An argument at the Allentown School Board meeting made today's paper; Board member Scott Armtrong suggested keeping the building's historical name, William Penn, for the new alternative school. The controversy surfaced when he further mentioned that perhaps because it's a school for the trouble makers, new name sakes would not be flattered. Joanne Jackson took offense, defending the educational potential of the under achievers. I know Scott and Joanne, and fully support both of them as board members. I think all taxpayers should be glad that we have a highly qualified board, willing to go toe to toe on any issue. Although Scott and Joanne both have a point, let me add my taxpayer dime. There was an element of political correctness with the Louis Ramos naming. Although I'm sure that Ramos was dedicated, being involved with the school system was part of his job at PPL. His choice appeared to be a homage to a new demographic. Similarly, naming an alternative school could conceivably offend sensibilities, creating a somewhat contrived pool of names. Considering the historical significance of William Penn, it certainly would be appropriate to keep that name. Perhaps the suggestion by board member Julie Ambrose to step back from the emotions of the evening was best.
UPDATE: In addition to the commotion Thursday evening about naming the alternative school, Armstrong presented the following statement to the record.
Future ASD Budgets cannot Be Balanced on the Backs of Taxpayers
In light of the projected 300% increase in cost of the defined benefit pension plan of ASD employees this board must begin to consider how it will bridge the resulting 40 million dollar deficit gap. One thing seems clear; the burden cannot be placed solely on the backs of the taxpayer. To do so would be to ask those with less to subsidize those with more. Can this board look the taxpayers in the eye and explain to them why they should accept annually escalating school taxes to finance a pension plan that is far more generous than their own? That solution is neither fair nor reasonable.
Clearly the burden must be shared equally, therefore unless relief is provided from the district’s defined benefit pension plan this board must act to control the cost by commencing staff reductions.
Of course these cuts will reduce the quality of education and those who lose their positions will experience real hardships in these tough economic times. Higher taxes, reduced staffing, less opportunities, and lower outcomes will be the fruit of a refusal to work out a sustainable fixed contribution pension plan.
Armstrong also expressed this sentiment in a letter to The Morning Call which appeared on June 20th.