He’s Back In The Saddle Again – Thomas Hylton’s Neighborhood Schools Committee Rises From The Ashes

You may remember a while back that Mr. Hylton and his Neighborhood Schools Committee (NSC) were reigned in by the board for operating outside the normal limits of a committee.  They were placed under the Facilities Committee so that decisions would be made that included the entire board, not just “selected members”.

Oh, how times have changed.  Mr. Hylton’s power grab has landed him back in the catbird seat once again.  Mr. Hylton now has a majority of five votes on the board that will predictably go his way.  The NSC is now unfettered and free to act without the pesky interference of those other four trouble makers on the board who disagree with him.

On August 8th, the NSC held an 18 minute meeting to discuss a few issues.  Chairman Dennis Wausnock and Committee members Valerie Harris and Thomas Hylton were in attendance.  Déjà vu anyone.  There were some others in attendance, members of the administration, two other board members, Crabtree and Rohrbaugh folks and a couple of spectators.  Just a cozy little group, the way Mr. Hylton likes it 🙂

Mr. Thees (a former board member) asked some pointed questions:

  1. Will the cost summary be provided to the public?
  2. Mr. Thees asked about those darned historical windows that keep popping up.
  3. Is four weeks enough time for Crabtree and Rohrbaugh to go through the list?
  4. Why is Mr. Hylton the sole representative on the board for this project?

Mrs. Weand asked Mr. Hylton if the other eight members of the board are not to be involved in the day-to-day decisions.  Mr. Hylton replied that the board decided the Neighborhood Schools Committee has been appointed to oversee the work.  Ms. Harris chimed in that every board member has a say but that Mr. Hylton is the point person for the day-to-day dealings.   (The answer to Mrs. Weand’s question is a resounding NO!).

So Crabtree and Rohrbaugh have four weeks to provide a timeline to the NSC on the completion of renovations to Pottstown’s five elementary schools.  Of course, this motion passed with three yes votes.

Another motion was passed to authorize the preliminary work necessary to issue the $15 million bond ASAP.

Of course, the NSC voted to make Mr. Hylton the sole point of day-to-day contact between the PSD administration, Crabtree and Rohrbaugh, Stephen Kalis and others involved in the upgrade of our five elementary schools.

A motion was made and passed to develop a contingency plan for emergency student housing if the construction takes longer than anticipated.  (We can only imagine what this will entail!)

Eighteen minutes later, Mr. Hylton made the motion to adjourn.

Future meetings will be on an “as needed basis”.  (Sounds like the Shade Tree Commission)

If this doesn’t raise a few eyebrows then I am not sure what will.  Mr. Hylton has made himself Elementary Emperor.  He will be the only board member involved in this process and has effectively shut out the other seven elected school board directors from the day-to-day process of spending $15 million dollars to “band aid” five school buildings.

Does this seem unusual to anyone else?

You know those historical windows will end up in Rupert.  What you don’t know is that those windows will enrich the quality of education in the Pottstown School District tremendously.  Why I bet they will even make test scores in the high school go up to meet the state required levels.  The sense of pride in those historical windows will inspire our students to greatness.

Just another day in Pottstown.

Hylton’s Crash And Burn At School Board Meeting

Pottstown School Board Meeting

March 18, 2010

7:30 pm

Pottstown Middle School

Large Group Instruction Room

2nd Floor

I am going to try and streamline this report. 

The Meeting was called to order.

Matthew Moyer, Principal of Rupert Elementary School did a very nice Power Point presentation, set to music, of events at Rupert for the 2009/2010 school year.  One child from each grade, K – 5, read a paper they had written and received an award.  There was much applause! 

District Solicitor Kalis gave his interpretation of the Sunshine Law and then stated that the Neighborhood Schools Committee members did give the appearance and created a public perception of impropriety.  He also stated that in the future these types of meetings should not take place. 

