Thursday, May 15, 2008

Redistricting plan ready and waiting

A quote in a Courier Times article from Assistant Superintendent, Lou Muenker, about the potential closing of Neshaminy Middle:

“I think we have a viable plan with the best interest of students and staff,” said Muenker. “We understand that redistricting is a very tough, emotional subject because everyone loves their home school. But it's, unfortunately, necessary.”

You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here.

40 comments:

KAC said...

Dr. Muenker and staff did a tremendous job of taking faculty/staff, students and families into consideration.

This is a good, fiscally responsible and necessary plan to alleviate Neshaminy’s poor current financial circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I noticed in the article that it said that parents/children would be notified in about a week about possible school changes. If we do receive anything, will that be the definite assignment? My son currently attends Maple Point and will be in 9th grade in the fall but we live in Twin Oaks.

Thanks

William O'Connor said...

Anonymous - The letter you receive will be from Superintendent Kadri, and it will specify if your child will be attending a different school.

If you want more specific information, please email me directly by clicking on the link on the right side of the home page of this blog.

Anonymous said...

I am reposting this quote because it bears repeating. When is someone on the board going to publicly or privately (through an investigation) call Muenker on the carpet?

st319 said...
For Neshaminy to be secure and heading in the right direction, we need not only Eccles to resign, but Muenker too. He was equally involved with Lindner's family member being given an administrative position.

Remember...it takes two to tango!

no justice said...

Hate to say it but we will have to move on without ever finding out what happened. Spitz and O'Connor stuck their necks out to defend ethical behavior, and as expected Eccles denied the charges with support from Koziol and Webb. But when only 5 of 9 board members engage in a problem, nothing is resolved. What I really don't understand is why Kadri didn't take any action against Muenker. He is his boss, right? Does he need board approval to discipline his subordinate?
When 4 board members and our superintendent (who I normally support) put their heads in the sand, the OJ Simpson defense (deny, deny, deny) will prevail.

thank you said...

Thank you for an informative blog Mr. O'Connor. I've never seen any elected official do so much to keep a community informed. Wish we had many more like you!

yogi berra said...

I would like to 2nd that thank you.
You have really kept us informed about the specifics of the school board meetings.

But:

"The more I know, the less I understand"

William O'Connor said...

Thanks Yogi. School board stuff can be confusing because it's ninety percent mental and the other half is physical. :-)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should leave the board. Your the uneffective one Mr. O'Connor. You tried to fight closing Neshaminy middle but that is happening in spite of you. You and your boy Spitz flung accusations at Rick Eccles but they didn't stick and no other board members would side with you. You accuse others of getting jobs for there family yet a former superintendent says you did the same thing. Now we have a budget problem and the board is fighting among themselves and this never happened until you got on the board. I know you wont ever publish this but you are the one who should go

William O'Connor said...

Dear Anonymous,
As you can see I had no problem printing your comments despite its misspellings and misinformation. Allow me to clarify some of your confusion.

I initially opposed the NMS closure simply because the McKissick study was shelved for 6 months by the previous board, and I was given less than 1 week to make a decision. And since no redistricting study had been conducted, you cannot make a fact-based decision without all the facts. So I voted no then but am now open to considering closure because a redistricting study is underway.

Regarding our public stand against unethical hiring behavior, I am proud of what Dr. Spitz and I did, even if nobody else on the board supported us. We didn't tell the public this to win a popularity contest. We did it because something happened which the public deserved to know about. And if such behavior happens again, we'll stand up to it again. You can take that one to the bank.

The accusations of the former superintendent are simply wrong. No such conversations ever took place, and I'll swear on a bible to that. It doesn't take much to get on Neshaminy's sub list, and nobody needed my help to do that.

The budget problem has been years in the making and I've only been on the board for 6 months. In fact, the problem was first reported by Mr. Paradise back in February. Thank you for thinking I have so much destructive power that I could ruin a $160+ million budget in my first two months.

Just like the budget woes, the discord amongst board members has been brewing for quite a while now, certainly long before I got on the board. I'm just not willing to sit back and let things happen - never have, never will. I don't look for fights, but I don't run away from them either.

Please feel free to come by again and post your comments, but you might want to run them through spellcheck first.

