Here's a compilation of my letters about various
topics both published & not.
The latest date at the top
After our incredible victory, we were asked to
share our thoughts.
Here is the letter we submitted.
Thank you so much to everyone that came out to vote for us. We are humbled at the response that we – Debbie
Greenstein, Tiffany Hodgson, Ron Stoloff and Tracie Walsh - received on November 7th. It was obvious that the citizens of the Wissahickon School District were interested in this race as 11,000 more votes were cast over 4 years ago when Tracie Walsh, Ron Stoloff and Sheri Becker were first elected.
Now, as we look at the challenges of the next four years – and the decades ahead – we see the many difficulties laying out before us and the other members of the Wissahickon School Board:
- efforts to eliminate the “Performance Gap” so all our students can rise to their greatest potential
- the challenge of continuing to provide a curriculum that fits 21st century standards
- the continuing effort to support our schools without raising taxes to such an extent that our residents can no longer live here
- to maintain and modernize our schools so that they support our students in their efforts to gain a top notch education
None of this will be easy but we owe it to every stake-holder in Wissahickon to do our best.
Probably the most pleasurable part of campaigning was the chance to meet our neighbors as we canvased throughout the district, hearing your questions and concerns. You should be confident as our terms move forward, the above questions and your concerns will shape our actions.
Board Member, Elect
Board Member, Elect
Letter to the Ambler Gazette that was published
October 20, 2017
It is hard to believe that it’s been four years since I was elected to be a Wissahickon School Board Director but here it is as I ask you, again, to vote for me to continue the work we started together in 2013.
The Board has had to face many problems but we’ve been able to accomplish much and I ask you now to give me your vote on November 7th.
To those who are unfamiliar with my background, I was a teacher in Philadelphia for 35 years and my wife of 36 years and I have lived in the Wissahickon School District for 26 years. Like many of you, we chose to live here, even though we had no school-age children, as we realize the quality of the schools affects the value of our home.
We weren’t disappointed.
After I retired, I had time and energy to apply to serving our community. In 2009 I discovered, oddly, that there were no members of the Wissahickon Board who had ever taught so I decided that my goal should be to bring my insight as a veteran teacher to the Board.
I was unsuccessful then, as I was in 2011, but in 2013 the members of the Wissahickon community saw fit to elect me along with two others running with me in what we called “The Great School Team” because each of us brought a unique experience and skill set to the Board.
Years have passed but I am running again as part of another “Great School Team.”
Tracie Walsh, part of our original team is also running for re-election. She has been very involved in WSD activities such as the Athletic Task Force, an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, is a Realtor as well as having one child a recent graduate of the WSD and another still in school.
Debbie Greenstein is a life-long educator, having served as a teacher, counselor and administrator. Besides living in Ambler, she’s been involved in many activities including Weaver’s Way Co-Op and the Human Relations Committee.
The fourth member of our Team is Tiffany Hodgson. She is not only a neuroscientist but has 4 children in the District and has been Parent-School Association President.
You might ask “Why is Stoloff telling us about these other candidates when he’s asking us to vote for him?” The answer is that one person on a nine member Board cannot do everything, and that is why I ask you to vote for our entire Team.
We are all committed to a WSD that continues to be a leader in education in Pennsylvania, Montgomery County and, most importantly, in Ambler, Lower Gwynedd and Whitpain where we, our neighbors and our children live.
For even more information about us, see our website: GreatSchoolTeam.org with additional links to FaceBook pages.
We invite your comments and questions.
Candidate for Director,
Wissahickon School District
Four Wissahickon candidates ask for your vote
May 12, 2017 Comments
To the Editor:
Tuesday, May 16, will be primary election day, and it’s fast approaching. Those of us on the “Great School Team” of Debbie
Greenstein, Tiffany Hodgson, Ron Stoloff, and Tracie Walsh are candidates for the Wissahickon School Board, and we encourage all voters to exercise their right to vote.
Unlike in a general election where all voters select from an identical ballot, in Pennsylvania for the primary election, Democrats receive a Democratic ballot and Republicans receive a Republican ballot. However, due to the ability to cross-file for school board races and some judicial races, Republicans can have their name placed on the Democratic ballot under the Democratic heading. Likewise, Democrats can have their name placed on the Republican ballot under the Republican heading. In both cases, no political party designation will be shown with the candidates’ names so that voters will not be able to discern the candidates’ party affiliation.
Although cross-filing can be confusing, the intention is that for some elected offices, political party affiliation should not determine the vote. Rather, the quality of the candidates should be the determining factor. Those of us on the “Great School Team” concur with that idea. With that in mind, you can check out our qualifications by going to our website:
Each member of our team brings particular skills and experiences that can benefit our students and community. We are friends of public education and success for all our students.
Regardless of your political party, we humbly ask for your vote.
to see the published letter
An article appeared in the Inquirer on December
14, 2016 on the "Pension Problem" again. The major point was that
pensions for teachers will have to be cut.
I submitted a letter but it was not published. Since I won't let a little
problem like that stop me, here it is - with a link to the original article.
Pension Pressures on School Boards in PA
I write this from a unique perspective: I was a teacher in Philly for 35 years and am now a school board member in my local district where we must grapple with the situation described in “Pension costs climb for school districts,” Wednesday, December 14, 2016.
