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2018-02-13 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2018-02-13Live Recording

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New Transportation Contract

The new transportation contract that will save the district millions of dollars and improve the quality of transportation was approved. The deal was negotiated by Business Manager Cara Michaels and Supervisor of Transportation Jim Custer.

Regular Meeting Public Comments Section

As usual with the monthly meeting, the surprises come at the end of the meeting during the public comments period. In this case the surprise was the comments of a father of a Cedarbrook student. The father stated that his daughter was sexually assaulted at Cedarbrook. The perpetrator was a fellow Cedarbrook student and was "expelled" from the school.

According to the Father, the "expulsion" of the perpetrator was actually a one year suspension. Next year the victim and perpetrator will be attending Cheltenham High School. He stated that his daughter will have to deal with the perpetrator on a daily basis. He asked the question: If sexual assault is not an "expulsionary" event, what is ?

The father found out that in Cheltenham, the word "expel" does not automatically mean a permanent banishment from the school. School Policy 233 calls a suspension that exceeds 10 days an "expulsion."

In other words, bad English.

A true permanent expulsion requires action by the School Board and a hearing.

Previous Public Comments Response

During a response to previous public comments made at last months meeting (regarding the cutback of recess time), the superintendent mentioned that Cheltenham has the shortest work day in Montgomery County. He did not mention the cause– the union contract that the school board negotiated in 2016.

Opposition to SB 2

The district approved a resolution opposing a proposed educational savings account voucher program (SB 2). You can read the districts resolution at this link. For an alternative point of view, see this link.

While the district opposes vouchers, some district employees have voted with their feet. Several years ago, Cheltenham supervisor Dr. Darlene Davis left the district to head the Widener Partnership Charter School. Dr. Michael Lowe, formerly an administrator with Cheltenham School district, also crossed over to the charter school "dark side" by becoming the Supervisor of Instructional Development at the York Academy Charter School.

2018-02-13Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2018-02-131Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2018-02-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2018-02-13#810-2 Use of Recording Devices on Buses.pdf (19 KB)
2018-02-13P202 Nonresident Students 1 29 18 (01518148xAED82).pdf (127 KB)
2018-02-13P701 Facilities Planning 1 29 18 (01518216xAED82).pdf (122 KB)
2018-02-13P704 Maintenance as of 01 09 2018(01513728xAED82).pdf (114 KB)
2018-02-13P705 Safety 1 29 18 (01463921xAED82).pdf (11 KB)
2018-02-13P810 Transportation 1 30 18 (01560184xAED82) (2).pdf (140 KB)
2018-02-13P823 Energy Management 1 29 18 (01497967xAED82).pdf (112 KB)
2018-02-13R704 Maintenance 10.29.17 (01519094xAED82) (1).pdf (21 KB)
2018-02-13Volunteers February 2018.pdf (28 KB)
2018-02-13Budget Transfers (15).pdf (130 KB)
2018-02-13Revenue.pdf (31 KB)
2018-02-13Summary.pdf (46 KB)
2018-02-13EDEP Agenda 2 13 18 final.pdf (26 KB)
2018-02-13Myers stipend list Jan 2018.pdf (15 KB)
2018-02-13Feb 2018 HM (2).pdf (54 KB)

2018-02-06 Finance and Facilities Committee Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2018-02-06Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Construction Update
  • Overall the project is 88% complete. Still holding to a May 2018 completion date.
  • Kitchen equipment being received and installed including the walk in freezer
  • IT Wiring: 100% of wiring is completed.
  • Terrazzo floor: cafeteria 100% completed. Kitchen floor tiles completed.
  • Student lockers have arrived on site and are being installed.
  • Auditorium ceiling is completed.
  • Removal of soil stockpile is 30% completed.
  • Main generator is being installed
Damaged Sewer Line
  • During the Cedarbrook Project, a leak developed in a township-owned underground sewer line.
  • Liberty Mutual insurance is investigating the broken sewer pipe issue on the Cedarbrook construction site.
  • There are multiple pipes in the area.
  • One investigation topic is to determine the role geothermal drilling played in damaging the pipe ?
  • The township has run its video camera through the pipe.
  • Liberty Mutual has requested a copy of any pipe inspection video that was taken before it started leaking.
  • The district is looking to hire a contractor to replace the pipe with a new 8 inch cast iron pipe.
  • The cost to hire the contractor will be $93,350.
  • It was reported that the township said would not pay for the repair.
  • During the construction, there will be a bypass system in operation so that there is no interruption of service to nearby houses.
  • There are attorneys involved, so both the district and the township will incur extra cost over the cost of the repair.
Cheltenham High School Library Renovation/Elkins Park Roof Repair
  • The Cheltenham High School Library was closed because of mold and other environmental problems.
  • A consultant is currently performing a hazardous material survey at the library.
  • The next step is to hire an architect to design the project to renovate the library and eliminate the environmental problems. The work will include:
    • A new HVAC system
    • New duct work
    • New lighting
    • A new lower roof system at Cheltenham High School
    • Renovate an existing office area
  • Also included is roof work on the Elkins Park School.
  • There were 5 bids on the job the winning bid came in at $125,000
Finance Committee Meeting
Transportation Contract
  • School Bus costs were exacerbated by the break up of Cedarbrook into satellite campuses.
  • The added expenses pushed Cheltenham to the top in terms of per pupil transportation cost.
  • The transportation contract expires this year the district decided not to renew and to put the contract out to bid.
  • This new contract will be for a 5 year term and will have a series of new requirements:
    • All school buses must have 4 HD digital video cameras with audio capability. The cameras will monitor both students and drivers.
    • All full sized buses to be propane powered
    • There will be no additional charge for normally scheduled early dismissals.
    • The contract will provide for the following training / meetings:
      • Regularly scheduled safety meetings
      • A minimum of 4 general drivers meetings each year
  • Three companies bid on the contract:
  Cheltenham Trans Student Transportation of America First Student
5 YEAR TOTAL $20,545,200 $26,332,419 $26,014,662
  • The winning bid was the incumbent carrier, Cheltenham Trans, at $20,545,200.
  • The new contract represents minimum $894,780 savings in the first year.
  • The new contract includes a rate freeze for years 2021-2023.
  • One additional expense under the new contract is caused by the district taking over the routing and scheduling. Previously the contractor was doing it.
  • It was mentioned that Cheltenham Trans serves only 3 districts– so they can't afford to lose their largest contract.
2018-19 State Budget Highlights

