Friday, February 7, 2014

Skating for a Good Cause

The Hill School's ice rink

Blogger's Note: The following was provided Thursday morning by Jennifer Bechtel at The Hill School:

The Hill School’s 7th annual “Skate Against Cancer” event will place on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 8 to 10:30 p.m.

The entrance fee is $3 and skate rentals will be available for $2. 

There will be raffles pizza and refreshments, and t-shirts for sale. 

A DJ will be playing music throughout the event. 

The public is invited to attend this fundraiser which benefits the American Cancer Society through the Pottstown Relay for Life. 

Last year this event raised more than $2,000 and the goal is to surpass that this year! 

It’s important to note that all skaters must where a knit hat when on the ice.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Beer, Bread and Bologna (Sounds like my diet in college)

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the folks over at Pottsgrove Manor.

Historic Pottsgrove Manor will host an open-hearth cooking demonstration featuring “Beer, Bread, and Bologna” on Saturday, Feb. 8,  from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

In the 18th century beer was viewed as a “healthful family drink” and was popular among people of all social classes and ages.

Even the small town on John Potts’ plantation included a brewery, which shows how important the beverage was in colonial America. 

For this program, brewer Frank McMahon will demonstrate historic beer-making techniques over a fire in the courtyard outside of the manor house. 

Meanwhile, inside the warm kitchen, foodways historian Deborah Peterson will cook at the open hearth, preparing 18th-century-style bologna sausage and making bread in a bake kettle. She will also talk to visitors about common foods for the winter season during this time period.

As the brewing demo will take place outside, please dress for the weather. 

There is a suggested donation of $2 per person for this program. 

The site’s museum shop will also be open throughout the event and will offer special discounts on featured products related to food and drink.

Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King Street near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422, in Pottstown. 

Pottsgrove Manor is operated by Montgomery County under the direction of the Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites Division of the Assets and Infrastructure Department. 

Regular museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tours are given on the hour. The last tour of the day begins at 3 p.m. The site is closed Mondays and holidays. 

Groups of ten or more should pre-register by calling 610-326-4014. 

For more information, call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Comprehensive Look

Pottstown's first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1960.

Since then, the borough has seen more changes than a chameleon at a laser Pink Floyd show and few of them good.

Primary among those changes was the draining away of Pottstown's industrial foundation; the engine on which Pottstown was built.

Think of the many problems we have today -- crime, low-paying jobs and unemployment, a crumbling tax base, a high number of rental properties -- and recognize that most of them go away with living-wage employment.

Pottstown had that with industry, but does not any more.

So what to do?

Plan for the future is all we can do and that's what's going on right now, with the
The draft plan considers downtown Pottstown an "opportunity site."
help of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

For more than a year, the draft of the new comprehensive plan has been underway and it is now available for public review.

I have posted the draft on Document Cloud and you can read it by clicking here.

(If you like things more official, you cal also read it on the borough web site here.)

Understand that its a draft and it is being put out there for you to look and and offer comment about ways to improve it, flaws you may see or things you like about it.

Last month, county planner Meredith Curran Trego, who works with the Pottstown Planing Commission, gave borough council an overview of the draft.

Try not to be too surprised when I tell you there was little if any discussion about it. (Not sure if we want to suggest that the level of discussion may have reflected the level of understanding, but let's not go there.)

Meredith was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the presentation as well, which I have also uploaded to Document Cloud and you can read by clicking here.

It includes the basics, a public profile for example, that includes things like:
  • Population: (22,377, a 12% decrease since the last plan in 1985); 
  • Employment: (10,812 with 11,508 by 2040, a 6.4% increase in the next 26 years)
  • Median income: ($46,066, nearly 40% lower than Montgomery County's median of $76,381)
  • Median owner-occupied housing value: ($136,700, 46% below Montgomery County's median of $255,000)
It is on facts like these, and how our land is currently used -- 38.1% residential; 11.1% commercial; 8.8% open space and 28.3% industrial or institutional -- that a plan for the future must be built.

The overview identified several "opportunity sites" near the airport, along the riverfront and in the downtown among the 156 acres of undeveloped land in the borough.

The overview identifies several broad goals for the borough, including "grow business and employment (duh); "expand heritage tourism infrastructure and attractions;" "build on existing arts and culture activities and an economic development tool to bring more visitors into the town," and so on.

It also calls for improving and expanding the airport; capitalizing on existing rail infrastructure; and improving access and awareness to public parking, among other transportation-related goals.

Housing goals include "encourage the development of properly located multi-
family apartment complexes, attached townhouses and adaptive reuse of quality older structures for dwellings;" "support the transition of rental housing units into owner-occupied housing where appropriate;" "look to promote downtown housing by encouraging the renovation of the second- and third-floor stories above downtown retail spaces.

In terms of the borough's historic and cultural aspects, the draft will "preserve the historical as well as the architectural qualities of Pottstown's built environment through the creation of a comprehensive preservation program;" "work with the owners of historic properties to education them as to the value of their properties. Ensure that owners of historic properties receive appropriate technical assistance and financial incentives information from government sources;" "develop marketing and outreach for coordinated promotion for Pottstown's historic resources and offerings."

In addition to goals for maintaining and improving school buildings and water and sewer infrastructure, the comprehensive draft also calls for expanding and upgrading the existing library facilities and to "consider relocation to a site nearer to the downtown.

Obviously there is much more to the plan, and this merely scratches the surface, but its the kind of thing which will become the official plan without any public input.

So if you have the time, take a look through the plan and avail yourself of the opportunity being offered -- to have a say in the future of your community. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Forget the Picture, They'll Take the Thousand Words

Liz Driehaus, left, and Kelsey Lee
Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottsgrove School District.

Two students representing Pottsgrove High School recently won highest 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 second meet, held in December, junior Liz Driehaus, who earned a near-perfect score, placed second among the 88 highest-scoring eleventh graders in the country.

At the same time, Kelsey Lee, who also earned a near perfect score, placed among the 99th highest scoring twelfth graders in the country.

More than 69,000 students from 47 states entered the meet, so that's pretty good.

Teacher Todd Kelly oversaw the students' participation.

The premise behind the WordWright challenge is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students acquire in school.

The text students must analyze for WordWright can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or JOhn Updike to poetry as old as Shakespeare's or as recent as Margaret Atwood's, to essays, such as classics by E.B. White, or as current as a Time Magazine essay by James Poniewozik.

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

All use language skillfully to use language and shades of meaning not always apparent to students on a first or casual reading. Like the questions of the verbal SAT tests, the questions posed in the WordWright Challenge, ask students both to recognize the emotional and/or rational logic of a piece of writing and to notice the ways in which a writer's style shapes and shades his meaning.

Because the WordWright Challenge is a classroom activity and not a college-entrance exam however, it can be a learning experience and not just a high hurdle.

After completing a challenge, classes are encouraged to talk about the texts and and the answers to the multiple choice questions, and are also given additional topics for open-ended discussion and/or written response.

The texts for the WordWright Challenge this year were an Op-Ed piece from The New York Times for 9th and 10th graders, and an excerpt from a novel by Anthony Trollope for 11th and 12th graders.

The students will compete in two more WordWright meets in the coming months. Medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who achieve, and or improve the most in the course of the year.