were taken -- was probably the updating of the peddling and solicitation ordinance.

Solicitor Charles Garner Jr. noted that it had not been updated since the 1970s and offered such waivers as the ability to sell meat and dairy products from the back of a truck, not something that happens much nowadays.

So in the interest of being proactive -- the justification for draft sewer holding tank and blasting ordinances also discussed Thursday night -- Garner and Township Manager Ed Wagner offered some "tweaks and updates."

Primarily, they include such practical suggestions and shortening a the term of a peddling license from a year to six months, applying it primarily to for-profit enterprises and requiring background checks for the issuing of a license.

Non-profits wopuld still be required to obtain a permit (thought not a license) under the current draft, but fees would be waived.

Commissioner Robert Molhollen was particularly insistent that the ordinance should not interfere with such regular occurrences and selling Girl Scout cookies and Salvation Army solicitations at Christmas.

He was assured they would not.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Home Prices in Montco Are on the Rise

How much is your house worth?

That is a question every homeowner ultimately asks, only to find it answered when it goes onto the market.

But how much is everybody's house worth? Well, counter-intuitively, that is something that can be answered with greater certainty. At least if you are the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

Their annual report on the cost of housing was released recently and reviewed Wednesday night by the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee.

The short answer is -- "more."

According to Montgomery County planner Donna Fabry, the median sale price in the county rose by $8,150 in the last year -- an increase of about 3 percent.

Its the fifth increase in the last nine years, according to the study.

Market rate sales increased and reached its highest total since 2007 with 11,441 units sold and the median sale price being $278,500, according to county figures.

The median price for a new detached single home in Montgomery County increased by 11 percent to $499,990 and the median price on all new units of all types averaged out to $448,524 in 2016, a 14 percent rise over 2015, the report said.

This was due to more detached homes being built and single family attached home prices decreased by 3.9 percent to $336,875.

Among Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties, Montco home prices increased the most in absolute dollars, while Delaware County homes increased by a higher percentage.

Within Montgomery County, New Hanover Township homes had the highest prices between $309,000 to 409,000, similar to Upper and Lower Providence, Collegeville, Skippack and Marlborough.

Pottstown, Lower Pottsgrove and West Pottsgrove had the lowest prices, ranging between $111,659 and $198,450. Upper Pottsgrove, Douglass and Limerick had slightly higher prices, ranging between $213,348 and $299,500.

Homeownership demand in the county has decreased, due to the increasing popularity of rental units "as many young people struggle to save money in the face of student debt, stagnant wages and the rising cost of living," according to the report.

The millenial generation is expected to turn to homeownership later in life than their parents did. The multi-family housing unit market has also turned away from townhouse toward luxury apartments "with amenities such as clubhouses, pools and dog runs," according to the report.

As a result, rents are being driven higher, with a 15 percent increase in Montgomery County from 2010 to 2015. The median rent rose from $1,057 per month to $1,214.

By contrast, the median home price over the same period rose by only 2 percent in Montgomery County, from $265,000 to $270,350.

"The demand for walkable town centers and mature suburbs with distinct neighborhoods served by multiple modes of transportation is expected to continue increasing," according to the report.

"In 2016, boroughs like Jenkintown, Ambler and Rockledge saw some of the highest percentage median price gains in the county," the report said.

Montgomery County Planner John Cover said "that trend bodes well for Pottstown," although he also acknowledged that "people move for jobs and schools with a good reputation," two areas where Pottstown does not often rise to the top of the list.

Many communities "saw growth not only in construction of new units, but in housing turnover. The increase in housing turnover is partially due demographic in nature due to the generational transfer of housing from baby boomers to millenials," according to the report.

Not much else of interest at the planning meeting. What was interesting can be found in the Tweets below.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

1% Tax Hike in Pottsgrove, New MS Principal

Photo by Evan Brandt
Pottsgrove High School Principal Bill Ziegler, himself a former Pottstown teacher and former Pottsgrove Middle School Principal, welcomes Matthew Boyer, currently at principal at Pottstown Middle School, who was named the new principal at Pottsgrove Middle School Tuesday night.

Tuesday night, a former Pottsgrove Middle School Principal, who once worked in Pottstown Schools, welcomed the new Pottsgrove Middle School Principal, who currently works in Pottstown Schools.

The naming of Matthew Boyer as the new middle school principal was one of several important votes taken by the Pottsgrove School Board last night.

They also adopted a preliminary budget, but more on that in a minute.

Boyer, who will be paid $122,500 in his first year, is the current principal of grades 5/6 at Pottstown Middle School, a post he has held since 2011.