The state Basic Education Funding increase of 1.7% will translate to $113,115 for Cheltenham School District. Likewise the special education increase translates to $46,196.

2018-02-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2018-02-061Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2018-02-062Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2018-02-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2018-02-06Financial Affairs Committee Presentation 02.06.18

2018-01-09 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2018-01-09Live Recording

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As usual, the most newsworthy event of the regular meeting occurred at the end with the public comments portion.

School Board Member "Official" Facebook Post Stirs Controversy

A controversy over a Christian prayer vigil took over the comments section of this meeting . The vigil was to take place on January 13 on the sidewalk in front of district schools, not within the schools themselves.

What made this event controversial was that a school board director was using the official district Facebook page to help organize a religious event. The name of the school board director was not disclosed at the meeting.

Later during the Presidents report it was noted that the school board disavows the postings regarding the event and that the school board member that caused the ruckus was disciplined. "We are deeply sorry that one of our members caused this division."

One parent who was involved in planning the event said it was canceled because of, "hateful vile twisting of the truth" that erupted on Facebook. While another person identifying themselves as non-Christian said the event organizers statement that everyone was welcome to participate in the event was "disingenuous." Another said that, "some don't believe and some don't pray."

There was mention that a $30,000 recent donation from local churches might be be "purchasing influence."

In recognizing that the main issue was that a school board director used the official district Facebook account rather than their personal account, one audience member said that the problem was that the "school board member doesn't understand their responsibilities."

Cedarbrook New Staff

Another sign that split-up of Cedarbrook into satellite sites is taking a toll: there is heavy turnover of staff with 7 new Cedarbrook teachers hired.

Appointment of new School Board Member

With the election of Napoleon Nelson as district tax collector, a new School Board Member was appointed. The new member is Kate Thompson.

2018-01-09Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2018-01-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2018-01-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2018-01-09Revenue.pdf (31 KB)
2018-01-09Summary.pdf (45 KB)
2018-01-09Volunteers for CSD – January 2018.pdf (19 KB)
2018-01-09Budget Transfers.pdf (118 KB)
2018-01-09P202 Nonresident Students Repeat First Read 11 21 2017(01518148xAED82) (2).pdf (126 KB)
2018-01-09P701 Facilities Planning New First Read 12 12 2017 (01518216xAED82).pdf (123 KB)
2018-01-09P704 Maintenance New First Read 12 12 2017(01513728xAED82).pdf (114 KB)
2018-01-09P823 Energy Management First Read 11 21 2017 (01497967xAED82) (1).pdf (111 KB)
2018-01-09EDEP Agenda 1 9 18 Final (1).pdf (28 KB)

2018-01-02 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2018-01-02Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
Cedarbrook Construction Update

In summary: 84% of the project is completed. A new schedule is being worked on and will be released at the next meeting.

The details on progress since last meeting:

  • Sidewalk forming has been completed. Contractor is now waiting for suitable weather for pouring concrete.
  • The metal wall panels on exterior of gym are being installed.
  • The main entrance curbing has been completed.
  • Auditorium– contractors have started working on ceiling. Wiring for the lighting has been completed.
  • Ground floor terrazzo tiling is in progress. The first and second floors are completed.
  • Kitchen: Floor tile installation is in progress. Kitchen equipment is being installed.
  • Gymnasium: The gym divider is being installed. Painting is completed.

The building is presently heated by temporary heating units. The school permanent heaters will not be used during the construction.

Broken Sewer Pipe

A proposed plan of solution to the broken sewer pipe was completed on Dec 20. The plan was sent to the township for approval. The broken sewer pipe is now the major risk factor that could delay the completion of the project; however, there is no risk that this problem would delay the opening of the school.

Gilbert Architect Contract Extension

The contract for the Cedarbrook architect will end on 1/19/18. The board will vote on a proposal to extend the contract to 8/31/2018. The cost of the extension will be $173,360. This brings the total cost of this contract to $1,876,955. The facilities director noted that there was much work to do after completion date for the architect and that this extension is on a "pay as you go" basis at an approximate $24K monthly rate.