When the PA State Legislature passed the law that boosted teacher pensions by 25% in 2001, as well as 50% for the Legislature, every teacher in the State began paying to support the increase in their pensions.
However, the boards in the State as well as the legislature did not have to pay any more. Why? To keep the school boards and the taxpayers quiet. This continued until 2009 when the funding agency
(PSERS) “suddenly” realized they weren’t even close to paying for the increased teacher pensions since they “assumed” the most glorious of returns on the pension fund investments during the almost 10 year “holiday.”
Therefore, in 2009 PSERS began slamming the school boards with demands to make up for that shortfall and now, each year, each school board in the State must grapple with the gigantic demands to pay back what previous boards had just been able to ignore.
Today, each board in the State is paying about 37% on their teacher salaries for pensions and I’m sure anyone can understand how the taxpayers feel as each year the demands increase as the “payback” increases.
At our most recent budget meeting, the groans could be heard as we received the latest rate – actually higher than what we’d been told just a few days earlier. However, the solution is not to be found on the backs of the teachers and others working for us; teachers have been paying from day 1.
The incompetent and greedy Legislators are the ones responsible for the current crisis and it is they who should be the first to suffer the penalty of increased contributions and reductions in pensions even if these changes would not begin to come close to solving the problem – if only as an example before they demand sacrifices of anyone else.
in the Inquirer
A conservative talk show host that runs a podcast out of
Texas conducted an interview of me in September, 2016. It ran for over an hour
so make sure you have enough time to do it 'justice.'
You can find it by clicking here
- make sure your sound is turned on.
A letter appeared in the Inquirer commenting
on the booing at the Democratic National Convention completely misunderstanding
who the 'booers' were actually booing.
My considerably edited letter appeared on July 31, 2016.
Scroll down in both cases.
[Note: I use the "G-d" for the Almighty]
Here's my letter in response:
They were booing Hillary, not G-d
Booing at the opening of the Democratic National Convention was not directed at Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s mention of the Almighty; it was because she named Hillary Clinton (“Move over, Santa — you’ve got company,” Wednesday). Supporters of Bernie Sanders were expressing their displeasure with her imminent nomination.
Nearly all of the speeches last week closed with some form of the line, “G-d bless America and
G-d bless the American people.”
Ron Stoloff, Blue Bell
To the Editor,
I was aghast reading a letter in the July 27, 2016 Issue page (Move over, Santa – you've got company).
It was obvious to anyone who had been watching the Convention that the booing was not because the speaker mentioned the Almighty, but because the Mayor of Baltimore mentioned Hillary Clinton's name. This was because of the displeasure at that time of Sanders supporters at the mention of Clinton's name.
Either the letter writer just tuned in for the few moments that the Mayor spoke or he was trying to make someone who didn't see any of the Convention think the Democrats would stoop to denigrate the Almighty. All you had to do was listen to almost any of the speeches so far to hear the closing line of “God bless American and God bless the American people.”
I replied to.
The Gazette published a letter
the weekend before the Primary attacking Josh Shapiro saying he was
'unfit for higher office.'
After that, another letter was published attacking that letter & the way it
was publicized in the paper. I didn't feel it went far enough as it seemed to
violate the Gazette's stated policy of not publishing an 'attack'
letter that didn't provide time for it to be answered.
Below is my reply pointing out that failure. When it was published, the Gazette
apologized for violating its own standards.
Oddly, I've been unable to find a link to either my or the first complaining
letter, just the original letter.
Also dismayed by recent issue of the Gazette.
To the Editor,
I, too, was dismayed as Fran Baird by the letter in the Gazette
of April 24 that was an attack on Democratic Attorney General candidate, Josh
Shapiro. (Letter May 8, 2016)
However, what disturbed me was the timing of the letter. In my
many years of reading the Gazette there was the stated policy that
“attack” letters would not be published just before the election date where
it would be impossible for a reaction letter, yet, here was a letter published
the weekend before the Primary that attacked Shapiro from the first word
to the last.
Has there been a change in this long standing – and I feel
reasonable – policy, or was it just because the subject of the attack was not
favored by the editorial staff?
Editor's note: Mr. Stoloff is correct regarding The Ambler
Gazette's policy to not run letters attacking candidates during an election
week. Printing the letter, titled "Josh Shapiro doesn't deserve
higher office," on the week of April 24 was an oversight by our editorial
team. We sincerely regret the error. Teasing the letter on Page A1 was in no way
meant as an endorsement of the writer's opinions. We regret that some readers
may have thought otherwise.
David Kopp's behavior at recent Wissahickon School Board
October 14, 2015
Please note that I'm writing this as a Wissahickon School Board member but
not speaking for the Board.
On October 12th, there was a regular Board meeting and a standard part of our
meetings is that the public has two chances to make statements to the Board for
about 3 minutes. Of late, most of these presentations have been about the
contentious issue of the High School football coaches. All the Board members
understand and accept that this is a heartfelt issue to those who spoke.