Prior to his administrative position, he taught at Pottstown Middle School for 16 years. He received his Bachelors of Science in Education from West Chester University. He continued his education earning his Masters in Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology from Temple and completed his Principal Certification from Alvernia.

According to information in the meeting agenda, Boyer brings several valuable experiences to the district including his strength in aligning curriculum to meet Pennsylvania Common Core Standards; he lead the implementation of STEAM initiatives with in-core curriculum; and he lead and implemented a school-wide behavior modification system at Pottstown Middle School.

Board member rick Rabinowitz thanked the administration for letting board members sit in on the first round of interviews and called Boyer "a superb choice."

Now, to the $66,379,955 budget, which, as first proposed, would have raised taxes by 1.1 percent, or about $50 for the home assessed at $120,000, the district average.

But, as the result of an amendment offered by Rabinowitz, who has sought a zero percent tax hike every year he has sat on the board, the tax hike was lowered to .8 percent.

The amendment involved the recent $700,000 math and English curriculum purchase and how to pay for it and in which year.

Rabinowitz's proposal prevailed by a 6-2 vote.

Business Manager David Nester emphasized that the budget is still not "set in stone," and that is was necessary to adopt something in order to meet the law's requirement that a budget be available for public view for 30 days.

Thus it was necessary to adopt it last night to have it ready by June 30, the last day the board can legally adopt a budget.

In the time until then, Nester and Superintendent William Shirk said the administration will continue to work on the budget in pursuit of that ever-elusive zero tax hike.

Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Pottstown Teachers of the Year, No Tax Hike Budget

Photos by Evan Brandt

POTTSTOWN'S TEACHERS OF THE YEAR: From left, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez, Victoria Redmond and Michele Andre from Pottstown Middle School, Treen Ferguson from Rupert Elementary, Corby Drone from Pottstown High School, Denise Schleicher from Lincoln Elementary, Lauren Emes from Franklin Elementary, Hayley Guigley from Barth Elementary and Pottstown School Board President Amy Francis.

Looking at the agenda for Monday night's Pottstown School Board meeting, you might have expected it to take a long time.

Naming a Teacher of the Year; adopting the third consecutive budget that does not raise taxes; a new $146,000 lighting scheme for outside the high school; setting in motion the replacement of stadium lights after a three-year wait -- it all sounds like a lot of time and deliberation.

But, you've got to hand it to the school board.

They took care of it all in under an hour.
Teacher of the Year, Corby Drone, with Superintendent

Stephen Rodriguez, left, and School Board President
Amy Francis, right.

First, let's dispel the suspense -- The Pottstown School District Teacher of the Year is high school math teacher Corby Drone.

Drone who has taught in Dublin, at an Ivy League college (Brown) and even spent some time as a campus policeman, brings an interesting perspective to his 11 years in the Pottstown School District.

Founder of what is now known as "The Breakfast Club," Drone offers Pop Tarts and math tutoring on Saturday mornings as well as being the Chess Club adviser.

The other Teachers of the Year from their respective school buildings can be seen below.

Michael DiDonato addresses the school board.
Michael DiDonato, middle school teacher and representative of the Federation of Pottstown Teachers echoed comments made by board member Katina Bearden, that Pottstown teachers are among the best, bring a dedication to seeing their
students and community excel which is not always found in other districts.

After the awards, the board undertook its single most important function -- adopting a preliminary budget, which will be finalized in June, and, for the third year in a row, does not raise taxes.

This year's budget of $62,021,819 is being adopted with little to no idea of what state funding will ultimately be provided by the final Pennsylvania budget.

Ain't this a wonderful system we've got going here in Pennsylvania? Budget blind and be prepared to take the blame when Harrisburg says its the school board raising your taxes. Nice easy way out for the legislators.

But far be it from me to offer an opinion on that here.....

Here are the Tweets from the meeting:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

PHS Jr. ROTC Honoring Veterans Through Service

Photo Courtesy of John Armato
Members of Pottstown High School's Junior Air Force ROTC Post Unit 951 were on hand in Memorial Park Saturday morning to beautify the Vietnam Veterans Memorial there in preparation for Memorial Day.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by John Armato, director of community relations for the Pottstown School District.

For many, Saturday mornings are for sleeping in and taking a slow start to the day.

But if you are a member of the Pottstown High School award-wining Jr. Air Force ROTC Unit Pa 951 then Saturday morning is time to honor our veterans and serve the community. 

Some of the Unit's cadets under the leadership of Col. James Porter spend the morning at Memorial Park preparing for Memorial Day by beautifying the Vietnam Monument. 

