Charlestown Township, Chester County, PA

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Established June 2, 1997
by citizens for citizens


March 16, 1998

Website of the Week
Daily Local News
August 13, 1997
A beautiful part of southeastern Pennsylvania
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Charlestown Twp. Schools Forum

 How to submit your views for this page.  (Please read carefully.)
Ellen Behrle, Sycamore Lane - 09/19/02
Dear Neighbors,
On Tuesday Sept. 17th (my 14th wedding anniversary) I attended the meeting of the Great Valley School District. There were about 100 people in attendance. This number far exceeded the ususal 15-25.
I would like to thank each and every person who responded to my request and attended. I must say, I was not the only person extremely surprised and perplexed by the happenings.
When the meeting was opened to comments from the public on agenda items the president of the board was less than willing to provide any information or answers to the questions asked from the audiance. Dr. Jones added the issue of the superintendents salary to the agenda. I asked several questions as to the process used to figure the superintendents new salary. I was told information would be sent to me. Salwa Raven, one of the board members questioned this and a discussion among the board insued. Mr. Twardowsky explained why he was apprehensive in giving any information. Basically he wanted to prevent the questioning and discussion which went on the week before. It was obvious that some of our board members were not satisfied with this. The board will discuss the matter of how to address the public in a public meeting as part of next months agenda. It was obvious that the public was not happy with Mr. Twardowsky's attitude and apprehension to provide information in public expecially when there was no basis to deny us. There were no ugly scenes the week before. Only people asking questions which he felt to be dif ficult.
Then, the matter of the minutes approval from the August 19th meeting came up. This was the meeting where the board voted to renew the superintendents contract without first negotiating the terms and absent of a vote in a public forum. Suzanne Carr, the Charlestown board director, objected based on the fact that a sentence had been added to the minutes which had never occurred. What was added stated that the vote was taken to approve the renewal of the contract in accordance with the terms which were now attached to the minutes. A lenghty discussion ensued. Mrs. Carr then made a lengthy motion suggesting that the statement be removed to reflect a true account of the minutes and that basically the vote be recinded until a process which included negotiating terms first and then voting on those terms in public occurred.
Salwa Raven seconded the motion however, the board voted after a call of the question, to not accept the motion. The board then voted to take an executive session instead of discussing the matter in the public forum where it belonged. Mrs. Carr and Mrs. Raven and, I believe Mr. Levin voted against the executive session.
15 or 20 minutes later the board returned and voted to table the minutes in question until the board receives a legal opinion on, not only the minutes, but the process in which the contract was negotiated and voted on.
I give those 2 board members alot of credit for standing up and doing their job.
When the meeting was over and the public comment on non-agenda items was opened up several people spoke first, on the issue of the middle school musical and the lack of a director and a suitable place for performances since the multi-million dollar middle school was constructed without an auditorium since this administration did not feel it necessary to include one.
Next, the board was scrutenized by several citizens for their blatant disregard of the publics right and need to receive information in a public forum, sunshine rights violations, the process of the superintendents contract renewal, the boards refusal to consider economics in there financial offering for this new contract terms and their blatant disregard to their responsibilities to the public as set forth in the strategic plan which was voted on by the board earlier this year.
The disention among the board members was extremely evident. Mrs. Carr was obviously not popular among many of her collegues. The public did not like what they saw and the sad thing was that it was so obvious that the majority of the board did not care what the public thought.
Over the past two weeks the Charlestown Township residents who have been voicing dismay have found out that the issues of distress are school district wide. On Friday Sept. 13th a citizens group called "Concerned Citizens and Taxpayers of the Great Valley School District was formed. We have people from Charlestown, East Whiteland, Malvern Borough and Willistown serving on the executive board. For more information contact
The meeting went on until about 11:30PM. I am sure there will be press coverage from the daily local on Thurs.
Ellen Behrle
Ellen Behrle, Sycamore Lane - 09/13/02
Over the past few weeks there have been several newspaper articles and editorial comments in the Daily Local news concerning actions which were taken at last months combined meeting of the GV school board to extend our Superintendents contract for another 5 year period. This past Monday, at the School board's work session meeting several taxpayers asked for clarification from the board as to what action was actually taken. We were told by the board President that the board did, in fact vote to extend Dr. Jones' contract for another 5 year term but that the terms of the contract were not yet decided. This vote was taken at a meeting where 3 board members were absent.