However, something happened that evening that was a complete break from what
usually goes on at a public meeting - a break from what should happen: One
person, David Kopp, repeatedly called out, stood up, gestured and talked over
the recognized speaker, both public and Board member. It began when Dr. Gorman
was speaking. (:40 on the recording) The Solicitor - sort of a traffic cop for
the meetings - asked this person to sit down, stop calling out and pointed out
that this person could, himself, speak uninterrupted. There was no change in his
After the final public statements, there was a call for Board member comments
and several Board members spoke, acknowledging the passions expressed by the
speakers. Joe Honeycutt, a Republican member of the Board, spoke - rather tried
to speak - as he was interrupted several times by this same person in spite of
the repeated requests that he not. (1:00)
Finally, I spoke and was also interrupted (1:08) by this person as he shouted
over me and wandered back and forth across the front of the room.
All this behavior would be shocking enough if just anyone were to act this
way but is redoubled by the fact that David Kopp is actually running for School
Board Director on the Republican ticket.
I ask the entire Wissahickon School District family: is this the type of
person we want on our school board? One who is so intemperate in his behavior
that he is a disruption?
I suggest you view the recording of the meeting at:
letter in the Ambler Gazette.
Reply to Article in Inquirer: 'Blocking better
schools' by John Bouder & James Paul
[Submitted for publication 1/31/2014
In their article, "Blocking better schools," Bouder and Paul seek
to place the entire blame for the difficulties of Philadelphia's public schools
on the backs of the teachers and the teachers union saying that the Union has
been the impediment to student progress "for decades."
This is not even close to being true. When the Union was voted in by the
teachers, class size was up to 48 per classroom but the teachers fought, year
after year to reduce this huge number to 33 that exists, today, in most classes.
This was done against the opposition of School Boards that claimed it was
unnecessary. Tell that to the parents of suburban children where the class size
is in the neighborhood of 26.
The Union fought for reforms throughout the District: nurses in each school,
increased numbers of counselors and increased security. Why? Because the
teachers are in the schools every day and understand the needs of their
students. They fought against a School Board that seemed more interested in
warehousing students than educating them.
Bouder and Paul suggest that the Union spends teacher dues without permission
against their interests in supporting candidates for Governor. This is not true
as the teachers have a "check-off" to contribute to a PAC to support
educational actions. Why wouldn't they support Wolf against Corbett in the last
election? Philly schools have been without the support they need from the State.
Teachers, counselors, and legions of support staff have been lost because the
schools haven't been getting the money to run a system with many students in
dire need of additional resources.
Philly schools have been shortchanged for decades but Bouder and Paul choose
to blame all its problems on the one group that has to work in the environment
created by people like them who care nothing for public schools or the students
who attend them.
See the original
"Protect free speech, but don't defend
bigotry," Anne Norton, January 14, 2015
[Submitted for publication to the Inquirer but was not published.]
Norton shows she is a brave person when she comes down against bigotry. Who
would raise their hand to say anything against that? The problem is she goes on
to argue that Charlie Hebdo was virtually "asking for it," when they
published the cartoons lampooning Mohammed.
In her article she makes a fundamental error in describing free speech. She
states that "we are selective about the speech we protect."
No, we are not. It is precisely the most unpopular speech that must be
protected and our First Amendment does not make the distinction and neither
Making such a distinction as Norton tries to do paves the way to excuse the
terrorists in Paris, something our society should refuse to do. I am astounded
that a professor of political science at the U of P doesn't understand that.
See the original
Reply to: Fix districts' finances, address pensions, choice.
[Note: the original article was over 700 words, my letter of reply, 500. The
Inquirer required me to cut to 150. This is the original.]
The published version.
I know almost everything James Paul stated [To
fix districts' finances, address pensions, choice 9/2/2014] is false from my
unique perspective: I taught for 35 years in Philly schools and now as a school
board member of a nearby suburb.
Most of his claims are false. This is not especially surprising as he is part
of the right-wing "think tank," The Commonwealth Foundation. Their
Home Page includes, “Lies from PSEA Leadership,” the icon for "Unions
& Labor Policy" is the Communist hammer and sickle. Do you think this
is a tad one sided? Their entire purpose is to destroy unions and, along the
way, eliminate public schools.
Paul says seniority causes the firing of "many terrific, young public
school teachers" as if being inexperienced makes them "better"
teachers - an idea that anyone who has ever been in a school knows is
preposterous as they see inexperienced teachers leave in 5 years.
He makes the claim that charter schools are all success stories, yet all you
have to do is peruse the Inquirer regularly to see that some charters are rife
with corruption as owners/founders are caught time and time again double
dealing. Several have gone to prison. Are these the vehicles we want to educate
He claims that charters "outperformed district schools" but studies
have shown that 80% of Philly students entering charters actually go to schools
that under perform Philly schools they came from.
He saves his biggest "guns" for attacks on the State pension
system. He is right. It is in trouble but not for the reasons Paul stated. When
the pension system changed the teachers began paying the increased deductions
immediately. Unfortunately, neither the State nor districts began to pay the
additional amount required by the law for approximately 20 years. Then, in 2008,
when the bottom dropped out of the stock market, the folly of this was revealed.
Now, school districts across the State are soon to be required to pay 30%+ of
teacher salaries to make up for the 20-year "holiday" they enjoyed and
people like Paul are blaming it all on the teachers.