Turner Construction Management Contract Extension

The contract for the Cedarbrook construction manager, Turner, is also being extended– to July 31, 2018. This is at a monthly rate of $35,840. The question was asked: "How is working relationship between Turner and the prime contractor ?" The facility directors answer was "the same." Meaning that the relationship is not good, and that they "are not happy with each other."

Cedarbrook Soil Stockpile

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection certified dump site for the Cobalt contaminated soil has been found in nearby Ambler. A change order to have the contractor truck this soil to the site was proposed to the board that would have 8 dump trucks making 6 trips daily for 24 days to remove the soil to the Ambler site. The change order cost will be $74,152.

Cheltenham HS Library Mold/Asbestos Testing and Inspection

The board will vote on a bid from 1Source Environmental for Mold/Asbestos testing and inspection at the Cheltenham High School Library. The bid was $21350.

Finance Committee Meeting Notes
Budget Process 2018-19
  • The maximum Act 1 Index tax increase for 2018-19 is 2.4%. Increases above this amount must either be approved at a voter referendum or be applied for exception by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
  • September 1st is the PDE waiver application deadline.
  • In the past exceptions have been applied for PSERs increases.
  • The fund balance as of June 30 2017 was $17,721,180 of which $8,684,728 was unassigned.
Budget 2017-18 Snapshot
  • YTD revenues are at 79% of budget
  • YTD expenditures are at 46.6% of budget
  • We are at 50% of the fiscal year

2018-01-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2018-01-021Facilities Committee Meeting
2018-01-022Finance Committee Meeting

2018-01-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2018-01-02Financial Affairs Committee Meeting January 2018
2018-01-02Facilities_Presentation_January_2018 updated

2016-17 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS): A 5 Year Comparison

Permalink2017-12-17Test Scores

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Ever wonder at what the highest school tax rate in Montgomery County buys you ? Well, the state released the 2016-17 Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS) for all Cheltenham District schools. This will be the last year of the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile which grades schools on a 0-100 scale. The table below compares the last 5 years of BLAS scores for the Cheltenham Schools.

2017-12-172012-17 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS)

2012-132013-142014-152015-162016-17

2017-12-12 Regular Legislative, Facilities and Finance Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-12-12Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
Cedarbrook Update

At this meeting Cedarbrook was described as 80% complete and 100% enclosed with an estimated completion date of Mid-May 2018. Other items:

  • First Floor Terrazzo is 100% complete
  • The Elevator is installed; however, electrical and controls are incomplete.
  • Curbing is 95% complete.
  • The Soil Stockpile Problem:
    • As described previously, there is a large pile of naturally occurring Cobalt contaminated soil.
    • This soil is "safe" but is not considered as clean fill.
    • It was reported that the general contract contacted 4 disposal sites and only 1 site would consider taking it.
    • The soil consists of 1500 truck loads.
    • The cost of disposal will be over $1 Million
  • The Broken Sewer Pipe Problem
    • The pipe is owned by the Township.
    • There is at least 1 crack in the pipe
    • The school district is taking control of assessment of pipe.
    • The district is hiring a civil engineer to consider a design of a repair.
    • Renew Design Group job for $16,800
    • The township and district have the same lawyer.
Finance Committee Meeting Notes
2016-17 Budget Audit Results

The 2016-17 Budget Audit Results were presented by CPA Amanda Bernard of the accounting firm Maillie LLP. As usual, the audit report will not be made available on the district website.

The audit found no irregularities.

Some key highlights:

  • Pension Liabilities were $183 Million, a $30 Million increase from

last year.

  • Next year there will be new OPEB reporting requirements for Pennsylvania retiree health benefits.
  • The 2016-17 Budget expenditures exceeded budget by $7 million;however, revenues also exceeded budget by $6 million.
  • Debt is at $174 Million. Last year's debt was $148 Million.
  • At the end of the year there was $27 Million remaining from bond issues.
  • The fund balance was $17.7 Million of which $8.6 Million was unassigned.

2017-12-12Regular Legislative, Facilities and Finance Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-12-121Facilities Meeting
2017-12-122Finance Meeting
2017-12-123Regular Legislative Meeting

2017-12-12Regular Legislative, Facilities and Finance Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-12-05Facilities Committee Meeting December_2017
2017-12-05Financial Affairs Committee Meeting December 2017
2017-12-12Budget Transfers (14).pdf (216 KB)
2017-12-12Nov 2017 Revenue.pdf (32 KB)
2017-12-12Nov 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (44 KB)
2017-12-12Volunteers - December 2017.pdf (22 KB)
2017-12-12P202 Nonresident Students Repeat First Read 11 21 2017(01518148xAED82) (2).pdf (126 KB)
2017-12-12P701 Facilities Planning New First Read 12 12 2017 (01518216xAED82).pdf (123 KB)
2017-12-12P704 Maintenance New First Read 12 12 2017(01513728xAED82).pdf (114 KB)
2017-12-12P823 Energy Management First Read 11 21 2017 (01497967xAED82) (1).pdf (111 KB)
2017-12-12Agenda 12 12 17 EDEP Final.pdf (32 KB)
2017-12-12Leadership Stipend List Dec (1).pdf (14 KB)

2017-11-21 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-11-21Live Recording

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School Board Retirements

Three school board members are retiring. One of the retiring members has been on the board for 19 years. Over those 19 years while student enrollment has remained flat, the school tax rate has increased from 21.63 mills to 45.9511 mills: an increase of over 115%.

