Saturday, March 15, 2008

Building closure hearings take place

The Tawanka hearing began promptly at 6:30pm and lasted just under an hour. Speakers ranged from teachers to students, each noting that Tawanka's remote location is ideal for the alternative education program, and it provides students with separation from the high school while giving them a great place to learn and grow.

The hearing from Neshaminy Middle took a different tone as some residents questioned if the board had adequate time to make a decision while senior citizens from Flowers Mill claimed they could no longer afford their school taxes. The most compelling statement came from teacher Ann Schmidt who said that if a decision isn't made till mid June, then teachers won't know who their students will be for the following September and they won't be able to plan ahead. She added that teachers will be unable to send home work packets for the summer if they don't know which students to send them to.

The atmosphere remained civil for most of the evening until the last few minutes when one parent, Janet Walton, voiced her frustration with Flowers Mill residents because they should have known their taxes would be higher when they moved into a newly built retirement community. Those comments drew a few hisses from the senior crowd, and Marvin Dickler angrily responded that it's not fair to criticize Flowers Mill for wanting to reduce high taxes.

Here is a link to a Courier Times article about the hearings.

The board now has 90 days to review data before it can render its final decision about both facilities. Residents can continue to voice their opinions about building closures at future school board meetings.

Below is a summary of the comments made at both hearings. I did my best at capturing the gist of what each speaker said, and I apologize in advance for any misspelled names or omitted quotes.

Tawanka Closure (6:30pm) – Approximately 150 residents in attendance

1. Kate Colon – Student at Tawanka and Neshaminy high school (senior). Doesn’t believe the program can be as successful in another building. It needs to be separate from the high school. 2. Josh Kreiger – teacher at Tawanka. Found more reward in his 2 years at Tawanka than 8 years as honors teacher at NHS. Children never fall through the cracks. Concerned that the board doesn’t have a plan where to relocate the program. Putting them back at the high school would be a problem.
3. Louise Boyd – NHS teacher and NFT president – Tawanka is an alternative school at an alternative location. Students see Tawanka as a safe place to grow and learn. Where will the program be located to? Planning to close it should be coupled with planning on where it should go.
4. Jessica – Student at Tawanka – More than just a school. The high school isn’t the best place for every student.
5. Graham Passan – Guidance Counselor at Tawanka – The program has been without question a success. The environment is crucial. If they become part of a larger building, there is no confidentiality.
6. Cody Burgess – Student at Tawanka – Alternative is the key word. Good for students who cannot get their abilities fulfilled at the high school.
7. Joe Kelley – Social worker in Neshaminy – Separateness is important. The facility has much to do with the alternative program’s success.
8. Joe Horn – Social worker at Tawanka – Witnessed Tawanka for the past four years and it is a strong program. The transition to Tawanka is easy because of its atmosphere. If you move the program, it must be moved to an environment separate from other schools.
9. Solis Basen – Flowers Mill – Speaking on behalf of many of the seniors. They aren’t against the merits of the program but question its financial viability. Very few speakers are residents and therefore cannot feel the pain of seniors with the taxes.
10. Steve Rodos – Flowers Mill – The board and district are victims of their own success by creating a wonderful, successful program at Tawanka.

Neshaminy Middle Closing (7:30 pm) – Approximately 170 residents in attendance
1. Fran Wiener – Parent – Understands financial situation but encourages the board to consider all options. The current 8th grade students will be most affected. 9th grade is the start of high school and they’ll have to endure two moves in two years.
2. Jacqueline Kramer – Student at Maple Point – Please consider students before making any decisions. Petition signed by 260 Maple Point students asking not to close NMS because of impact it will have on them. We value our class sizes at Maple Point.
3. Alissa Singleton – Student at NMS – Class size is cozy and we don’t want to increase class size.
4. Stacey Henry – Parent – Her home was already redistricted five years ago.
5. Renee Cohen – Parent – Think of message we are sending. A well educated community is a successful community. We were all taught to keep our promises, and NMS was originally told it would be closed only when 9th grade could move up to the high school.
6. Linda Sienkiewicz – Parent – Please consider all options before simply closing a building. Consider the K-8 model in the McKissick study. We must stand as a united community toward the goal of educating our children towards a better future.
7. Anne Schmidt – Teacher – The key here is planning. The last-minute actions will create chaos. Teachers won’t know which students to plan for when school ends in June. They won’t be able to send home packets for the summer. The school closing timeline is not in the best interests of the students.
8. Kevin Knowles – Teacher – Staff retirements will give savings to budget. He doubts this info or grant money is considered in the preliminary budget. Neshaminy Middle is a community of students and staff. It is one of 2 buildings that achieved Blue Ribbon status. This building deserves better than this rush to judgment.
9. Louise Boyd – Teacher, NFT President – Concerned about building efficiency levels if students are shifted.
10. Jacqueline Bacarti – Student at NMS – Neshaminy Middle is a caring place for learning.
11. Ms. Mittelman – Student at NMS – Every day at NMS is a great day. It takes a long time to build up that kind of relationship with your teachers. Please don’t think just about the money.
12. Mark Stanford – NMS Students – Education should not be compromised due to efficiency. I’m proud to go to a Blue Ribbon school.
13. Carol Parssinen – Parent – Already affected by closing of Poquessing. It is a logical decision to close NMS, but not with just a couple of months notice. Can we cut certain programs for just one year so we can make a better decision?
14. Joan Goldstein – Flowers Mill – Buildings don’t make the education – the staff and the students do.
15. Bill Lindenberg – Flowers Mill – Told the children in the audience he was about to turn 90 years old. He’s not rich, but he’s not poor. He’s on a fixed income and it’s difficult to afford to taxes.
16. Ed Polumbo – Flowers Mill – To the parents who want to keep schools open, you soon will be in our shoes.
17. John Brodbeck – Parent – We’re all here for a reason, and ours should be to maintain an exemplary school district.
18. Kelly Nelson – Student – If you cram NMS students into other schools, class size will be too crowded. What will that do to the value of our education. We were promised no closure until 9th grade moves up to the high school.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's the high school referendum all over again with senior citizens against younger adults. And once again it's not the really poor seniors fighting against education, but it is the seniors who live in a luxury retirement community. Life has been good to them and they should be giving back to the community.