A letter was then read from a retired borough resident in support of Mr. Hylton’s plan to made capital improvements to all 5 elementary schools and move the 5th grade into the middle school.

Rick Huss, Board President then came to the microphone and addressed the board and patrons aka taxpayers.  He stated that his vision for a way forward is to create a task force of board members, administrators, teachers, federation members, taxpayers and business people.  This task force would take the next several years to hammer out a plan and then start construction in 2 – 3 years.  Mr. Huss asked Mr. Hylton to pull his motion off the table and also asked Mrs. Weand to take her motion off the table in light of forming a task force.  Mrs. Weand agreed but Mr. Hylton was not at all agreeable to pull his motion off the table.  Mr. Hylton stated he wished Mr. Huss would have notified him prior to the meeting.  Mr. Huss replied he didn’t make up his mind until the meeting started.  The room was FULL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That probably helped some!  That and the Code Blue protest in front of his house yesterday.

Nat White, Chairman of the Policy Committee stressed that remarks from patrons be kept to 3 minutes, be civil, respectful and not be repetitive.  Comments were to be addressed to the President, Mr. Huss, only.

Mrs. Zahora asked about the Superintendent Search.  Mr. Krem has not officially resigned but it is common knowledge he is leaving Pottstown over the summer.  An Executive session was going to be held to discuss that per Mr. Huss.

Mr. Thees asked if a newer boiler was taken from the administration building and placed in Franklin School.  The answer was yes.  Franklin has two boilers; one came from the administration building.

Maureen Allen, Second Ward Councilor, addressed the board stating no schools should be closed.  Barth School was particularly mentioned and she presented an email from someone to Mr. Huss.  I was confused exactly what that was all about. 

Mr. Morgan gave a brief talk about the pension crisis that will impact all school districts in Pennsylvania.  The contributions for teacher pensions by PSD will go from $500,000.00 a year to $3.3 million a year in five years.  The cost per year for homeowners will go from $54.00 per household to $358.90 per household in five years.  OUCH! 

Mr. Marable wanted to know who will be on the task force and would it be a committee within a committee.  Mr. Huss has a person in mind to head the committee who has no association with PSD. (Good idea).  Mr. Marable also had comments about 5th graders in the Middle School and closing the administration building. 

David Krem gave his Superintendent’s report.

The main event of the night was as follows:

Mr. Hartman explained the Reynold’s contract.  Do we want to spend $20,000 to have a local King of Prussia firm do an efficiency study on the district and show ways to save money?  This includes behavior modification (turning off lights etc….) as well as other efficiency suggestions that could be implemented as policy for the district.  After some questions and discussion the motion carried that the district will spend the money. 

Next Mr. Hylton made one last plea for us to adopt his big-ticket recommendation to upgrade all five elementary schools, move the 5th grade into the middle school and move the administration functions into the high school and close the annex.  Mr. Hylton skillfully maneuvered through why certain people were no longer on the school board, how he was doing what the people voted him in to do and also managed to slam Code Blue as well.  Those pesky Code Blue hate mongers were blamed for everything (wink). 

Mr. Hartman basically stated that Crabtree, Rohrbaugh gave us what we asked for.  We didn’t actually listen to their suggestions about the elementary schools.  Hartman asked that we put a hold on Hylton’s big-ticket plan because of the economy and the district’s financial situation while we wait to see if the economy improves.  This task force gives us two years planning time to get ready to move forward when it is more economically feasible.  The 15 year repayment period is too short.  It should be 30 years so we can have payment terms that are affordable to the district.  We also have $28 million dollars available to use that we were previously approved for so this stimulus money doesn’t really make sense.

Board member, Valerie Harris stood by her man Hylton and stated that the cost this plan was only $108.00 a year per taxpayer.  However, that is $108.00 per year for every $80,000 dollars worth of property value.