The effect? Districts across the State are raising school taxes. My district
pulled back from building a new high school with several members stating the
looming pension tax burden.
Then he goes on the favorite target - seniority rights. He blames all of
Philly's problems on this. Yet my District has a roughly similar contract and
pays substantially more, yet our high school placed in the top ten in the entire
State. Perhaps it is because we spend considerably more per student - students
who require far fewer expensive support systems than students in Philly.
Paul says seniority causes the firing of "many terrific, young public
school teachers" as if being inexperienced makes them "better"
teachers - an idea that anyone who has ever been in a school knows is
preposterous. Inexperienced teachers don't stick around - most are gone in 5
years or less as they lack the experience to carry them through the burdens of urban schools.
This was published in the Inquirer, Sunday,
February 2, 2014 in response to an article about the appointment of Bill Green
by Governor Corbett to the SRC. It was published in an edited form: only 76
words of an original 236.
I was intrigued by Karen Heller's article (Difficult
man for a difficult job, 1/22/2013). In it she analyzes Gov. Corbett's
appointment of City Councilmen Bill Green to head the SRC, the
"creature" the State set up in 2001 to run the Philadelphia public
schools, stimulated mostly by the dire financial state of the school system plus
the high dropout rate and low performance of students.
Fast forward 13 years and, if anything, the system is in worse shape than it
was when the State took over, and who does the Governor appoint? A person whose
position paper on how to "fix" the schools specified vouchers and
completely charterizing the system. Even she says that his position paper -
published only 2 years ago - went nowhere and it is "probably a good
thing" that it didn't. She states he claims to have "evolved,"
but gives no examples of this evolution.
Heller asserts Green's claim to fame and Corbett's support, is his "past
support" for vouchers and charters and that this is "in keeping with
Further, she notes that Green is "a difficult man" and that he is
impatient and arrogant. That certainly sounds like great qualities for a job
that requires conciliation and negotiation. It seems that if Green is confirmed,
the SRC will have one more head whose interest is far from saving our schools
and whose stated goal is, instead, their demise.
The letter as published.
You will need to scroll down.
This was submitted to the Inquirer
August 26, 2013 but not printed.
SRC to ignore seniority rules in rehiring laid off staff
The Editorial of Aug. 25, 2013, "Crisis requires union
action," stacks the deck when it claims that the teachers' union refuses to
make any concessions and therefore the School Reform Commission (SRC) is
justified in ignoring State law and preparing to bring some of the 4,000 laid
off workers regardless of seniority.
When the SRC was started in 2001, one of the main arguments
for its institution was that the Philadelphia School District was in debt. Now,
12 years later, the debt has ballooned.
A great job they've done, wouldn't you say?
The SRC has hired one Superintendent after another, paying
over $1 million to get rid of the last - almost immediately after extending her
contract. Isn't this malfeasance of the highest order?
You then go on to claim that because the SRC has driven the
District over the cliff, the teachers are the ones who are responsible for
paying for all the damages. I'm not one who usually goes along with conspiracy
theories but the very one responsible for the untenable debt of the District
uses that as an excuse to violate both State law & the contract it signed
with the teachers. This, when the Philadelphia teachers already make far less
than almost all teachers in the region, have class sizes far above the regional
average and the most grueling working conditions. Let's not forget than many
teachers spend their own money for supplies to make up for the shortcomings in
District spending, year after year.
You can be sure that the teachers returned under this plan
will be overwhelmingly the relatively inexperienced teachers - read
"cheaper" - teachers, just what our students can not afford.
Can anyone doubt this is the real reason the SRC is doing
this, other than to "break" the union?
Letter published in Ambler Gazette, May 12, 2013
Vote for new school board members, new attitude
On May 21st, voters – both Democrats and Republicans – will have the opportunity to set the future of our schools. This is not just about party – it is all about attitude. All you have to do is consider how our School Board handled the Mattison Avenue Elementary School issue. Is there anyone who is satisfied with how this was “solved?” If you have children in
Mattison, you can not possibly think there is any part of this that was handled properly.
I taught in Philadelphia for 35 years and it only took me a few days after I started teaching to realize the people I had to establish a good working relationship with were the parents of my students. How far from that goal has our School Board drifted?
As I’ve walked the streets of Ambler in the past weeks I have found general disgust with the treatment of Ambler – and this was from both Republicans and Democrats. It was a feeling of betrayal, a general dismissal of the needs of the Ambler community.
My experience, my humanity, screams that the Board did almost everything wrong in the way the issue was addressed.
Today, the issue is Mattison. In a few years it may be another elementary school in
Wissahickon. If this attitude prevails – if this Board, as constituted, approaches the problem the same way – what further disrespect can we expect?
Therefore, I beg you – Republican and Democrat alike – to come out and vote for a new Board with a new attitude, one that understands that it’s all about the students and that parents and communities are the strongest and most important allies any school can ever have.
Sherri Becker and I are on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, while Norma Nicolo and Tracie Walsh are only on the Democratic ballot. I hope you’ll check our web site at GreatSchoolTeam.org and join the FaceBook forums: Wissahickon Educational Coalition and the Mattison Home & School Association. See what we stand for; see what we offer the Wissahickon School District community.