Have a nice day.

TMA said...

Now, now, we all know you dislike Mr. O'Connor, but resorting to hiding behind an anonymous label and blogging about it just screams of one more childish tactic you'd play. And, just like a child having a temper tantrum, once you figure out no one is caving in to your little tirades anymore, you might just pick up your marbles and go off and play somewhere else. This community is moving this board forward "in spite of you"(to quote words we've heard from your lips far too many times).
(Editor's Note - this comment was edited for content)

mamasaid said...

To Anonymous-
Are you kidding me? Do you really think Mr. O'Connor is so influential that, but for him, the budget would be perfectly balanced and the board (and administration) would work together, on behalf of our children; as one big, happy family?

Our troubles go way back, and involve the very board members who have been around all that time and are still controlling things now. Our troubles didn't start with the decision to renovate instead of build a new high school, but that was a big, bad one; and we will suffer the consequences in many ways, for years to come. And that decision was followed by other actions and decisions that are sending this district down the tubes.

With regard to the "accusations," just because no one owned up to the fact doesn't mean it didn't happen. (If a tree falls in the woods...) It's a matter of integrity; and of big boys in positions of power using it wisely (or not!), acting responsibly (or not!) and owning up to the truth (or not!) If they are not willing to rise to the responsibilities required of the position, what are they doing there?

Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz speaking out against unethical behavior is not where the trouble started!

And I second the suggestion of giving spellcheck a shot!

Not taking it anymore! said...

I wonder which of you-know-who's followers "anonymous" is? Is it one of his future school board candidates, or one of those thugs who were applauding from the back of the room. It doesn't matter because now all of Neshaminy sees you people for what you are. Thanks to people like Mr. O'Connor and Dr. Spitz, our eyes have been opened to what goes on behind the scenes around here. And now that we see you, you cannot hide anymore. Your reign is over.

Not taking it anymore! said...

One thing I forgot to mention earlier to you-know-who's hand chosen candidates. I'm a regular voter and I will make sure everyone I know votes against you in the next election. I don't care what your platform issues are. If you are associated with the retired teacher, you cannot be trusted to represent our children.

KAC said...

Deer Anonomoas,

How mani yeers did you teech in the disstrit?

Maybe we do need a Personnel Committee.

I must be living in Jersey said...

KAC - just spit soda out of my mouth reading your post. Thanks for the laugh!

To Can't Take It - That's the way to hurt these guys ...at the election booth. They can't control what they don't own.

Anonymous said...

The pressure to hire this person's relative has been incessant...not just this year but over the course of many years. The disgusting tactics used to sabotage two other candidates were disgraceful and corrupt. It was the opinion of many on the inside that the district higher ups gave in hoping that this person would fall on their face and thus force her obnoxious campaign manager (father) to go away.
(Editor's Note - This comment was edited for content)

Anonymous said...

Does this person have any more kids who need jobs? Would that be why the board is pushing for a Personnel Committee?

TFR1984 said...

Wow, I leave you alone for just a few days and you get attacked. I can't tell which attack was greater - the one against you or the one against the English language. Sorry I wasn't here to defend you but it looks like some other people had your back.
To echo CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE's comments, now that I am involved and see some of what goes on around here, I am never going to close my eyes again. I now watch every meeting on TV, I am going to start coming to meetings in person, I read this blog regularly, and I will never miss an opportunity to vote for a school board member again.
I imagine an educated Neshaminy resident isn't your best customer, is it ANONYMOUS?

cpeep said...

Got to disagree with you KAC on your first comment, but so far the redistricting plan is: Woodlyn West, Woodlyn Crossing, Sweetwater and Neshaminy Woods need to just suck it up like we did when Tawanka was closed (to save $$, oh wait, it saved NO $$). The vast majority of students will go to Maple Point. The vast majority of Neshaminy Middle teachers will go to Maple Point. The vast majority of attention will be paid to...yeah, MP. And oh, those few kids who will go to Poquessing? Not worth worrying about.

I keep hearing the words "minimal impact." It isn't minimal to the kids it impacts.

The redistricting committee contains exactly how many residents from the "suck it up" neighborhoods? Anyone?