Ah the memories...the vote to hire Natalie Thomas.. then the vote to hire a Supervisor for the Supervisor... the the calm, rational Cedarbrook process ....oh well, never mind. Res ipsa loquitur. Happy retirement.

Year Enrollment Millage School Tax % Increase since 1998 Enrollment % Increase since 1998
1998-99 5108 21.303 0.00% 0.00%
1999-00 5089 21.631 1.54% -0.37%
2000-01 5025 24.338 14.25% -1.62%
2001-02 4903 26.039 22.23% -4.01%
2002-03 4886 26.97 26.60% -4.35%
2003-04 4734 28.384 33.24% -7.32%
2004-05 4732 30.55 43.41% -7.36%
2005-06 4663 32.651 53.27% -8.71%
2006-07 4508 35.422 66.28% -11.75%
2007-08 4365 37.25 74.86% -14.55%
2008-09 4264 39.24 84.20% -16.52%
2009-10 4348 41.6 95.28% -14.88%
2010-11 4443 41.6 95.28% -13.02%
2011-12 4458 41.6 95.28% -12.73%
2012-13 4503 42.3072 98.60% -11.84%
2013-14 4561 43.6856 105.07% -10.71%
2014-15 4565 44.5156 108.96% -10.63%
2015-16 4535 44.5156 108.96% -11.22%
2016-17 4632 45.0943 111.68% -9.32%
2017-18 4610 45.9511 115.70% -9.75%
2018-19 4644 47.0539 120.88% -9.08%
Opt-Out Resolution Limits 2018-19 Tax Increase

The board approved an Opt-Out Resolution that limits the 2018-19 tax increase to below 2.4%. As mentioned last week, for the "median" Cheltenham Township home assessment of $144,290, the Act 1 maximum increase would result in a yearly tax bill of $6789.41 (@ 47.0539 mills) which equals a $565.78 monthly payment.

It was mentioned at the meeting that this increase would raise approximately the same amount as the anticipated 2018-19 shortfall. In other words, the increase most likely will be 2.4%, and not a tenth of a percent lower.

A tenth of a percent may not be such a big deal to most; however, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment for 2018 has been announced as 2.0%.

2017-11-21Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-11-211Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-11-21Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-11-21P 121.1 Other Student Travel 2nd Read 11 21 2017 (01514813xAED82).pdf (121 KB)
2017-11-21P200 Enrollment of Students Second Read 11 21 2017.pdf (122 KB)
2017-11-21P237-Electronic Devices Second Read 11 21 2017.pdf (108 KB)
2017-11-21P260 Make Up Work After Absence Second Read 11 21 2017 (01507014xAED82) (1).pdf (113 KB)
2017-11-21P608 Bank Accounts Seocnd Read 11 21 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-11-21P615 Payroll Deductions 10.24.17 (01516501xAED82) (4).pdf (112 KB)
2017-11-21P617 Petty Cash Second Read 11 21 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-11-21P618 Student Activity Funds Second Read 11 21 2017.pdf (11 KB)
2017-11-21P701 Facilities Planning 10.26.17 (01518216xAED82).pdf (123 KB)
2017-11-21P704 Maintenance First Read 11 21 2017 (01513728xAED82).pdf (114 KB)
2017-11-21P823 Energy Management First Read 11 21 2017 (01497967xAED82) (1).pdf (111 KB)
2017-11-212018-2019 Academic Calendar EARLY START_REG BREAK.pdf (378 KB)
2017-11-21Budget Transfers (13).pdf (316 KB)
2017-11-21Volunteers for November 2017.pdf (54 KB)
2017-11-21Mentors - 2017-2018 Nov.pdf (18 KB)
2017-11-21Oct 2017 Revenue.pdf (33 KB)
2017-11-21Oct 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (43 KB)
2017-11-21P202 Nonresident Students New First Read 11 21 2017(01518148xAED82) (2).pdf (125 KB)
2017-11-21EDEP Agenda 11 21 17 final.pdf (34 KB)
2017-11-212017-2018 Stipend List Nov.pdf (12 KB)

2017-11-14 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-11-14Live Recording

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Finance Committee Meeting
2018-19 Budget Update

Cost for taxpayers to avoid school district tax liens, eviction and sheriff sale for the 2018-19 budget year has not yet been settled. The finance presentation outlined the options available under PA ACT 1.

  • Opt Out of any increases over the stipulated Act 1 Limits or
  • Seek voter approval for increases over the limit.

The finance presentation listed the 2018-19 Act 1 limit as 2.4%.

For the "median" assessment of $144,290 this will result in a yearly tax bill of $6789.41 (@ 47.0539 Mills). This equates to a $565.78 monthly payment.

The calculation of the Act 1 Index is based on "the average of the percentage increase in the "statewide average weekly wage" (SAWW), and the federally calculated “employment cost index” (ECI ) specific to elementary and secondary schools (link).

Act 1 does not set the index according to the taxpayer ability to pay: for example, the Social Security cost of living allowance (COLA) for 2018 is 2.0%.