Most importantly, come out and vote on May 21st.
Candidate for School Director,
Wissahickon School District
See the published actual letter
In response to the
disaster of Hurricane Sandy & the widespread power outages, I wrote the
following letter. This was unusual in that it was published in both the Inquirer
& Ambler Gazette.
Bury the lines - November 3, 2012
Hurricane Sandy knocked my power out for about 60 hours. The storm's powerful winds knocked over a tree and pulled down the power lines that supply my house and hundreds of others. Who would have thought this could happen?
Millions lost power this week and many more will suffer in the future because the power industry is unwilling to secure one of the most important portions of its infrastructure. They yell, "It will cost too much." But how much have this and all the other outages caused by snow, ice, wind, and auto accident cost in terms of income and inconvenience?
The time has come to bury every power line in the nation.
See the original
letter - Inquirer,
letter - Ambler Gazette.
On July 11, 2012, George Badey, candidate for 7th District
of the US Congress was having a rally in support of the Affordable Health Care
Act (ACA) & asked me to speak as someone in Social Security & Medicare.
Hello, I’m Ron Stoloff, & I’m on Social Security & Medicare. I worked my entire life & for much of it I’ve watched as time & again the Republicans have tried to ‘help’ Social Security & Medicare by destroying them.
We knew all along what the real motives of the Republicans were. Fortunately, we were able to block all their attempts at destruction, but, now, suddenly, they’re talking as if they’re the only ones trying to ‘preserve’ Social Security & Medicare – but it is nothing but lies, lies & more lies.
To say the Affordable Care Act or ACA, takes money away from Medicare & raises costs for seniors is grossly misleading. ACA improves Medicare & provides Higher-quality, lower-cost care for seniors such as:
- preventive services & wellness visits which are now free for us.
- The Affordable Care Act has saved well more than 5 million beneficiaries close to $4 billion on prescription drug costs since it began closing the donut hole in 2010. It will continue to close the gap more each year. But does Meehan care? NO!
- Those in Medicare Advantage have enjoyed 16 percent lower premiums since 2010.
- The Affordable Care Act eliminated the co-payments & deductibles for important preventive services such as immunizations, mammograms, & colonoscopies. Over 32 million seniors received these services at no cost in 2011. But does Meehan care? NO!
- There are over 11,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Rep. Meehan’s 7th district – OUR district - who are expected to benefit from these provisions. Repeal would have increased the average cost we paid for prescription drugs by over $500 in 2011 & by over $3,000 by 2020. But does Meehan care? NO!
- The ACA provides funding to encourage employers to continue to provide health insurance for their retirees. There are eight employers in the district who have already signed up for this program. Nearly 8,000 district residents who have retired but are not yet eligible for Medicare could ultimately benefit from this early retiree assistance. But does Meehan care? NO!
- Repeal would increase costs for employers & jeopardize the coverage for thousands of early retirees in the district. But does Meehan care? NO!
- The ACA improves Medicare by providing free preventive & wellness care, improving primary & coordinated care, & enhancing nursing home care. The law also strengthens the Medicare trust fund, extending its solvency from 2017 out to 2029. Repeal would eliminate these benefits for well over 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district & cause the Medicare trust fund to become insolvent in just six years. But does Meehan care? NO! What would Meehan do then?
We have to support the ACA whenever we can – when we talk to our friends, our neighbors, our families. For more information see the WissahickonDems FaceBook page, or go to
We can not sit back & let something that we have been fighting for for over 50 years go down because the Republicans can’t stand to let our President have a victory, a victory that will mean a bright & more secure future for all seniors.
Re: Catholic students lobby for
I disagree with those calling for the State of Pennsylvania to bail out the Parochial Schools with our tax dollars. Parents who send their students to Parochial
Schools, especially in the suburbs, are not fleeing “failing public schools,” they are making a decision to give their children a religious education. This is their right but don’t ask the rest of us to pay the freight on this.
In Pennsylvania, as Governor Corbitt relentlessly cuts financial support for public schools across the State, supporting Parochial Schools will only increase the pressure on public schools. This is not just districts like Philadelphia and Chester but where the long ignored requirements of pension costs will create demands on the public school budgets that will hit local taxpayers. If the State starts siphoning off funds to the Parochial Schools, homeowners will see their tax rates skyrocket.
At the same time the Parochial Schools are demanding State support they bristle at the suggestion that they become accountable to the State for their educational policies and curriculum. How will they teach Evolution, for instance? Will they be giving it equal time with Creationism? Parochial School parents see State support as their “right,” but how will they feel if the State then begins paying the tuitions for
Madrasah? The State should only pay for schools that it controls, that accept every student and teaches a State supported curricula.
letter [edited] in Inquirer 5/29/2012
Submitted to the Patch and
the Ambler Gazette 11/1/2011
Why you should vote for Ron Stoloff
Why should you vote for Ron Stoloff for School Board Director on November 8th? It’s very simple, basically - experience. While I have not served on the Wissahickon School Board before, I’ve spent my entire professional life in education. I taught in Philadelphia for 35 years in two of the more challenging high schools. I realized early on that my students were not performing up to their potential and because of this became involved in many educational reform plans. It was often easy to see that what someone from outside the classroom touted as the greatest program since sliced bread was not going to do the job and that the school would be shelling out thousands of dollars of scarce resources for nothing. While not all of the programs I took part in succeeded, virtually all of the one’s I rejected failed. Was this some uncanny prescience on my part? No. It was experience.