"Our cadets are building leadership skills for the future and give us another reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown," he said.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Let There Be (Pottstown Stadium) Lights!

HIP HIP HORRAY! The lights are returning to Grigg Memorial Stadium at Pottstown High School!

Friday night football is coming back to Pottstown this fall.

With a unanimous vote, the Pottstown School Board accepted a $250,000 grant delivered by state Sen. Robert Mensch, R-24th Dist., which will allow new field lights to be erected at the high school football stadium.

The grant came about as the result of lobbying contact Mensch had with Schools Superintendent
Stephen Rodriguez and local businessman Aram Ecke;r and the fact that as the leader of the Republican caucus in the state senate, he had access to funds that other legislators do not.

"He told me he would not forget Pottstown," said Ecker. "And here we have a politician who kept his word."

Stephen Anspach, the district's director of co-curricular activities, said Mensch will not only have a ticket to the first night game at the stadium this fall, "but to every game!"

Mensch, who was on hand at Thursday's school board meeting for the announcement -- along with the entire football team and the ever-present Trojan Man mascot -- said he was impressed with the organization of the fundraising effort and the turnout for the announcement.

"Being in leadership, there are certain benefits, besides the long hours, and I got a call from the majority leaders office who said we have some money from the Department of Education in the form of a grant and we were wondering could you make use of that money," Mensch said.

"And I said of course. And having had conversations with Mr. Rodriguez about the need for the lights, Pottstown was the first school district that came to mind," he said. "Seeing the response here, it makes you feel good that once in a while, government can do something positive."
School board member Polly Weand is hugged by her daughter
after the 
announcement that enough money is now available
to put new 
lights in Grigg Memorial Stadium.

Among those responding to the funding was board member Polly Weand, who has spearheaded the fundraising effort for three years and said in a voice trembling with emotion that "this is a another step in the revitalization of Pottstown."

Moments later, she received a hug from her daughter Betsy.

"This is a re-kindling of the spirit of Pottstown," said Weand, who did not run for reelection to the board in Tuesday's primary election.

School board members thanked Weand and student member Courteney Parry noted that "I remember the first meeting I attended as a new board member, we talked about the lights and seeing your passion on this issue really helped me understand what being a board member is about."

"The lights are back!" declared Rodriguez.

Trojan Man rallies the Pottstown High School football team
in preparation for the announcement that night games will
during the 2017-18 season.
"We did it," said student and football player Aaron Diamond, "and thank you. Thank you Sen. Mensch, thank you Mr. and Mrs. Weand for all that you do.And I also want to thank all the community of Pottstown. We came together and we did something really huge and brought back a great tradition."

It's been three years since that tradition has been in abeyance.

The lights were removed in 2014 after it was determined that the wooden poles holding them up were no longer structurally sound.

The school board at the time determined that $300,000 cost should not be born by local taxpayers when the district struggles financially, and instead a community fund-raising campaign -- Save the Lights -- was born and headed by Weand.

Lawn signs and t-shirts were sold, contributions received from the teachers federation, the Pottstown School Music Association, anonymous donors, the Foundation for Pottstown Education and all the students who paid $1 for "casual Fridays" so they could forego the required school uniform rules.
Kevin Owens, president of the Pottstown Schools 
Music Association addresses the school board Thursday.

But no sooner did the district resolve the issue of lights for one field, problems with another set of field lights were raised.

Kevin Owens, the president of the Pottstown Schools Music Association, outlined the necessity of replacing the aging lights that shine on the "auxiliary field" near the school's tennis courts.

Replacement bulbs for those lights are no longer made or available and the scheduling problems that would ripple through the school and student activities without the lights are many, he said.

Because marching band practice begins in August, the lights are necessary for night practices to take place in the cooler part of the hot summer months.
The lights on Pottstown High School's "auxiliary field" are old
and out of date. New ones can be installed as part of a $146,653
lighting project planned for the high school.

Those night practices, which continue through the year, also allow band members to participate in athletics after school and still be in the band, Owens said.

However, a solution may already be at hand.

Kurt Heidel reported that the school board's facilities committee is recommending the auxiliary field lights be replaced as part of a broader outdoor security lighting project at the high school which facilities director Robert Krippelbauer secured at a cost of $146,653.

Heidel said initially he was opposed to the expenditure, but convinced to change his mind by Anspach's explanation of all the benefits those lights provide to as many as 70 students who are in the marching band.

The board will vote on that expenditure at the Monday, May 22 meeting, along with adopting a preliminary $62 million budget for the 2017-18 school year.

You can read about that in the Tweets below.