Anonymous said...

I live in the small town of Oakford and plenty of the members in my community are senior citizens. One in particular, is my next door neighbor. She been living in the same small home for many, many years, long before we settled next door. She lives under very modest conditions and never once have I heard her complain or even grumble about paying her taxes. And I am sure she has seen her taxes increase many, many times over the years.

This does not mean that I making the assumption that there are not seniors in our Neshaminy community that are not being impacted hard by tax increases, but my sympathies lie with these members of our community, and not the vocal majority of seniors that I see in attendance at these school board meetings.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment made by anonymous. The seniors are doing to us what they did when the subject of building a new high school was in discussion. I understand that the taxes are going up, but they are not raised for just the senior citizens alone. We will all feel the burden.

I, like many others know that someday we will be the senior citizens in Middletown but as far as I'm concerned we should be thinking always of the future of our schools, school district and children. Eventually my children will be grown but I certainly don't want to see a decline in the excellent school district that is Neshaminy.

I can't imagine my son or anyone else's son or daughter having to get used to a new school for one year and then have to go to the high school. It is unfair.

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that the space was used to build a retirement community at Flowers Mill. It should have been single family housing and we wouldn't be in this situation. I wonder if that property could ever be zoned for something other than a 55 and older community. The board's responsibility is to uphold educational excellence before someone's retirement plans or lack there of. It is not the community responsibility or the Neshaminy School district to cushion the seniors who are in financial strain due to their choices.
Financially, life is not easy for any of us. Lay offs occur, gas and heating prices. Show me a group of parents lamenting about their taxes. Many have offered to pay the increase willingly.
I mean no disrespect to the elders of our community and I KNOW that that the discontented, grumbling sector that attend school board meetings are not the true representation of our senior community as a whole.
In my neighborhood there are many seniors in their original homes who are wonderful neighbors and are well-respected in the community. I would imagine that the lifestyle of opening your door, or living in a community like Flowers Mill you would tend to adopt the attitude that you are "owed" something because you are in a senior community. You are owed nothing more than someone who lives in Maple Point, Forsythia Gate, Orchard Square ect. Why should you receive special attention because you chose to live in a retirement community? The word "community" is the same lethal term used to displace children out of their schools. How ironic?
If you feel like you are being penalized based on your age or taken advantage of...then think of our youth..how ironic?
Who is being made to pay the price?
My children will not be "taxed" with your burden of financial despair.

sk said...

I was impressed with how carefully you listened to every speaker, Mr. O'Connor. It was nice to see you and Mr. Blash taking notes, which showed how carefully you were paying attention. I was also very proud of how our students expressed themselves during the hearing. I was disappointed that most of the seniors never clapped for the children when they spoke. I was taken back by the board president's statement at the end against the teacher's union. I realize the negotiations are ongoing, but that was not the place to make such a comment. Aside from that, most of the board members handled themselves very well.

Paying-Double said...

Has anyone ever wondered why parents who send their children to private school never compalin about taxes. Think about it, they are in a worse situation than Flowers Mills and they never complain. They are really paying double. They pay tuition plus taxes and get very little in return from Neshaminy. Maybe some busing. My point is that they care about education and their community. During the high school referendum, private school parents either didn't vote, or they voted 'yes' for the new high school. They CARE about the community they live in. I have never once heard a private school parent compalin about taxes at a school board meeting. Pay attention Flowers Mills, there is a lesson to be learned.