If I am elected to our School Board I will bring this experience of school and classroom life. I am the only candidate who has ever taught. We need someone who knows what’s going on in a classroom on our School Board and I am that person.
In the months that I have been going door to door in our community I have repeated this simple line hundreds upon hundreds of times and almost every time the reaction is the same, “You mean there’s no one on the Board who’s ever taught?”
I don’t advocate that all the Board members be teachers any more than they should all be business people or accountants. But someone needs to be able to shed a bit of light on how a classroom works.
I ask for your vote on November 8th to achieve that goal. Experience.
Candidate for Wissahickon School Director
See this in the Patch
After the Republicans
refused to attend the 2nd Candidate Forum, they sent a letter to the Patch
trying to explain it away.
Here's Ron's reply:
October 27, 2011
WSD GOP Candidates Refusal to Debate Surprising
Re: Wissahickon Republican School Board Candidates
Choose Not to Attend 'Partisan' Debate
The Republican Party candidates for the Wissahickon
School Board’s refusal to attend either of the two Forums sponsored by a
Wissahickon school organization is rather surprising, coming after the second of
It is my understanding that Ms Ullery actually told the
organizer of the Forums that she could not attend because of a scheduling
conflict, even though Taylor said she would be willing to change the dates to
accommodate her and the other candidates. As it was, only two of the Republican
candidates bothered to actually say they wouldn’t attend, the rest didn’t
even do that.
As far as Ms Taylor being partisan, why is that a problem? I’m certain if you
asked any of the community attendees to the Forums, they would tell you that the
sessions were not partisan and questions were encouraged from everyone. In fact,
I sent an email to the entire Tea Party mailing list, provided to me by the Tea
Party itself, inviting them to the Wednesday, October 26 Forum. I don’t know
if any attended as there was no check of affiliation at the door.
Further, when the Tea Party held a Candidate Forum before the Primary all the
Democratic Party candidates attended, despite what one might consider a
potentially hostile venue. In contacts with the leader of the Tea Party that
night, I personally thanked him for the opportunity to share my views with his
membership and would again. It is not the organization that provides these
Forums but a chance to meet our community that is important.
As far as all of the Republican candidates not getting an invitation, there is
one possible explanation: they added another name to their list after the
primary and most of us didn’t even know this happened until signs began to
appear on the streets with his name. Even the Republican party signs show this
confusion as they didn’t change their own signs, just added a separate sign
with Charles McIntyre’s name on it.
This confusion started in June with the resignation of Roberts after only two
years of her four-year term. The Board then appointed one of the Republican
candidates, Eugene Murphy, to finish Roberts’ term until a special election in
November for the two years remaining of her term. Then, Young Park withdrew his
name from the four-year position and filed for the two-year term and the
Republican Party selected McIntyre to run in place of Park for the four-year
position. Because of this game of musical chairs with its candidates, you can,
perhaps, excuse confusion of someone not informed of all these changes.
Further, if you accept the Republican assertion that Ms Ullery wasn’t invited;
don’t the Republican candidates talk to one another? If the other candidates
received the invitations, why didn’t they contact Ms Taylor and request that
an invitation be extended to Ms Ullery. If, at that point, Ms Taylor refused
they might have a point but this never happened.
When the articles appeared in the Ambler Gazette and the Patch after the October
12th Forum, they certainly knew the sessions were being held and since there was
no mention of any overt partisanship during the sessions, they should have felt
safe enough for all six of them to come and face two Democrats.
Alas, this did not happen and there was no opportunity
for the parents of the Wissahickon School district to meet the Republican
Candidate for Wissahickon School District Director
See it on the Patch
with links to referenced articles.
Check out a blog posting on the Patch
This letter was submitted to the Ambler
for publication on October 27, 2011
The Republican Party candidates for the
Wissahickon School Board chose not to attend the Candidates Forum sponsored by a
parents group at Wissahickon High School on Wednesday, October 26th, just as
they chose not to attend a session on the 12th.
This lack of willingness to face their constituents is disappointing. This
didn’t seem to be a problem for them before the Primary, when the Tea Party
organized a Forum and all nominees, including Democrats, attended.
What are the Republican candidates afraid of? If you check the article in the
Ambler Gazette about the first session, there is no tone of partisanship yet
they refused to attend the second session as well.
One of the candidates, Charles McIntyre, has not been seen because the
Republican Committee appointed him after the Primary. Burunda Prince-Jones is
well known by the community as she is running for her second term and I have
been walking the community for months, knocking on doors and discussing the
issues. Why have the Republicans denied our citizens the right to see their
Again, what are they afraid of?
Wissahickon School District Director
Where were the Republicans?
Something strange happened at Wissahickon High School last Wednesday night (10/12/2011). The Wissahickon Parents Teachers Association had a meeting, expected all the candidates for the School Board to show up to answer questions and share their vision for our schools. However, only the two Democrat candidates, myself and Burunda Prince-Jones, appeared.