Mr. Morgan presented a plan he came up with as another option for a way forward.    He also was happy with the task force idea.  Morgan stated geothermal is a luxury we can’t afford at this time. 

Jeff Leflar of Code Blue talked about the fiscal folly of this catastrophic plan and that we need to focus on education that we can afford.  He brought up the point that once we present this plan for the stimulus loan we can’t go back and change the plan after it is approved.  He stated he is not anti-Hylton, but he is Pro-Pottstown.

Ed (didn’t catch a last name) stood up and said he sends his children to parochial school because he didn’t want his kids to go to Franklin because of the modulars.  He is an educator.  He wants to see the district take action and move forward.

Tamara Chomnuk stated that the neighborhood schools aren’t bringing families into Pottstown.  Instead they are locating in suburban areas with perceived better schools and perceived safer environments.  She advocated working with the new partnership being created from the ULI Study.  We need to wait before making any decision to spend a lot of money at this time. 

Phil Thees is concerned about the uncovering of asbestos during construction, safety issues in general and doesn’t want money from the bankrupt federal government.

Newstell Marable commended the board and administration for providing PSD students with an excellent education.  He cautioned being in a rush to apply for this money.  It will around after April 1st.

Amy Francis cleared the air about Code Blue after Mr. Hylton’s attacks earlier in the meeting and in the Pottstown Mercury in the form of a paid advertisement where he went as far as to name names of people who disagree with him and called them cyber-bullies and hate mongers.  Amy is looking at the ULI Study and the new partnership being formed as a way forward and the school district needs to be part of that partnership.  She commended Mr. Huss for forming a task force.

Judyth Zahora stated that her children had a great education at Franklin School and that the gentleman who put his children in parochial school should put his kids in Franklin.  She said that bricks and mortar are not more important than education.  Mr. Hylton’s proposal only addressed bricks and mortar.

There were other people who talked as well but you get the idea.

So after much talking the roll call vote was taken to move Mr. Hylton’s proposal forward.  A yes vote would have advanced the Neighborhood Schools Committee recommendation.

Hartman  – no, Huss – no, Hylton – yes, Pargeon – no, Wausnock – yes, Weand – no, White – yes, Wilson – no, Harris – yes. 

Neighborhood Schools Committee recommendation is DOA 5 – 4!

Mrs. Weand made a motion to allow the patrons to speak at both the committee of the whole and the regular voting meeting.  There was discussion between board members and patrons were allowed to speak.  A roll call vote was taken:

Hylton – no, Pargeon – yes, Wausnock – no, Weand – yes, White – no, Wilson – yes, Harris – yes, Hartman – yes, Huss, yes.

Taxpayers will be allowed to speak at both meetings each month!

Mrs. Weand made a motion that the Neighborhood Schools Committee should become a data collection only sub-committee and supply that information to the Facilities Committee who will present information to the full board.  Facilities is chaired by Robert Hartman. There was a motion to table.  A roll call vote was taken.  A yes vote would have tabled the motion to make NSC a sub-committee, and a no would clear the way. 

Harris – yes, Hartman – no, Huss – no, Hylton – yes, Pargeon – no, Wausnock – yes, Weand – no, White – yes, Wilson – no.

Motion not tabled – More discussion ensued.

A roll call vote was taken to pass the motion. 

Hartman – yes, Huss – yes, Hylton – no, Pargeon – yes, Wausnock – no, Weand – yes, White – no, Wilson – yes, Harris – no.

The Neighborhood Schools Committee is now a sub-committee that will report in a data collection function only to the Facilities Committee.

Board members and administrators gave final comments except Mr. Hylton. 

Meeting was adjourned at 10:05! (Mr. Wausnock was walking out the door before the meeting was actually adjourned looking grumpy).

Mrs. Weand had a great night!  Mr. Hylton, not so good.  Mr. Huss played his cards right.  The meeting was a great success, very productive, cordial and the ground work was laid to move forward.  It’s very late and I am very tired.