Anonymous said...

The voice of Neshaminy students...Brave, assertive and courageous.
What a proud moment for our community.
The voice of Neshaminy parents...Poignant, articulate and unfaltering. It is saddening the ignorance of what should be a major priority in the lives of their children.
The voice of Neshaminy staff...What an inspiring display of dedication and love for their profession and the lives they touch.

Can't stand politicians said...

Politics has always hurt Neshaminy and this is another example. Mr. Spitz said during a previous meeting that the McKissick report was put on hold for 6 months by some board members who didn't want to deal with it during last years election. If our board was accumulating info for the last 6 months, they wouldn't be making a rush decision now. To those board members who did this, you are putting our community through absolute hell. I would ask you if it was worth it, but for politicians who think only of their own agendas, I'm sure it was.

Anonymous said...

Why did the Flowers Mill seniors not complain about the 6 month delay? They go to every meeting, they must have known. Could it be that the politicians who delayed the study are the same ones who want to close schools without regard to the students? This proves that Flowers Mill will do whatever is necessary to get their way, even if it means playing politics. Who was it that said they were the greatest generation?

Deja Vu all over again said...

Why would SK be surprised by the comments made by the board president against the teachers while we're in the midst of negotiations? He's the same man who bashed Middletown officials at a board meeting at the same time we're being charged for fees by the township for the high school project. The result is that Middletown isn't giving us any breaks thanks to the fast talking, slow thinking board president. I don't think he considers the consequences of his actions. Either that or he just enjoys sabotaging the school district.

i must be living in Jersey said...

Let me see if I understand this correctly - the same board members who stalled the facilities study so it would not be part of the election are the same board members who made a campaign promise not to close schools in their area. When will voters ever wake up to this crap? Start paying attention, people, start paying attention!

Anonymous said...

"Wake up people"
"Paying double"

Remember what this vocal "Flowers Mill Group" and their leaders have brought upon us.
We put a "band aid " on the high school for more than the cost of a new school.
Lowered our real estate values.
Disrupted our teachers and students while renovating .
This problem will resurface in the future because we could not bite the bullet and make the investment now.
These millionaires were worried about their taxes going up a few hundred dollars.
About the cost of a few dinners at JB DAWSONS and a trip to AC.
20/20 hindsight shows that the renovation decision was a disaster.
I think we are one of the only school districts in the country renovating while the rest of the world is building new.We must be smarter than everybody else.
WHY DO THE ARCHITECTS OF THIS DISASTER STILL HAVE THE MOST VOCAL VOICES IN OUR DECISION MAKING PROCESS ? Are these the same "architects" pushing Mr. Kadri out? If I was responsible for such poor decisions I might decide to pay better attention to the other side of the argument . Find a way to keep Mr. Kadri and lets get moving in the right direction.
EMBARASSING!!!

The New Math said...

Can't figure out why the Neshaminy's architects of bad decisions hold the power? Try this equation:
(Political Wanabe's + Cutting expenses at any cost) + happy senior citizens = ELECTION.
Despite being 15% of our local population, senior citizens make up a majority of voters during primaries, and they are a significant force in general elections too. If younger adults want to reform our school board and improve our district, we must attend board meetings regularly, we have to get educated about our board members and WE MUST VOTE.

LEVITTOWNER said...

So..is it 70% senior or 15% senior? I have heard both on this blog. I'm really curious about Levittown numbers.

I am hopeful a more informed electorate in Neshaminy may change election outcomes in the future.

Still wondering when Neshaminy's name will be on the PSBA.org website as either having adopted standards of conduct and practice or having our name on there as having already adopted our own. Lots going on I know, but I believe this is an oversight that must be addressed in a timely manner in order for the public to even begin to trust the school board after the fiasco with Mr. Kadri.

FYI..psba.org has been updated and is much more user friendly to parents and other citizens.

Sorry..realize a bit off topic...

William O'Connor said...

The 70% number (sometimes quoted at 75% or 80%) represents the number of households in Neshaminy without school-aged children. I cannot confirm the validity of that number.
The senior population according to the last census (which predated many of the 55+ communities) was at 12%, but I heard a Middletown Supervisor last year say our senior population was now closer to 16% in this area. Again, I cannot confirm that number.
Regarding the PSBA code of conduct and ethics statements, I do plan on bringing those up to the other board members during our workshop. But before we adopt those standards, I want to be assured that we will stand by them, and not just agree to them for the sake of appearances.

Anonymous said...

When are the Feb. 26 board meeting minutes going to be posted on the district website?

show a little respect said...

I attended the building closure hearing and was appalled by the comments some of the seniors made when the children spoke. Some comments were...punks, what a little snot and even one said that they should see a psychiatrist! Shame on those of you who made these comments! What kind of an example are you setting for the future generation? Where is the respect for others?

