Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Pottstown Super and Walking School Bus Kudos

Photo by Evan Brandt

Just some of the many volunteers who make Pottstown's Walking School Bus a success were thanked by the school board during Monday night's meeting.

As most of you no doubt know from reading your Tuesday morning Mercury, Acting Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez dropped the "acting" last night and became just Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez.

So I won't waste your precious reading time by focusing on that. Go buy a newspaper!

But something else that happened Monday night is also worthy of your attention.

In case you've missed in the pages of The Mercury, Pottstown is experimenting with something called The Walking School Bus.

The idea is adult volunteers accompany students walking to Rupert Elementary School and pick-up students along the route so they can all walk together, improving safety and getting exercise.

The problem is 95 percent of those programs fail in the first year, as Rodriguez noted.

But not in Pottstown. Here, the program has increased in size, as is evidenced in the photo above, which shows just a portion of the many volunteers whose names were read off Monday by wellness coordinator David Genova.

Congrats to all.

Also of note last night, the board voted to raise by 10 percent the fees charged for renting school facilities and to charge parking fees as well.

The Foundation for Pottstown Education announced the final arrangements to fund a program by which teachers and other district employees would be provided with a $10,000 forgivable loan  to buy a house in the borough.

There were a few other things of interest as well, and you can find them here among the Tweets, rife, as usual, with typos.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Music of Spring (Via High Street)

The High Street Music Company has occupied this space at 135 High St. in Pottstown for 10 years now.

Yesterday Pottstown's own High Street Music Company held its Spring Recital at The Hill School's Center for the Arts, as it has for the past several years.

It will be the last time my son Dylan and his fellow seniors perform there as they are headed off to college next fall.

There were more than 30 performances so forgive me if I limited the videos I shot to those involving my son or classmates of his whom I have have known for years.

One of the things I have always liked about the recital is it features students at all stages of accomplishment and those students range in age from the single digits to adults making good on a promise they made to themselves.

It is also a good example of one of the things that makes Pottstown such a special community.

The school takes students from all over, but many of the Pottstown students who attend do so with the help of the Phoebe Sine Trust, a source of funding left by a Pottstown family who loved music and helps to pay the cost of the lessons Pottstown children take there.

(Here is Pottstown student Julianna Roseo giving an awesome performance of a song from "Hamilton" yesterday.)

Frankly, we could not have afford the saxophone lessons without the help of the trust.

And as a result, of the trust, High Street Music and the excellent music program in Pottstown's public school system, our son lives for music (even when taskmaster and company CEO Louis Rieger pushes them harder than they are used to being pushed).

(Here is Rieger directing them on the Eddie Harris piece "Cold Duck Time.")

Dylan plays in the Jazz Band and in the pit during the high school's last two musicals and is now enamored of "Hamilton," which combines his love of American history with his unanticipated love for musical theater.

A few months ago, he was walking through the house whistling tunes from "Little Shop of Horrors," usually after one of the rehearsals.

But he also loves hip-hop, jazz and (with a little help from his aged parents), some rock and roll as well.

(Remarkable vocalists Adeenah Smith and Erica DeBlase joined the Jazz Ensemble for this Alicia Keys number, "If I ain't Got You.")

At every college he has considered, among the first questions he asks about is the music program and what opportunities he will have not only to play and perform, but to get lessons and improve.

His pal, trombonist Kyle Kratzer, has taken it one step further and is going to school with the intention of becoming a music teacher himself.

(Pottstown student Gary Oberholtzer has a bright future as a guitarist and here demonstrates some of his range with his performance of a piece by Rob Scallon titled "For That Second.")

And while my wife and I love music as well and played it for him as a child, I truly believe that it was this town, and the dedicated professionals and volunteers who do their work here, which most fostered this love for music, something for which we will be forever grateful.

(The High Street Music Company Rock Ensemble performs "House of Gold" by Twenty-one Pilots at the conclusion of the company's Spring Recital.)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Photo Sought for Tarawa MIA Carl M. Shaffer

A photograph of a Pottstown soldier who was killed in the Pacific during World War II is being sought by a foundation trying to identify remains.

Carl M. Shaffer was born pon Feb. 21, 1921 in Pottstown to Herbert Donnell Shaffer and Katherine K. Shaffer, according to the Chief Rick Stone and Family Charitable Foundation, which is seeking a photograph of him as part of its Tarawa Unknowns project.

The foundation says Shaffer was killed in the battle of Tarawa but his remains were never recovered or identified. He is currently an MIA from that action. 

One of the foundation’s missions is to help find, recover, and identify missing American servicemen and women from World War II and return them home to their families.

Shaffer married Helen E. Fox, also of Pottstown, and both attended Pottstown High School. Carl joined the U.S. Army Air Corps prior to September 1942 and was promoted to Staff Sergeant. 

He was killed on Jan. 21, 1944.

At the present time, the foundation's investigators and researchers are in need of a facial photograph of Staff Sgt. Shaffer to utilize a new computerized program which compares the cranial images of remains recovered on the battlefield with a pre-mortem facial photograph of a most likely match.

The foundation has found many references to Staff Sergeant Shaffer in the on-line versions of the local newspaper but no photographs. There is even a reference in a 1959 edition of the paper to something known as “Pottstown Portraits” which the article stated included a photo of Staff Sergeant Shaffer. Unfortunately, no photo can be found attendant to the article.