Several taxpayers questioned the legality of this action. The board had a special attorney present who was hired to negotiate the terms of the new contract and deferred the legal questions to him. He assured us that what the board did thus far was completely legal. Many taxpayers also questioned the moral obligation of the board to the public to agree on new terms, reveal them to the public and have discussion before bringing the matter to a vote as is our right under the Sunshine Act. Again, we were told that no wrong doing had occurred.
When the question was asked as to why the board, knowing that the current contract was not up for another year, rushed this vote through instead of waiting for all board directors to be present we were told that this is historically the way the board handles contract renewals and that since some other school districts were pursuing Dr. Jones the board reviewed the salaries of the other districts as well as the benefit packages and decided that it was in the best interest of the district to renew Dr. Jones contract now. The board president eluded that Dr. Jones' salary and benefits package was substandard to those of the adjoining districts.
When the public asked what Dr. Jones' salary was currently Chuck Linderman, the business manager for the district said he did not know but if we contacted him the next day in his office he would give it to us. Knowing full well that Dr. Jones' salary is substantially higher than all other school districts I then asked Dr. Jones to disclose her salary and she flatly refused.
One board director, Salwa Raven, openly commented that she was led to believe that there would be several meetings to discuss the renewal before the vote would occur. She was one of the directors who could not be present at the August Meeting and that she not only was not happy with the process but she wanted further clarification available at the next meeting as to exactly what the board did vote on at that August meeting. It was apparent that the board was less than happy with Mrs. Raven for voicing her opinion.
Mrs. Raven asked to read an email from a voter in her district who had sent an email to the board twice without any response. The board tried to do everything in its power to prevent it. They even deferred to the attorney, once again, who couldn't come up with any basis to disallow it. The dissension among the board continued until one of the people in the audience offered to read it. The writer chastised the board, again, for the process of the contract renewal and demanded that certain public information, including the superintendent's salary be available to her before the next school board meeting. She also charged that it has been the common practice of the board to ignore the requests made by taxpayers and she strongly voiced her disagreement.
Comments the taxpayers made after that in support of the email were all rendered to be "out of order and the board president adjourned the meeting.
We have all talked over the last several years about a lot of different issues and questioned many decisions made by the school board concerning construction projects, playing fields, program cut backs, etc. and how the school board always fails to take any of our concerns in to consideration. However, now, not only are they making decisions to financially burden the taxpayers for another 5 years without first negotiating terms and then disclosing those terms in a public meeting, they are denying us information which we are entitled to by law and they are trying to pressure all of the school directors who don't agree with the process to not question or challenge their actions when these are the very things we have elected our school directors to do.
This school board and the current administration are like a "runaway train". They will continue to cut critical programs, substantially raise taxes and "skimp" on the quality of the product our children receive until we unite and stop them.
How can we do that? We need to pack the board room at the next board meeting which will be held on Tuesday. Sept. 17th at 7:30PM at the GVSD District office, K.D. Markey School. There are more questions that need to be answered. We have the people to ask them. We have a hand full of people who regularly attend these meetings and often provide us with the info we need to stay informed about what is happening. We will continue to do this. However, we now need to have your help. If we can't get several hundred people in this room on Tuesday we might as well stay in our homes, continue to write hefty tax payment checks and resign ourselves that while our kids have no playing fields or auditoriums or critical programs our Superintendent will be making more money per year than the Governor of Pennsylvania. Additionally, our school board directors who we elected to represent us need us to stand by them and show our sign of support.
Please don't let us down. There will be a special meeting of concerned citizens of the GVSD on Friday, Sept. 13th at the Great Valley Nature Center Barn at 7:00PM. We will be discussing the issues and questions which need to be asked on Tuesday. Please try to attend. This is the start of the citizens group which will turn this district around. If you can come please bring 2 other people with you. If you can not attend this meeting please make 5 phone calls between now and Tuesday so we can accomplish our goal and put hundreds of concerned and interested people in the board room on Tuesday night at 7:30PM. Please be on time for the board meeting as critical things do come up at the beginning of the meeting.
Any questions and comments are welcomed. Please email me back.
Ellen Behrle
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