And then I heard there was "concern" for the "impact" on MP students. Being redistricted TWICE, having a school closed under us TWICE and people want to tell me how the students at the receiving school might be inconvenienced? {Insert incredulous look here}

Well, let's see how the meeting at NMS goes tonight.

KAC said...

CPEEP,

I was on the Redistricting Committee AND I am part of the “suck it up” (as you say) group. My child would have gone to NMS and will now go to Poquessing.

I empathize with what you are going through; however after sitting in over a months worth of Redistricting Meetings, I feel there was careful thought and consideration given to all families. There was no additional time spent or added perks considered for the Maple Point kids.

It would be lovely for my child to be able to go to NMS next year and for class size to be drastically reduced. The fact is the district is in budget crises. Board members, community members, parents and administrators on the committee took great care and much time to come to the difficult decision of how to redistrict the school that you (and I) love and to do it in the most effective way possible.

I got the impression that Maple Point and Poquessing are coming up with fantastic ways to blend the children so that they feel welcomed, comfortable and included in their new schools.

Hang in there and good luck with your meeting tonight.

cpeep said...

KAC,

Your child will spend all his elementary years at one school, and all his middle school years at one school.

So while you ARE from one of the 'hoods, and I'm glad you were on the committee, I wish there had been someone there whose child was having to move schools. ESPECIALLY someone whose child will spend his or her last year at a different school.

Heck, you and I both know someone who has two children to whom this will happen. They were "lucky" enough to be Tawanka kids, too. THAT parent is the person who needed to be on the committee. Not that nominations were solicited.

So that's my beef. Which you know, 'cause you know me :)

All I'm saying about MP is that most of the time and effort will go into integrating several hundred new kids there and making sure things are running smoothly. I suspect that there will be enough NMS kids agitating that some of their traditions and activities will be incorporated. But the number of kids going to Poq. is so much smaller. What chance does a one-year attendee have of playing any sort of leadership role?

Notice I am not arguing against closing the school. I am merely pointing out that there is a small number of children for whom "minimal impact" is, in fact, a HUGE IMPACT.

About the unluckiest kids in Neshaminy right now are the 7th graders who both went to Tawanka and attend NMS. They will be redistricted twice AND they will be the few who do not stay with the rest of their classmates next year AND they will be the guinea pigs of the new 9th grade program at the High School. Yahoo.

just asking said...

Mr. O'Connor:

I am just curious about Tawanka. It was assumed that Tawanka and NMS were definitely going to be closed, but now since there is no plan for Tawanka and possibly no cost savings, is it possible Tawanka might remain open ? Just asking because as you may know, at Neshaminy some people hear the word cost savings and then we make irrational decisions. As mamasaid said... regarding the new high school decision: It was a big bad one !

William O'Connor said...

Dear CPEEP: The situation for your child is less than ideal and there isn’t anything I can say that will make it better. I do want to assure that the redistricting committee meetings spent much of their time discussing the transition issues facing the children, and Mr. Kadri has held numerous meetings with students and parents impacted by this.

If we lived in a perfect world, we would have completed the new high school last September, Neshaminy Middle would already have been closed and 9th grade moved up to a building that could comfortably accommodate them, we would have already decided on an elementary school consolidation, and we wouldn’t be in our current budget crisis. Unfortunately that’s not where we are, and we can only do the best with what we are given.

The important thing now is to present this situation to our children in the best light possible. The transition will be a challenge for some, but it most certainly won’t be fatal. The children will make new friends and adapt to new situations because they’re much more resilient than we give them credit for. All of us must be there to support them.

If you ever want to speak to me in person about this, just send me an email with your contact info. I’ll do whatever I can to help.

William O'Connor said...

Dear JUST ASKING: I’m one of those who never says never, but I do believe Tawanka will close and be repurposed. Probably not the answer you were hoping for, but I'd rather be honest with you.

just asking said...

Mr. O'Connor:

You are right, I don't agree and it was not the answer I was looking for. But I respect your judgement and I appreciate your honesty when making your decisions. We need more board members like you, not like one in particular who always votes one way, 100% of the time.

Anonymous said...