The finance presentation included a table of Act 1 versus Actual Cheltenham School Tax increases. Your Podmaster has added a 4th column: The Social Security COLA (link). Clearly Cheltenham seniors have never recovered from the school tax smackdown of 2006-2010:

Year Act 1 Index % Actual Cheltenham Increase % Social Security COLA %
2006-07 3.9% 6.88% 3.30%
2007-08 3.4% 8.49% 2.30%
2008-09 4.4% 5.16% 5.80%
2009-10 4.1% 5.34% 0%
2010-11 2.9% 6.01% 0%
2011-12 1.4% 0% 3.60%
2012-13 1.7% 0% 1.70%
2013-14 1.7% 1.70% 1.50%
2014-15 2.1% 3.26% 1.70%
2015-16 1.9% 1.90% 0%
2016-17 2.4% 1.30% 0.30%
2017-18 2.5% 1.70% 2.00%
2018-19 2.4% ?? ??

Announced 2018-19 spending increases "baked in" because of contracts were $2.7 Million. This $2.7 Million will be partially offset by anticipated $600K in transportation savings with Cedarbrook reopening.

There was a "straw vote" regarding opting out of increases above the Act 1 Index: there was no board member in favor in going above the index. Some expressed the opinion that the "opt out" resolution locking the district down increases above the index should be adopted before the new board is seated.

School District Maxing Out Credit

There was some discussion regarding the districts debt service. Projected financing for the Elkins Park project will take debt service to a level above the 8%-10% of revenue rule of thumb.

There is, of course, no legal prohibition on the Cheltenham board to keep debt payments below the 8%-10% level. They can borrow to pay operating expenses. One case showed that there is nothing to stop them from increasing debt all the way to Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.

Even under Chapter 9 Bankruptcy, thanks to the Pennsylvania State Aid Intercept Program, state revenue would be garnished to make bond payments– teacher payrolls would take a back seat. So there is effectively no relief under bankruptcy.

Facilities Committee Meeting
Sewer Leak– District Vs Township

Part of the Cedarbrook construction update described a problem at the construction site: an old terracotta sewer line has broken, leaking to the surface. The sewer line is part of the Cheltenham Township system.

The township is blaming the school district, while the district disavows all responsibility. They both have the same lawyer.

And of course, the same people– Cheltenham Taxpayers– will be paying for the repair.

While the leak is not impacting any Cedarbrook construction activities in the building itself, it is impacting electrical, HVAC and other work in the area of the leak.

The pipe is said to be very old and very deep– 25 feet deep. Liberty Mutual Insurance has denied a claim for this problem. The Cedarbrook construction contractor has denied responsibility.

Common sense suggests that extremely heavy construction vehicles continuously passing over the area where the leak occurred are the most likely cause of the problem.

Contaminated Soil Stockpile

Back in October your Podmaster reported on a briefing by Mr. Gregory Ryan, Vice President of Operations with Turner Construction. He broke the news of a large pile of parking lot soil contaminated with Cobalt.

Like the sewer leak problem, this dodgy dirt pile is not impacting construction activities within the building; however, it is in the way of asphalt operations.

Further information regarding the problematic pile was presented at this meeting:

  • The Cobalt level is slightly above state thresholds
    • The state threshold is 8.1 mg/kg.
    • The parking lot soil is 9.19 mg/kg.
  • It would take 1208 truck loads to remove the pile.
  • The cost to remove it would be $1.2 million.
  • It could be used on the ball field, but would raise it by 2 feet.
  • The facilities director said that it does not pose a health hazard and is in fact "edible." No demonstration of its culinary properties were given at the meeting.
  • The board approved $29K to move the pile out of the way temporarily so that the parking lot can be completed.
Skip the Infomercials

Two lengthy presentations by the vendor of the district EA software, School Dude, and by Perez IH Consulting, LLC were made during the meeting. These presentations were more infomercial than information and were omitted from the podcast recording.

2017-11-14Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-11-141Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-11-142Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2017-11-143Finance Committee Meeting

2017-11-14Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-11-14Updated Financial Affairs Committee Presentation Nov 2017
2017-11-14Facilities Committee Presentaion Nov 2017

Cheltenham School District Sheriff Sale Activity

Permalink2017-10-14Update

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The following table lists the current Cheltenham Township properties listed on the Montgomery County Sheriff Sale site that were foreclosed by the school district for failure to pay the school tax.

Case URL Sheriff # Sales Date Plaintiff Address
Details 14012196 10/25/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 273 Bickley Road Glenside PA 19038
Details 15005855 10/25/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 750 Cottman Street Cheltenham PA 19012
Details 15010136 10/25/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 48 Boncouer Road Cheltenham PA 19012
Details 17000240 10/25/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 619 Paxson Avenue Wyncote PA 19095
Details 15007095 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 7304 Granite Road Cheltenham PA 19012
Details 15007221 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 7715 Doe Lane Glenside PA 19038
Details 16007057 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 1815 Erlen Road La Mott PA 19027
Details 16007107 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 7753 Clements Road Wyncote PA 19095
Details 16008404 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 7901 Deer Run Road Cheltenham PA 19012
Details 16012486 12/6/2017 School District of Cheltenham Township 7900 Old York Road Condo 108-A Elkins Park PA 19027

2017-10-10 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-10-10Live Recording

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Superintendent's Report

The superintendents report contained an 8 minute statement regarding an incident at last week's Cheltenham-Quakertown football game.

