Feb 11, 2011

Tutoring the Superintendent


A couple days ago I received the latest letter from the new school superintendent, Gerald Zahorchak. He explains that we are in financial difficulty because the system spent $155 million on upgrades, and will be getting $27 million less in federal and state aid this year. So here are his suggestions, and my replies.
*Attract regional, national or foreign industrial investment in energy and environment, the health care sciences and heavy industry to retrofit such empty spaces as the old Western Electric Building, GE plant, The Mack plants, old sewing mills and the Neuweiler Brewery to name a few.
These buildings have been vacant for decades, monuments to our industrial past. There are not enough green businesses to fill one of these giants, much less hundreds, in city after city, in the Northeast.Since Billy Joe's song, we have spent millions on Industrial Development Agencies to no avail. Even the business Obama visited last year has closed. 
*Sell the Queen City Airport to a Fortune 1000 company, such as an innovative technical concern looking for a northeast location...
Usually companies like this are lured with huge tax abatements for many years, and would have little need for such a large parcel. You could stop approving the Enterprise Zones which have yet to provide one dollar to the school system
*Gentrify Hamilton Street... like Manayunk.....
Manayunk borders a city of 3 million and is surrounded by affluent residential areas. Hamilton Street is surrounded by poverty.
*Attract Bill Strickland types and retrain the poor and outcast.
I wish I could retrain the School Board when it comes to hiring superintendents. Here's an idea; sit back and learn something about this community before making suggestions. Allentown's newly approved zoning ordinance makes it easier to convert vacant commercial buildings into apartments. You should have opposed that measure. Send a representative to zoning meetings to oppose every such conversion. Stop taking State of the Union speeches by Obama and Pawlowski as a plan. Cancel phase 2 of the school improvement plan. Prepare for more housing, more students, and less revenue.

32 comments:

Local said...

Not only is Hamilton Street surrounded by poverty, that poverty was created and is maintained by a largely corrupt handful of individuals presumably serving in authorities, boards, and agencies of our government.These folks exhibit no real interest in having a healthy city. Arrogance and greed.
Seemingly in spite of all this,
the 7th St. corridor is now the most happening place in town with stores and good food joints all bustling well into the evening.
This is all happening a couple of blocks from the fancy restaurants and rancid bars that received city funding and are languishing due to "regular" people refusing to even enter the city - especially at night. This is not your fat white west side crowd seeking to revive a long dead memory (and profit hansomely) but a new crowd rising to the difficult task of calling this place home.

michael molovinsky said...

i agree about the irony between hamilton and 7th street. removing the lanta transfer stops from hamilton deprived those merchants from their customers; it wasn't a fancy demographic, but it was business. in zahorchak's letter he parrots pawlowski, calling those hamilton street restaurants a renaissance. he correctly identifies more housing as a problem for the school district, yet did not oppose the new zoning ordinance which will foster more housing. he really needs a tutor.

Anonymous said...

The letter sounded like Pawlowski wrote it.

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

Does Zahorchak realize he was hired to be the Superintendent?

Instead of pining away for things that are honestly out of control, how about rolling up his sleeves and cutting the district's spending? He could start by looking at the high administrative costs of the district.

Instead, he has set up a task force of citizens - many of whom may not have ever seen a school budget - to suggest cuts. That's not leadership or even doing the basics of the job he was hired to do. That's called trying to set up political cover for another tax hike.

Instead of sending out self-serving letters, he should be speaking out about why students in private schools can be educated for a fraction of what it costs the district - and why those students perform better than district students.

michael molovinsky said...

patrick, he seems to be a real bureaucrat, not a thinker. although he recognizes more housing is a negative, he didn't oppose the new zoning ordinance, which encourages it. although pawlowski doesn't discount housing for queen city, zahorchak favors selling it. his recommendations for reuse of former industrial sites is naive, as is his belief that there is a renaissance going on in allentown. although we're broke, he's going ahead with phase 2 of his plan, which will cost many millions more. i blame the school board, especially those who remain silent about his disconnect between plans and our financial reality.

Anonymous said...

This is my take,

Mr. Z Goes to Renaissance

Does this sound like our Allentown, a city with new corporate structures in key anchor spots, new restaurants, and a flourishing arts scene? Are we beginning to see a Renaissance in the Queen City? Allentown’s new school superintendent seems to see things this way at least that is what he has written in his latest missive to city residents. Perhaps like the rest of us he knows the truth but believes will and optimism can triumph over a decade of mismanagement and the corruption of crony capitalism.
As an educated man he should know better and understand that words are just words and alone will not affect a trend towards municipal improvement. To reverse the downward spiral the real cause of the city’s decline must be addressed. Mr. Z’s renaissance rhetoric indicates he prefers to paint a rosy picture of the political machine that is running the city into the ground. That is a shame because that is truly the real challenge that faces both the city and the school district. It trumps every other issue. What serious developer/industrialist/business concern is going to invest heavily in a city with a mayor whose main concern is raising campaign cash? Take a look at whose is building downtown and then check for a connection to the mayor. This is obvious to everyone and a red flag to those who really could make a difference to the city.
So Mr.Z can chat about hope and renaissance all he wants, but until he is ready to address the real problems his words are just words and the educational opportunities for the districts children continue to dwindle.
On a brighter note Mr.Zahorchak understands that approving any new housing units into the city is a huge new expense the school district cannot afford. This is significant. Let us see how this plays out in planning and zoning.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott, unfortunately it did not play out in planning and zoning. the new zoning ordinance makes it significantly easier to convert former factories into apartments. although the city hopes for lofts, occupied by the upper mobile, they're getting single moms with children. (what a surprise).

gary ledebur said...