For those of you that went to the meeting at Neshaminy Middle and were disrespectful, irate and rude… where were you from the beginning? Why didn’t you go to the school board meetings? Why didn’t you ask Mrs. Cummings, your representative, to go to the redistricting meetings or to invite you to go? You can’t come in at this late hour and scream and yell and expect administration to fold. The way you treated individuals at that meeting was a disgrace. You should have been part of the process from the beginning.

cpeep said...

Wow, that's pretty harsh.

I share your frustration at having to sit through the process of bringing everyone up to speed, again and again. However, speaking as someone who goes to PTA meetings, who goes to Board Meetings (when there's something of interest on the agenda--not all of them, I'm not a masochist),I can say that many times information is incomplete or not made public.

The redistricting committee was appointed. There was never an opportunity to volunteer to be part of that. I believe many people didn't know that it existed or what its exact purpose was, so they were unaware that it might be something they would wish to attend.

People are irate because the administration, by Mr. Kadri's gracious admission, dropped the ball on getting the word out about the potential school closing in a timely manner.

There is also discontent that some crucial issues were missed, such as the desire to keep 8th and 9th together. Again, Paul was very up front up about not realizing that.

At the meeting we had before this one, the administration stated it was too soon to lay out what our options were. Therefore, we were not able to state a preference, because there was nothing to vote ON. In the weeks between, Mr. Kadri investigated a number of solutions, but missed the one that was top on our list. So of course people were upset.

I was disappointed in some of the responses we got to our concerns. Such as the suggestion that the affected children should not be the ones deciding where they want to go. Or that it's unusual that kids from two different grades actually hang out together and might want to stay together.

We certainly could have done without the criticism from parents of the remaining middle schools. I had hoped we had moved beyond those stereotypes. Unfortunately not.

Respect goes both ways. People are frustrated. They feel powerless. Their kids are being jerked around from school to school. Many feel that their concerns are being dismissed or ridiculed. As the "face" of the School District, the administrators received the pent up wrath. Undeservedly, but understandably.

Anonymous said...

There is a respectful way in which to get a point across. You would be surprised the positive results you can achieve. You’re group behaved badly, and what is even worse is the kids were there to see that fiasco. Also, individuals who had real questions to get answered by Mr. Kari and Dr. Meeker were squashed by the bad behavior of others so our questions will now go unanswered. Thank you.

William O'Connor said...

To CPEEP: I too am very disappointed to learn of the behavior of some parents in front of their children. I was told that one child even accused Mr. Kadri of not being honest with the information he was giving. No student should feel free to address our superintendent that way, and they would only have done so based on the examples set for them.

While I appreciate that for some children this one year transition to another school will be difficult, let me restate that it isn't going to be fatal. If parents set an example of anger and disrespect, the children will act accordingly and that will only make their transition more difficult.

Perhaps parents have not been treated as well with past redistricting, but Mr. Kadri and Dr. Muenker have gone out of their way to communicate with students, parents and staff. They've listened to every complaint and concern, and they've made adjustements where possible. But there is only so much those two can do.

cpeep said...

As far as the kids go, I think they saw that their parents care deeply about what happens to them.

Many individuals spoke forcefully and emotionally. And you're right, they were not particularly polite. The time for polite discussion was about 6 months ago, but 6 months ago there WAS no discussion.

But I sure hope you don't mean to dismiss their concerns as not being "real questions to be answered".

I wish we could have gotten to the point a whole lot sooner. This has been an ongoing problem. At every meeting, by the time everyone is up to speed on the facts, there is not ample opportunity for everyone to speak.

cpeep said...

I haven't made it clear that I deeply appreciate everything Paul Kadri has done during this redistricting. He graciously and honestly admits to not knowing everything (and makes steps to correct that) or making mistakes (and makes steps to correct THAT).

It is not his fault that he has to pull off some sort of miracle on such short notice.

I can honestly say that after going to the meeting my child just wants to know where she's going next year so she can "get excited about her new school." (Her words). She made a list of the good points of each school and considers it pretty much a tie.

William O'Connor said...

Of course their concerns are valid; I'm speaking solely to the manner in which those concerns were addressed. And MOST DEFINITELY these discussions should have started 6 months ago, but don't blame Kadri/Muenker for that - blame the previous board members who shelved the McKissick study for 6 months so it wouldn't be an election issue last November.

cpeep said...