According to news reports two Quakertown middle school students, both 8th graders, will be punished after a "racially motivated incident during a football game". The two students were accused of both using incendiary language and throwing stones at the Cheltenham bus.

The superintendent also made a statement regarding the recent discovery of a mold problem in the High School library. According to news reports, the library will remain closed until spring.

2017-10-10Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-10-101Regular Legislative Meeting

2017-10-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-10-1017.pdf (41 KB)
2017-10-10Revenue .pdf (31 KB)
2017-10-102017-2018 Mentors.pdf (21 KB)
2017-10-10Volunteers for October 2017.docx (82 KB)
2017-10-10R618 Student Activity Funds 9.20.17 (01497764xAED82).pdf (96 KB)
2017-10-10R617 Petty Cash 9.25.17 (01499629xAED82).pdf (122 KB)
2017-10-10R237 Student Use of Personal Electronic Devices 10 10 2017 (01503416xAED82).pdf (120 KB)
2017-10-10R200 Enrollment of Students 10.2.17 (01504194xAED82).pdf (133 KB)
2017-10-10R 202 Eligibility of Non-Resident Students 10 2 2017(01416163xAED82).pdf (128 KB)
2017-10-10P618 Student Activity Funds First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (11 KB)
2017-10-10P617 Petty Cash First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-10-10P615 Payroll Deductions 9.20.17 (01497223xAED82).pdf (111 KB)
2017-10-10P608 Bank Accounts First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-10-10P260 Make Up Work After Absence First Read 10 10 2017 .pdf (112 KB)
2017-10-10P237-Electronic Devices First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (108 KB)
2017-10-10P202 Nonresident Students 10.2.17 (01504232xAED82).pdf (126 KB)
2017-10-10P200 Enrollment of Students First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (122 KB)
2017-10-10P 121.1 Other Student Travel First Read 10 10 2017.pdf (121 KB)
2017-10-10231 School Sponsored Social Events and Trips Repeal.pdf (18 KB)

2017-10-03 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-10-03Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Schedule: Latest Estimate is June of 2018

The star of the Facilities Committee Meeting this month was Mr. Gregory Ryan, Vice President of Operations with Turner Construction. Turner Construction is the construction management firm that supervises the Cedarbrook Project.

Mr. Ryan explained some of the difficulties Turner was having in providing a completion date for the project. According to Mr. Ryan, Turner has asked the prime contractor for a "completion schedule" for the last 3 months and has only received, "inaccurate and incomplete information."

Mr. Ryan stated that,"only the prime contractor can provide a true completion schedule." In the absence of that, Turner has compiled their own estimate: a worst-case completion date of June 2018.

Mr. Ryan reviewed the past issues that have caused the original project schedule to slip:

  • Construction permit delay (MPDES)
  • Damage to the existing steel frame
  • Parking lot soil contaminated with cobalt
  • Legacy building steel and foundation at variance with original blueprints
  • Hydraulic oil contamination at the elevator pit
  • Bankruptcy of the roofing contractor
  • Major electrical design revisions

Mr. Ryan listed the following new issues that may impact the final schedule:

  • Fireproof (Intumescent) Paint on Structural Steel
    • The contractor that was hired to handle fireproof paint application on steel has walked off the job.
    • A new contractor was brought in.
    • It is not known whether the paint has been purchased.
  • Terrazzo Installation
    • Installing Terrazzo is tedious and requires that the corridor is shut down while it is being installed.
    • Shutting down the corridor shuts down all other work in the area.
    • The prime contractor is supposed to have 3 crews working on the Terrazzo, they presently have only one crew working.
  • Soil Stockpile Contamination
    • There is a large pile of soil outside the Gym area that produced by construction activities.
    • Soil may also be contaminated with Cobalt, again requiring special handling.
    • Potential landfill dumping expense.
    • Has put a hold on the completion of site work.
    • Turner is recommending that the district use their own environmental engineers to do the testing.
    • There was some concern expressed that hiring the districts own engineer may "scare" the prime contractor.
  • Heating for the Winter
    • The prime contractor has not released their plan for heating the building this winter.
    • If the prime contractor uses the permanent systems, they will have to purchase additional warranty coverage to make up for their use.
    • The mechanical contractor will have to operate the heating plant and install additional filtering to handle construction dust.
    • Dr. Bavi is concerned that the equipment may not be operated properly and will be damaged.
    • If the area is not heated properly, completed interior work may be damaged.

Mr Ryan summarized his relation with the prime contractor:

I can tell you that the General contractor has been a challenge. Every time we make a statement, we get…they just bark us down. They say it's not accurate. We quote the contract. We quote the specifications. We copy it…We send it to them an they've just been— they either filibuster the request endlessly and we repeatedly ask them for information and they give us non-answers or refuse to answer.

Board President England summarized the situation,"We're way off schedule. We're over budget and it doesn't feel like there's a firm target in front of us."

Finance Committee Meeting
Preliminary 2018-19 Budget

The State mandated maximum tax increase for 2018-19 that can be applied without application for a waiver or referendum is 2.4%.

The board has until 1/26/2018 to approve an "Opt Out" resolution which will commit the district to an increase below the 2.4% maximum for 2018-19.

