May 11, 2015

School Director Questions Pawlowski's Slate

School Board member Mike Welsh, not up for re-election this year, feels that the candidates not compromised by Pawlowski's PAC money, could best guide the school district.

This year’s Allentown school board race features a large field of candidates and I for one couldn’t be happier that so many have expressed interest and put themselves forward for consideration. Eight candidates have chosen to run independently while 4 have chosen to compete as a slate with the endorsement and fundraising efforts of Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

The Allentown School District has faced many difficult challenges the last few years and I believe better days could be on the horizon. Thanks to real fiscal discipline by our board and the administration of the school district, we are positioned to eliminate the need for layoffs in the coming year and will be offering full day kindergarten in even more of our schools. In the ensuing weeks there will be discussions regarding the possibility of restoring programs previously eliminated in cost savings initiatives by the district, with priorities put on the restoration of arts and music programs, library and physical education. These will be just discussions, however, and it will be important to remember that in possibly rehiring staff in these areas we must we prudent as we do not want to face the challenges of laying staff off again because of rash decisions this year.

Regrettably, while many of us see prospects for a better financial horizon for the school district, Allentown’s economic realities will continue to weigh on our children for years to come. Despite the renaissance that is happening downtown, many of our children live in poverty as demonstrated by the fact that 88% of students receive subsidized breakfast and lunch. Many of our children come from broken and/or disruptive homes and enter school without a basic knowledge of colors and numbers. These are the children we are charged to educate, and the teachers, administrators, and the board itself have maintained a commitment to providing the best education possible under these difficult circumstances. In this election, I want to encourage voters to consider candidates who have a proven track record of fiscal prudence and will be independent in their voting. I am pleased that 8 of our candidates have chosen to seek office independent of any slate out of a concern that those within a slate may be compromised in their voting as a result of monies provided in funding their candidacy. While this may be the standard in most political races, I believe it inappropriate in a school board race.

In my short time on the board I have come to respect the professionals and many volunteers of the Allentown School District. I am humbled by their dedication to the mission of public education. Let there be no doubt that from top to bottom the people of the Allentown School District are here for the right reasons and could make more money in less stressful environments in surrounding wealthier districts. With their continued dedication, and with continued financial progress, I believe there can be better times ahead for the Allentown School District and the children and families it serves.
Mike Welsh 
Allentown School Board Director

7 comments:

doug_b said...

My comments pertain to any city, not just Allentown.

What does it matter who is in control of the School Board or any other board? You see, a long time ago, the people who run our government decided that the way to maintain power is to maintain the status quo. Although there is much spoken about innovation and change, the government school system remains mostly unchanged since 1900. That’s right – they’ve been doing it the same way for 115 years, and if they had just more money, they could do it even more. With all day kindergarten, government schools have officially become a complete daycare operation.

I had a conversation with a high level state educator (not PA). I asked: “How much money is enough?” She answered: “We will never have enough.”

I was an inmate in the Allentown Schools. A truly tiresome / boring experience. Central Jr High was a particular depressing facility. Later in life, I smiled when my folks said some of it burned. My teachers – about as inspiring as watching paint dry – not one made a memorable impression. Is it a wonder that low socio-economic children act out against this? Sit in your seat, shut up, and read manufactured text books. I don’t believe there is a goal – except to ‘graduate’.

Thank god college was a lot better.

But the everyday people don’t care. They are products of government schools. They have learned not to make waves, not to think, sit in their seats.

Pennsylvania is projected to have a $2,000,000,000 budget short fall.

Canary_In_Coalmine said...

doug_b

I graduated from Allen in 1994 followed by an ivy league college four years later. I have positive memories of many ASD teachers from elementary, middle, and high school. Teachers who gave far more time than their contracts required, because their life purpose was to teach and they cared about students receiving an excellent education. I'm grateful for their efforts.

Perhaps times have changed and you attended later than I did. I'm sorry you had a bad experience.

Anonymous said...

With his mention of attending Central Junior High, doug_b is at least as old as I am (64) and probably older.

I became an ASD teacher in 1973. I assure all readers VERY MUCH has changed about the delivery of education since the Central Junior High days!

First of all, the school district classrooms started to embrace digital technology during the early 1990s. At that time, we had one of Pennsylvania's most innovative Technology Education programs under the initiative of former Superintendent Diane Scott. Unfortunately, subsequent administration halted all of it.