You continue to set bad examples for our children and the community. Your rude comments and continuous complaining about how high taxes are hurting you only shows that you think of only yourselves. Many of us are paying higher taxes than you on older homes, but you seem to think no one but you needs to make adjustments. What you fail to realize is that our children are an investment in ALL of our futures.

With all due respect, why does this generation of senior citizens feel that they don't have to decide if they can afford to live in their current community. Every other generation before you had to look at their finances and then decide if they could afford to stay. I will too.

What I ask everyone to do is take the amount of tax increase and divide it by twelve. You will see that the increase will be about the cost of one dinner out. I'm willing to give up one dinner out a month in order to give the children of Neshamimy a good education. Are you?

Anonymous said...

For those of you that don't attend board meetings, that rely on others for information. That throw your hands up in despair but then go back to your "regularly scheduled program" of putting your head in the sand and not becoming involved. Shame on you for letting your children down. At least the seniors SHOW UP and have a voice. When the votes are cast our children's future are paid with the "senior ballot".
I challenge every parent that reads this blog but sits on their saddle ebaying, watching TV or Dancing with the Stars to GET UP AND GET OUT to these meetings. While you're at it bring a few people with you. I am horrified at how many parents are uninvolved, uninterested and unaccountable for their children and the choices being made for them.
AT LEAST THE SENIORS SHOW UP!

an active citizen said...

I have to say that one should not judge others for not attending the board meetings. I, for one ,work a shift that prevents me from being there. Others I am sure have family obligations that prevent them from attending. Others are-as you say-too lazy and apathetic to pay much attention to what is going on unless they get their hackles raised.

I stronly believe One shouldn't have to attend *all* school board meetings. That is why we elect people to represent us. And we shouldn't be made to feel guilty when we can't attend.

Having said that..if one is *not* watching the school board meetings, writing to the board with questions, researching and keeping up to date one does *not* have the right to complain and assume others are taking care of it.

I would like to see a push to get involved at any level we can.

I would assume more seniors come to meetings because more of them aren't prevented from coming by other family obligations or other civic obligations.

I think bashing those who read this blog is really bashing the people who *are* involved. We should be urging those who don't read this blog to read it and tell others about it..and sign petitions for those who come to board meetings to speak, write to the newspaper, call a board member...

Those who complain and do nothing will hopefully realize we *can* change things and we can only change with more involvment

tired of paying for you said...

I've been at many a meeting and find that even the seniors don't show up until one of your own starts a bogus rumor about how high your taxes will be. Amazing that your imformant(s) seems to spew information that not even the school district business manager knows. Since the final budget will not be set until June, I encourage all of you to ask the person(s) for proof of where they are getting their information. Mr. Paradise stated that the amount being spread around was incorrect.

Also, the Mc Kissick report came out in July 2007. Why haven't you all been screaming at every meeting since September, when board meetings resumed, to ask why the majority of the board voted to put this study on hold until after the elections?

Anonymous said...

What's really sad is that the seniors (Flowers Mills) that show up at the meetings and complain about high taxes and have no regard for education AT ALL, really are not poor. But those seniors in the other parts of Neshaminy that really need the tax break, are not seen or heard. When you have a $500,000 home with lots of equity, and you are collecting social security and pensions along with drawing nice interest on bonds you are not poor. I don't see many Shady Brook seniors complaining and the blog entry by Paying-Double made me realize that parents of private school children are not protesting either. The residents of Flowers Mills have really made a reputation for themselves. They are now known all throughout Bucks County as a complete embarassment to the community they are part of.

Anonymous said...

I go to many of the school board meetings and at the majority of them some member of "Flower Mills" stands up to complian about their taxes. At the hearings Mr. Dickler mentioned reassesment of properties. The fact is if there was a county wide reassesment there would be a lot of seniors (not Flower Mills) truely affected and having to pay much higher taxes than they are paying now. These people have lived in theses homes for 30 ro 40 years and really can not afford higher taxes let alone reassement. I feel that the group of Flower Mills residents that come to these meetings are NOT speaking for all seniors in Fower Mills or anywhere else in the district, and by continuing they show a constant disregard for our education system, the children who are our future and their ability to only see as far as the next tax bill.

Anonymous said...

I would be plenty of parents read this blog and actually rely on it instead of going to meetings. I know people have jobs and other obligations but come on....ONE night per month?
If you can get a babysitter for dinner or shopping you can get one for two hours to attend a meeting. Not EVERY meeting but a meeting.
My obligation is a priority of my children and their education.
Survey says: A lot of people do not attend simply because they don't want to.
This is not bashing...just an observation. I am a parent and I know for a fact that MANY parents do not attend for this reason. They'd rather here it from someone else and then lament "the boards gonna do what they want anyway".