Why? Were they afraid to open themselves to scrutiny by the voters and parents of the District? Are they so confidant that they think they can’t be bothered meeting with their constituents? Are they deliberately disrespecting the parents of the Wissahickon School District and their concerns?
Burunda and I answered all questions posed to us. It was a shame that those attending didn’t have our opponents to question as well.
Perhaps they will find it in their hearts – and schedules – to show up at the next Meet the Candidates session, now scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 6PM in the Wisshahickon High School Auditorium.
Re: “We’re firing our best teachers,” by Michelle Rhee, Inquirer,
September 23, 2011
Because of it’s complexity it’s impossible to untangle all of the tentacles of this issue. But as a 35 year retired Philadelphia teacher I question Rhee’s main conclusion: that only “new” teachers can help our children.
She says that effective teachers produce more effective learning. As one of my former students used to say, “Duh!” But nowhere in her op-ed piece does Rhee prove the equation New = Good, Old = Bad.
As part of any school there is supposed to be an on-going evaluation process to weed out the poor teachers and help the weak ones to improve. People like Rhee and critics of our public schools and teachers’ unions leave out the most vital player here: the school Principal. They are supposed to observe and evaluate all of their teachers several times a year. The only problem is that they are not performing this vital duty and when they do, they routinely rate some of the worst teachers “Satisfactory.” This is not brain surgery – everyone in a school knows who the “bad” teachers are but for some reason far too many Principals haven’t been able to figure this out. Remember, all the “bad” teachers were evaluated by their Principals for 3 years before they acquired tenure but the signs are always there; ask any student, fellow teachers or the custodians who have to go into the wrecks of classrooms these teachers leave behind and they’ll tell you.
Why does this happen? Because far too many Principals are not doing their job of evaluation. Every study of school performance has shown that the key to any school’s success is the Principal. When Principals do not lead, schools
To see the original
Op Ed piece
before young Gratz HS teachers
Re: Multiple districts would boost
city’s schools, Joseph M. McColgan, August 14, 2011
McColgan’s “solution” for the Philadelphia School District’s problems is
not really a solution, any more than amputation is to an athlete’s sprinting
problems. His reference to Delaware County is illuminating. He states this is
his ideal – 15 school districts in a county only about 1/3 larger but 1/3 as
many people. Creating multiple districts would not really solve the “calcified
bureaucracy” but would actually create multiple bureaucracies, each with their
own superintendents, central staff and purchasing, each with salaries that would
drain resources from the classroom and with school boards fighting over scare
A more relevant example would be Chester County where West
Chester schools are distressed, taken over by the State and after years of
efforts are still as bad as they were the day the State took over while other
districts in the County are flourishing because they are not fiscally
responsible for the problems of the schools where the problems are concentrated
as the West Chester schools are allowed to fester.
A Philadelphia with multiple districts would actually solve
nothing. The same schools would still draw the same students with the same
poverty, victims of the same crime levels. Those in the “good” neighborhoods
would still be “good” schools. Those in “dangerous” neighborhoods would
still be “dangerous” just with more money wasted on bureaucrats instead of
teachers, aides and classroom materials. You would no longer have the resources,
the shared expertise that is possible in a larger district. Just because this
has not been happening in Philadelphia is not intrinsically a size problem; it
is a leadership issue. With the proper leadership, both in the schools and the
political sphere, our schools can improve. Unfortunately, this has not been the
case for many years in Philadelphia but amputation is not the answer.
referenced in letter
Re: Check Up; Despite its limits, Medicaid can save
lives. By Robert Field July 18, 2011 (Scroll down to article.)
I was surprised to read in Field’s blog entry that he used the term ‘Obamacare.’ This derisive term was created by Republicans to diminish the importance of the Health Care Reform Act. In a quick check of his columns I discovered that he consistently uses this term, having found it in at least 15 of his blog entries.
I object to his utilizing this term, because he is buying into the Republican disinformation machine by using it. The only way you could consider this application is by referring to Social Securing as FDRCare and Medicare as
This is a reply to Barbara Ullery's
repeating of her claims about Wissahickon Middle School's students, May 26, 2011
This reply was published in the Amber Gazette on June 2,
Ullery misread PSSA stats
To the Editor,
In last week’s Ambler Gazette, Barbara Ullery and I both had letters in response to Frank DeRuosi’s letter from May 19th. The problem with Ullery’s letter is that she continues to misinterpret the data – which she kindly included in her letter.
Only by actually viewing the table can we understand where she got the outlandish numbers she originally pronounced at the Tea Party Candidates Forum on May 11th. She claimed that 60% of Wissahickon Middle School 8th graders were not rated Proficient on the Pennsylvania
PSSA/No Child Left Behind tests.
In DeRuosi’s letter he pointed out that she was way off, as the scores were actually 6% not rated Proficient. It was not until I looked at the link she provided that I finally realized where she had so terribly gone wrong: She was looking, not at the scores of all of the 8th graders but at the scores of the Special Education students. The chart she referred to on p. 22 was labeled
PSSA-M Results in Grade 8 Mathematics, where the “M” refers to “Modified,” meaning the way the test is administered for Special Education Students with Individualized Education Plans
Had Ullery had any knowledge in the education field, or even recognized that there was a difference in the way the test is administered to Special Education Students, or asked someone with the knowledge for a clarification, she wouldn’t have made the first error at the Forum or compounded it in her letter of May 27th. If she had scrolled up the document to pages 16 and 17 she would have found the actual tables for the Middle School tests but I’m afraid that wouldn’t have served her purpose of attacking the present Board members, the teachers and staff of the school and, most shamefully, the students. This was a callous disregard of their reputations and feelings.