Any photograph of Shaffer would be helpful.

Do you know him? Do you have a photo?

You can contact the foundation through their web site -- https://chiefrickstone.com or contact John Armato at the Pottstown School District at 484-256-7491.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Kraybill, Guttha Named to MCCC Board of Trustees

David Kraybill
The Montgomery County Commissioners recently appointed Dr. Raj Guttha of Lansdale and David W. Kraybill of Pottstown to the Montgomery County Community College Board of Trustees.

“On behalf of the College, I welcome these talented leaders to the Board of Trustees,” said MCCC President Dr. Kevin Pollock. “Dr. Guttha and Mr. Kraybill bring strong expertise and experience in their fields which will strengthen the College and help us achieve new levels of success for our students.”

Guttha, a senior risk, compliance, finance, information technology and change management executive, is managing partner of Guttha Global Consulting Group of New York, N.Y. He has proven success in establishing global enterprise risk, governance, compliance and internal audit functions in financial services companies.

He has held senior level positions at several companies including Z&A InfoTek, Inc. in Parsippany, N.J.; General Electric Capital Corporation in Norwalk and Danbury, Conn.; McGraw-Hill Financial in New York, N.Y.; Citibank in New York, N.Y.; and J.P. Morgan Asset Management in Columbus, Ohio, among others.

Guttha also served as an associate professor of Finance at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and as an assistant professor of Finance at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. He holds a doctorate in Economics/Econometrics from Nagaruna University in India, a master’s degree in Econometrics and Finance from Temple University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Mathematics from Nagaruna University.  

Kraybill is president of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation which seeks to encourage children and families to adopt healthy habits through health promotion and education. In his 13 years as president, he has focused the Foundation on four areas including nutrition and physical activity in schools; access to primary and behavioral health care services; non-profit infrastructure and capacity building; and recreation and community economic development.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Kraybill served as director of development for The Commonwealth College of Pennsylvania State University, interim director of University Development for Pennsylvania State University, and president and executive director of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, a certificate in Fundraising Management from the University of Indiana and a certificate from the Penn State Management Institute.

Guttha’s appointment to the Board of Trustees runs through December 2018, and Kraybill’s appointment is through December 2020.

For more than 50 years, Montgomery County Community College has grown with the community to meet the evolving educational needs of Montgomery County. The College’s comprehensive curriculum includes more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as customized workforce training and certifications. Students enjoy the flexibility of learning at the College’s campuses in Blue Bell and Pottstown, at the Culinary Arts Institute in Lansdale, and online through a robust Virtual Campus. 

As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, the institution is positioned at the vanguard of national efforts to increase completion, improve learning outcomes, and remove barriers to access for students. The College is also recognized regionally and nationally for its sustainability leadership, work with military veterans, community service and service learning opportunities, and use of classroom technology. 

For more information, visit http://www.mc3.edu. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Township Seeks Community Day Volunteers

If you blinked during last night's West Pottsgrove Commissioners meeting, you might have missed it.

However, one message came through loud and clear.

The commissioners definitely want to get more community involvement in -- what else? -- Community Day.

The proposed date for the event is Oct. 14, or Oct. 15, depending on when the community band is available.

The place is the park at the township building.

Now what it needs is the people, the ideas and the will to make it happen.

If that sounds like something you would like to be part of, the next Community Day Committee meeting is May 2 at 7 p.m. at the township building.

Subsequent meetings are June 6, June 20, July 18, Aug. 8, Aug. 22 and Sept. 12.

If you would like to get involved or would like more information, call Township Manager Craig Lloyd at. 610-323-7717

And here are the Tweets, such as they are.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More Security, No Water/Sewer Rate Hike ... Yet

The Pottstown Borough Authority board put off discussion of a possible mid-year hike in water rates Tuesday night.

When the 2017 $6.56 million water and $9.39 million sewer budgets were adopted by the authority last October, they were adopted with the understanding that a mid-year rate hike would come in July.

At the time, hikes of 10 percent for water and 7 percent for sewer rates were expected to work out to an 8 percent hike for the average customer.

If enacted in full, the average quarterly water/sewer bill, for 7,500 gallons of water used, would increase from $165 to $178, Utilities Administrator Robert Plenderleith predicted last year.

But Plenderleith was not at Tuesday's meeting and although the matter was listed on the agenda, it was removed for discussion once the meeting began.

What the authority board did decide was to award a bid for new security measures at both the water and sewer treatment plans for $920,000 to the Silas Bolef company of Norristown.

The bid, which was the lowest, was 5 percent higher than estimates.

The company will install electronic gates that must be opened with a key card, as well as cameras and new communications wiring for new phone systems at both plants.

The access cards will allow for septic companies to unload their trucks at the plant 24 hours a day, which means more revenue for the wastewater treatment plan operation, said engineer Tom Weld.

In other significant news, the authority also made a final recommendation to borough council to update the plumbing requirements in the borough to more closely reflect the modern standards used in surrounding townships.

Championed by Authority Vice Chairman Aram Ecker, the changes are meant to make Pottstown "more business friendly," said member David Renn.

For other items from the meeting, enjoy the cornucopia of Tweets below.