There was some discussion of adopting the "Opt Out" resolution for the upcoming October regular meeting; however, it was decided that they would wait before committing themselves to an increase below 2.4%.

Transportation Software

The district uses software to schedule student transportation. The present package they use is called Edulog which costs $15,100 per year to license. The district IT department is not happy with this software and want to switch to new package called Transfinder

The new package requires a 3 year contract. The cost of the new package was presented as follows:

  • Year 1: $23,745
  • Year 2: $20,000
  • Year 3: $7,450
  • Every Year thereafter: $7,450

It was noted that these systems have custody over sensitive student data. There was no information regarding other area districts that use this software.

2017-10-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-10-031Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2017-10-032Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2017-10-033Finance Committee Meeting

2017-10-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-10-03Finance Committee Presentation 10.03.17

2017-09-12 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-09-12Live Recording

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Cheltenham School District to Target Individual Homeowners for Tax Increases

A short statement by the school district solicitor concerned the districts response to a July 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case: Valley Forge Towers Apartments LP v. Upper Merion Area School District. In this case, the court ruled that the the Uniformity Clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution blocks school districts from selectively targeting commercial properties for tax increases through tax assessment appeals.

It is easy to see why districts would target commercial properties: they yield the biggest financial return at the lowest political price. Commercial property owners have only one vote but can be squeezed for several residential properties worth of tax revenue.

At tonight's meeting Solicitor Roos stated:

Beginning with the 2018 tax year, the district will identify properties in the district— whether they are commercial, industrial or residential— which appear to be under-assessed to the extent that a successful assessment appeal will be expected to provide the district with a realization of at least Ten Thousand Dollars per year in real estate taxes for the district.

The board has authorized the retention of a separate firm to analyze residential appeals in addition to the [real estate] appraiser that has already been retained to review commercial and industrial appeals.

Your Podmaster notes that $10,000 per year in tax revenue equates to a property under-assessment of $217,623 at the present school district millage. Your Podmaster also wonders:

  • How did the district arrive at the $10,000 trigger level for reassessment ?
  • Does the board really think that a commercial property owner attorney fighting a reassessment will not challenge an arbitrary $10,000 trigger level ?
  • Does the district have "real" data on the legal cost of reassessments to set a trigger level based on facts ?

It is hard to see how the homestead or Farmstead Exclusion won't be the next thing that commercial property owners challenge in court. What a train wreck. Property Tax Elimination Act anyone ?

Recess Time Cut Outrages Parents

The majority of the meeting concerned a decision to cut recess back to 15 minutes.

The unspoken issue related to the "Employee Workday" provisions in Teacher's Contract agreed to last year by the present school board. The contract stipulates that the "professional employee workday in grades K-4 shall be seven hours and fifteen minutes with a forty-five minute lunch period. A minimum of fifteen minutes will be for non-instructional activities." The contract also limits the "employee work year" to 190 days maximum.

Superintendent Wagner Marseille is trying to square the circle of reversing the academic decline of district while hemmed in by the seven hour per day contractual limit for "instructional activities" that he can get out of his teachers.

So the casualty of this conflict appears to be 15 minutes of recess time. There also was reportedly a reduction in lunch time at the high school.

Some of the residents stated that the reduction in recess was a unilateral action by the administration with no notice given to parents or teachers. At the very end of the meeting, the school principals came to the microphone and said that there were many teachers involved in the scheduling decision. Principal Dr. Crystal Clark of Wyncote Elementary stated that she had 9 teachers involved in the new schedule.

2017-09-12Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-09-121Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2017-09-122Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2017-09-123Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2017-09-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-09-12Agenda
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Exp Summary 2.pdf (41 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Revenue.pdf (30 KB)
2017-09-12248 Repeal.pdf (15 KB)
2017-09-12248_1 - Repeal.pdf (92 KB)
2017-09-12249 repeal.pdf (35 KB)
2017-09-12P233 Suspension and Expulsion Second Read 09 12 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-09-12P247 Prohibited Harassment Second Read-Adoption 09 12 2017.pdf (154 KB)
2017-09-12Secretary-Office of Education 08 2017.pdf (307 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Exp Summary 2.pdf (41 KB)
2017-09-12Aug 2017 Revenue.pdf (30 KB)
2017-09-12248 Repeal.pdf (15 KB)
2017-09-12248_1 - Repeal.pdf (92 KB)
2017-09-12249 repeal.pdf (35 KB)
2017-09-12P233 Suspension and Expulsion Second Read 09 12 2017.pdf (10 KB)
2017-09-12P247 Prohibited Harassment Second Read-Adoption 09 12 2017.pdf (154 KB)
2017-09-12Secretary-Office of Education 08 2017.pdf (307 KB)

2017-09-05 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-09-05Live Recording

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Facilities Committee Meeting
Cedarbrook Project Notes
  • The main news was another delay in the estimated Cedarbrook Construction completion date which is now February 28 2018.
  • The board was frustrated by the fact that a specific description of the causes of the latest schedule slippage could not be given— they were told that the schedule spreadsheet contains "thousands of cells" and is too complex to pinpoint the exact cause of the delay.
  • At the last Facilities Meeting, the announced construction completion date was February 16 2018.
  • Previous to that, the date was January 18 2018.
  • There was much discussion of the fact that opening Cedarbrook after spring break is improbable since there is much work to do between completion of construction and opening the school (state permits, moving in furniture, cleaning, etc…).
  • A ballpark "best case" estimate of 6 weeks after the completion of construction to opening the building was given.
  • In general, the contractor is blaming the elevator shaft environmental contamination for the bulk of the project delays.
  • There are over 100 people working at the Cedarbrook site.
  • Overall the project was described as 72% completed with 78% of the work site enclosed.
Finance Committee Meeting
Audio Recording on School Buses

There was a discussion of numerous finance-related policies and one that appears to have nothing to do with finance: audio recording policy on school buses./

Most likely this issue was discussed at this meeting because transportation falls under the purview of the business office.