There have been MANY, MANY new teaching/learning concepts introduced over the years. Most of them forced upon the district by the state and federal legislatures, and with not enough funding support.

The new techniques were often scrapped the following September as new Principals and Central Administrations came into the picture feeling the need to effect changes, despite the success of what came before.

In a sense, ASD teachers NEEDED stability!

The Allentown School District is STILL loaded with talented and versatile teachers, maybe some of the region's best. They HAVE to be a bit special to last very long on the job.

There is a multitude of issues needing improvment in ASD. Teachers are not high on that list. They're fine.

I continue to believe the district must FIRST improve the ratio of adults to students. I saw class sizes too large to keep kids properly engaged.

Fred Windish

doug_b said...

@Canary: You are the example of what I was referring to. I would have liked you to make an argument about the status quo - of government - the failure to educate / involve low socio-economic folks.

You have refrained from commenting how public employee / teachers unions are bankrupting many states.

Since you have attended an ivy league college - I would assume you have some critical thinking skills.

Canary: "their life purpose was to teach " What's the difference with teaching than any other occupation?

doug_b said...

My intent was to get people thinking outside the box - not to monopolize a discussion.

I graduated from Dieruff in 1967.

Fred, you speak of the delivery of education - I question the entire delivery. You seem to by myopic to the situation. You have a myriad of excuses why previous plans fell through. Mostly to do with 'funding' and laws. Well don't you think if you dumped this 115 yr/old experiment, there might be another way to run it?

I have degrees in Engr and Comp Sci - never had any digital technology in the class room. You keep looking for the next 'new program'. "If only" we could do so much more.

Ask yourself: Who really wants to walk in to a school that has police and metal detectors, and is run like a medium security correctional facility. With a PC rule for everything?

I'd make teaching a 5 year job - max. After that you go out and get a real job. The teacher's unions and public employee's unions are bankrupting many states. You haven't mentioned that either.

Anonymous said...

Many of the ills you see are NOT due to the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher makes NO significant policy or budget decisions outside his/her classroom.
Pennsylvania's fiscal woes were created by politicians. The are many problems in play.

I can appreciate everyone's hatred for their school tax bill. So do I. What we need are MORE school tax payers, so those of us who DO pay don't have to pay more and more each year.

It might interest you to know, the teacher pension plan WAS significantly reduced 5 years ago.

The horrows of society we see playing out inside public schools are NOT of the teacher's making. But, they deal with all that, plus teach as best they can.

I suggest you sign-up to teach as a temporary substitute teacher. You are eligible.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

Mike:

"Thanks to real fiscal discipline by our board and the administration of the school district, we are positioned to eliminate the need for layoffs in the coming year and will be offering full day kindergarten in even more of our schools".

The recently released audit notes "MATERIAL WEAKNESSES" (Page 51 second from last paragraph) in the financial practices of the ASD.

This includes not amending the budget when Administration's projections have proved wrong, excessively off target for expenditures, and doing surreptitious budget transfers instead.

The wide variance,statistically valid, for FY 15 in the fund balance reinforces the inability of administration to adequately and responsible prepare and manage the budget.

My apologies but the board in general does not seem to like to ask penetrating insightful questions about the budget. Too often, I find, the board has abdicated to administration believing their, Mayo and Clark, years of experience are assurance enough.

They, the CFO and Superintendent, have refused to look at the cash flow from the NIZ for property taxes. Last years budget, approved by the majority of the board, called for income of $3 million dollars from NIZ school taxes.

How many board members knew that 701 Hamilton Street, The Arena et al, was exonerated from taxes according to the tax collector.

Since October the CFO of the ASD has said property tax information on NIZ parcels was not available. It took this board member twenty minutes to determine, from the tax collector, the information on 701 Hamilton St.

Why would this property be exonerated from the get go, in spite of the current assessment conflicts?

Who knew about this? Is there a conflict of interest with out solicitor who seems to be serving two masters as our solicitor and that of the NIZ? Did the CFO know and not want to tell the board?

Tell me why aren't these questions being asked? What will board members say if it arises that they are questioned by a higher authority?

We should not forget we are in the business of education and not cutting costs. We need transformative leadership not simple management of the status quo. It is time to step out of the box. Lets start asking the hard questions.

David Fehr Zimmerman
ASD Board