The Tribune of the People gets up early today to take shots at a school superintendent who has been on the job less than one year, facing severe revenue cuts (probably the highest ever, at least in my lifetime) and one of the lowest spending school districts in the state (the Center for Educational Progress, www.americanprogress.org, rates it the lowest of 501 PA districts adjusted for cost of living and student needs) and a new governor who will shift funding of public schools to a voucher program. America was built on the back of community supported and led local schools. The community elected the board of education. Rather than take shots and be, as a former Vice-President of the US said, "nattering nabobs of negativism," put forth positive and realistic recommendations (something more helpful than "cut the administration" which if totally eliminated would not even be close in balancing the 2011-12 budget) on how to educate Allentown's children well.

Patrick McHenry said...

Gary -

Thank you for citing one of Mr. Zahorchak's previous talking points - that the Allentown school district is one of the lowest spending in the state.

As you mentioned, it factored in cost of living and student needs, which alone should give people pause before accepting it as gospel. As I'm sure you know, if you find a study with enough variables that are favorable to your cause, you can find the answer you want. Throw in a little regression analysis, the application of which can also skew results (and was used in the study you cite), and you can get whatever result you want.

If you truly believe the district isn't spending enough, perhaps the district can find a bridge to sell you to solve its financial problems.

Even if you accept the study's results (and I obviously don't), the real issue isn't how the spending in the district compares to other districts. The real issue is why does public education cost so much more (than so many examples of) private education? The vouchers you seem to disdain would help rectify that problem.

The "public" commitment to education should be in making sure that children are well-educated. It should not matter where that education takes place (public or private schools).

michael molovinsky said...

gary, actually this post is full of suggestions. i did not address educational policy at all, i just replied to his suggestions on economic policy for the city, point by point.

Patrick McHenry said...

Gary said:

Rather than take shots and be, as a former Vice-President of the US said, "nattering nabobs of negativism,"...

**********************************

Gary -

Nice of you to quote VP Spiro Agnew.

I'm sure that line served him about as well as it serves you.

Anonymous said...

Progressive Liberals attempting to avoid their failed policy / ideology.

Always quality entertainment.

Each and every time.

And now, out comes the old RACE CARD from Polish Betty. As usual. Let the real GAMES begin...

Jetzt koennen wir ernsten Spass haben.

Ahora podemos divertinos serio.

Polish Betty said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Flagg's Fan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

A link to the Dr's biography

http://www.123people.com/ext/frm?ti=person%20finder&search_term=gerald%20zahorchak&search_country=US&st=person%20finder&target_url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FGerald_Zahorchak&section=biography&wrt_id=163
Stealth

Anonymous said...

Say what one will about former VP Agnew, but it was he who first signaled the call to watch out for anti-American liberals infested in the mass media. Prior to the quoted statement (and his 'effete and impudent snobs' line) America was led to believe that Murrow, Cronkie, et all were all objective journalists. Now we know otherwise. Just look at how the sainted Murrow was blind to the obvious Communist infiltration in our gov't from the 30's into the 50's. He's just love this bunch in DC now.

Anonymous said...

As far as Queen City and surrounding properties, too bad there was not a way to have your cake and eat it too. Too bad they cannot preserve the mission of QC and maintain one of the landing strips for Corporate and private jets and develop the surrounding parcels with corporate businesses.

I am completely opposed to housing development at this site as it would be a missed opportunity. I do find it a little ironic that some smart growth advocates would support the development of this open space but would strongly oppose it the same development if it were to happen outside City limits.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
michael molovinsky said...

three recent comments, with the blue highlighted links, have the characteristics often associated with the villa's. although i deleted the first such comment, it reappeared three time. this blog, and many others, had to resort to moderation because of such harassment.

Monkey Mambo said...

"characteristics often associated with the villa's"

Yeah, inconvenient FACTS, who needs them? And your right, facts are the exact same thing (legally) as harassment around here.

Anonymous said...

Any community can get a face lift with over $3M in grants to replace trash receptacles and every street light with period lighting standards. I am not disputing the investments, however, I wish Allentown would control what is done with facades along Seventh Street. If the trend continues, you will have it looking like Fairmont Street in Vegas and not the Manyunck someone made reference to.

It is sad when renew groups promote the spending money on bike racks and stripes on city streets where there are few bikes as a way to promote pedestrian access but thumb their nose at the families that risk their lives walking the berm of MacArthur Road where there is absolutely no pedestrian access.

michael molovinsky said...

"monkey mambo", if you made a comment concerning zahorchak's letter about economic policy, it could be a fact. when you make a comment inferring that someone is a racist, it is harassment. you continually project your agenda on to other people's blogs. you harp on conspiracies. most of these people don't even know one another, much less are conspirators. the only thing they have in common is being victimized by you. if your mission has any validity, you would serve yourself better by not using it as a bat to beat people with. i ask you once again to not comment on my blog.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Monkey Mambo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Monkey Mambo said...

(almost forgot)

Better throw that "Moderation" switch as the "harassment" (wink wink) is getting pretty bad here.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
michael molovinsky said...

with all the traffic and views you claim to receive on your blog, one would think you need not intrude here with 8 off topic insults.

RS said...

VP Agnew while a real wordsmith was attacking the press that was exposing the corruption of the Nixon administration.

Oh, don't forget that VP Agnew was also "driven" from office because he was accused of taking bribes based on his Maryland connections while the VP. He pled "no contest" to a single count of not reporting income which is interepreted as guilty, so don't say he didn't admit guilt.

Not exactly a role model for truth and credibility.

Monkey Mambo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
michael molovinsky said...

mambo, although i hope most readers realize that i'm not a bigot, i'm pretty sure all realize that you could really care less about that or anything but your own obsession. you feel justified to fabricate anything, you have told me so. although you can keep harassing people, you have long ago ranted away your credibility.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lou said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.