My comment about "real questions" was in response to Anonymous, not you, btw. The hazard of the way a comment board works--things don't always publish in order. :)

Yes, I place the blame exactly where you do.

TMA said...

I'm trying really hard to keep quiet and allow those who will be affected by the impact of the "possible" closure of Neshaminy Middle to have their say, and believe me when I say, I respect your need to be heard, but I have a huge concern that the brunt of your community’s frustration will be vented at those who represent the three remaining middle schools. The Neshaminy Middle School community absolutely needs to speak out about the “possible” closure of their school and your words speak volume of the pride you have in your school, but you also need to understand, words that are spoken negatively towards the other schools will only serve to a create a divide that may take years to repair; a divide that will serve no good purpose other than to create a miserable learning environment for your children.

There are many people working together to make things better for the children who would be impacted and working to provide the smoothest transition possible under an extremely tight time frame (Thank members of our school board for that.) Wouldn’t it be more productive to focus your energy on reaching out and working with these people rather than making them bear the brunt of your frustration?

It is absolutely unfair that this is happening to these children, but it would be equally unfair to subject these kids to anything other than success.

William O'Connor said...

well said, TMA. Thank you.

There's an outdated, unfounded opinion out there that Poquessing isn't a good school. That simply is untrue. The one thing you could say about it was that the building was previously not in good physical condition, but the district recently put upwards of $25 million in repair towards the facility, and now we're looking at fixing the pool and surrounding deck.

Regarding the quality of the music arts program, I don't know where that misinformation came from, but let me assure you that the program is very good. Just a few months ago I had the pleasure of watching the student musical - a top notch production from beginning to end.

Like all the Lower South schools, Poquessing is supported by a good staff and a great PTO. It's a community school which you can (and should) be proud of.

TMA said...

Spend just a little time and talk to a few of the people involved with Poquessing and you'll begin to understand the value the school holds to those who enter its doors. Each and every school is as good as the time and dedication invested into it and there are a whole host of talented individuals pouring their hearts and souls into this building. I personally feel blessed and honored knowing my children are being educated by such a fine group of individuals. If only people could see the forest through the trees.

cpeep said...

Unfortunately, at every meeting a few (vocal) people come to the table holding outdated or ill-informed assumptions about other schools. Do not conclude that their beliefs are universal. In fact, most often the negative comments were refuted, even booed by others in the room.


It bears repeating that the vast majority of the affected NMS parents and students have stated, loud and clear, that the issue is not, and has never been, the particular school the kids are going to. It's about them being split up for their last year of middle school.


I believe that anyone with lingering misgivings can put them to rest by visiting the school their child will attend.

Anonymous said...

Disgruntled parents...
I was a student of the unfortunate cut off date for Neshaminy when it was January 31..YEARS AGO. I went into K when I was 4. Hoover was closed and I transferred to Schweitzer for 2nd grade. I then went to NMS and was a product of "the strike". Entering 9th grade into the highschool.
Guess what? I was a Gym Night captain for four years, involved in sports, got excellent grades. Was accepted to the college of my choice and now, am a successful professional because of the great education I received from Neshaminy but also, because of my parent's positive and encouraging attitude.
Why not let changes in your child's life boost them forward instead of lamenting and teaching them to hold you back?
I have my own children in the district now...I plan to follow in my parent's footsteps..
Please do not miss this opportunity to teach your child optimism instead of pessimism. You never know what lies ahead that is going to really throw them a curve ball and how they handle it depends a lot on what you've taught them...

njd said...

Amen Anonymous! If you give your kids a positive attitude at home and not make it seem like it's the end of the world, they'll 'never' see their friends again, etc...then the kids are going to have a hard time. But if you share with them that they'll make new friends and see them soon at the high school...plus there are weekends when you can get together with those friends and there are telephones, email, etc to keep in touch.
I too was one of the 'first' six graders to go to a middle school when the 'splits' happen, etc. I sure did survive due to the family at home ensuring that we'd live and have new friends and new opportunites awaiting us!

It's all what you put into it that'll you get out of it!