The problem discussed was that while a video recording may be used to prosecute a specific violation, the audio track may have proof of other violations. The question was basically how to use the additional information that the audio track would provide.

Other Policies

Other policies discussed revolved around student activity funds, bank selection interval, payroll deductions and petty cash management. Later it was mentioned that the district has some credit cards that are issued to specific individuals, the supervisor being one of them. Dr. Marseille mentioned that he uses his mainly for conference fees and conference travel expenses such as hotels and meals.

2017-09-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-09-051Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 1
2017-09-052Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 1

2017-09-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-09-05Video and Audio Monitoring on School Buses (Policy 810.2)

2017-08-08 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2017-08-08Live Recording

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Solicitor's Report

The Cheltenham Solicitor disavowed participation in a Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) lawsuit against an organization called Pennsylvanians for Union Reform (PFUR) which was filed in Cumberland County on the 17th of July.

The website of Pennsylvanians for Union Reform is down; however their Facebook page is still up. Some fragments of the PFUR website on search engine cache contain a statement that the PSBA lawsuit was a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) lawsuit. Again, the PFUR webpage that contained the statement is down.

Wikipedia describes a SLAPP as, "a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition."

As of 8/13, your podmaster found no news item regarding the lawsuit on the PSBA News webpage.

PSBA is suing PFUR and its principal, Mr. Simon Campbell, for $50,000 "with punitive damages, interests, costs of suit". PSBA alleges,"a relentless campaign of harassment, repeated defamations, tortious interference and abuse of process under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law." The suit was filed in Cumberland County. The defendent is a resident of Bucks County.

While the Cheltenham Solicitor can state that Cheltenham is not a party to the suit, Cheltenham is a member of PSBA and to that extent will be sharing in the loss (or gain) of the whole process.

If PFUR's allegation is correct— that the suit is a PSBA SLAPP— with the PFUR website down it looks like "mission accomplished."

Cedarbrook Report

There was no mention of the revised construction estimated completion date of February 16 2018 which caused such a stir at the Facilities Committee meeting last week.

School Director Napoleon Nelson's Wife Hired

The wife of School Director Napoleon Nelson, Shareese Nelson, was hired as "Administrator for Climate and Culture" at the Elkins Park School. The annual 2017-2018 salary will be $80,000.

America's Most Challenging High Schools

Back in 2014, this website reported that Cheltenham High was dropped from the Washington Post High School Challenge. Cheltenham High is certainly not listed this year. 2012 is ancient history…perhaps it is time to take the banner down….

2017-08-08Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2017-08-081Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2017-08-08Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2017-08-08Agenda
2017-08-08July 2017 Revenue.pdf (23 KB)
2017-08-08July 2017 Exp Summary.pdf (39 KB)
2017-08-08218_1 Repeal 2nd Read.pdf (22 KB)
2017-08-08248 Repeal 1st Read.pdf (15 KB)
2017-08-08248_1 Repeal.pdf (88 KB)
2017-08-08249 repeal 1st Read.pdf (35 KB)
2017-08-08Elementary Discipline Chart 8.7.17 (AR 218 - Attachment A) (01475947xAED82).pdf (131 KB)
2017-08-08P 218 Student Discipline Adoption 08 08 2017 (01451209xAED82).pdf (129 KB)
2017-08-08P218.2 Weapons 8.7.17 (01475949xAED82) (1).pdf (121 KB)
2017-08-08P223 Smoking and Tobacco Use 8.7.17 (01475950xAED82).pdf (12 KB)
2017-08-08P226 Student Searches 08 08 2017 (01455284xAED82).pdf (10 KB)
2017-08-08P227 Controlled Substances 8.7.17 (01475952xAED82).pdf (16 KB)
2017-08-08P233 Suspension and Expulsion 8.7.17 (01475954xAED82).pdf (11 KB)
2017-08-08P247 Prohibited Harassment 1st Read 08 08 2017 (01455988xAED82)_1.pdf (154 KB)
2017-08-08P247 Prohibited Harassment 1st Read 08 08 2017 (01455988xAED82).pdf (154 KB)
2017-08-08R 218 Student Discipline 06 22 2017 (01451210xAED82).pdf (12 KB)
2017-08-08R 223 Smoking and Tobacco Use 08 08 2017.pdf (109 KB)
2017-08-08R 226 Student Searches 8.7.17 (01475951xAED82).pdf (130 KB)
2017-08-08Secondary Discipline Chart 8.7.17 (AR 218 - Attachment B) (01475948xAED82).pdf (147 KB)
 
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