A question therefore remains: Is Ullery’s misstatement done out of ignorance of the very data she misquotes or is there some animus at the root of her statements? I repeat the suggestion of my letter of the 19th. “I think the current board, and, especially, the staff and students of our middle school deserve an apology from
Ullery. When an error is made it is incumbent upon the speaker to make a sincere attempt to make up for that error.”
Candidate for Wissahickon School Director
Letter published in the Ambler Gazette, Friday, May 27, 2011
Facts should always be checked
To the Editor:
On May 11, 2011, all but one of the candidates for the Wissahickon School Board and I appeared under the auspices of the Blue Bell Tea Party Patriots. I wish to thank that organization for giving us a platform to meet members of the Wissahickon School community. Lest anyone jump to any conclusions, the meeting included many people who were not part of the organization and I thank the Patriots for opening their meeting to all of the community.
It was an interesting meeting and one that pointed out that often statements made by candidates, in rush of discussion, cannot be verified. Such was the case of two statements on May 11. Barbara
Ullery, running for the first time for the board, stated that “60 percent of the eighth-grade students in Wissahickon tested as basic on the PSSA reading exam.” As was pointed out in a letter in the May 19, 2011, Ambler Gazette by Frank
DeRuosi, the figure is actually 6 percent. It can generate great effect when numbers are blown totally out of proportion, but for someone running for office it behooves the candidate to verify the statistics presented. Almost all the candidates, including myself, disputed the figures but in the rapid give-and-take of the forum there was no time to verify Ullery’s statements. In future forums, I will have a satchel of documents ready to react if such outlandish claims are made.
I think the current board, and, especially, the staff and students of our middle school deserve an apology from
Ullery. When an error is made it is incumbent upon the speaker to make a sincere attempt to make up for that error.
Secondly, board President Young Park claimed that Wissahickon School District teachers are the highest paid in Montgomery County. This, also, is incorrect according to the very contract that Park helped negotiate then voted against. There was actually a reduction in starting pay and Lower Merion is the highest paid in the county. Why he was unaware of this flabbergasts me.
This campaign will be long and exhausting. Errors will be made — by nearly everyone. We call upon the community to keep us on our toes as misstatements can create egregious misconceptions in
Wissahickon. I want to thank Frank DeRuosi for doing his part.
Candidate for school director
For the published
Published in the Inquirer May 26, 2011
Don't complain if you don't vote
I could not believe my eyes as I read the op-ed piece on last
Thursday by Gary Rothera ("City candidates' trashy campaign"), in
which he bewailed the waste that political candidates put out in his
neighborhood prior to the recent primary election.
The most disturbing part of the article was Rothera's cavalier
attitude about voting. He seemed quite proud that he'd had no plans to vote in
the election anyway, that he spent no time learning about any of the
candidates, and is not even registered to vote.
What a wonderful citizen! Totally above the fray! Yet he still
takes the time to write and complain that all this campaign literature trashed
his neighborhood. Why doesn't he complain to his elected officials about it?
Oh, he probably doesn't know who they are, or how to contact them. And even if
he did, why should any elected official respond? After all, he doesn't vote.
Who cares what Rothera thinks?
[My question to the Inquirer is, “Why did you print
this?” Couldn’t you find some satirical writer to pen something that was
not so uninvolved?
Lastly: since he’s not registered, he should put a sign
on his door so the folks working for the candidates would know he’s not
registered so they wouldn’t “waste” their time or materials on him.]
For the published
For the article
[Paragraphs not published by Inquirer]
In response to the Don't Complain letter I received the following note:
Finally we agree on something. Good letter in the Inquirer!
This is the Kate Harper I ran against - and lost - in 2006 for
the 61st PA State House seat. She continues to be gracious.
Unpublished letter to the Inquirer, November 21, 2010
Re: Rendell weighs bill to expand self-defense law for
shootings, November 21, 2010
To really understand how bad this bill is to expand the definition of “castle,” one only need to listen to Rick Taylor, (D-151) who was the sponsor of the original bill that was to expand the protection of Megan’s Law: “I was trying to make lives in Pennsylvania safer and protect the most vulnerable citizens,” he said. “It is not going to make children safer, but put more children at risk.”
This bill, as it now stands, is such a perversion of the original intent that Taylor ended up voting against his own bill when it came back
from the PA Senate saddled with the extension of the zone in which people can use deadly force from their homes to just about anywhere.
Not only is this wrong in concept but it appears to be in violation of the requirement that amendments have something that actually have something to do with the original bill.
Rendell should veto this bill that is opposed by DA’s, the State Police & many Police Chiefs. Their opposition is understandable as drug dealers are using the castle defense in response to charges in shootings in Southern Ohio.
Basically, the only group that is for the bill is the NRA as part of its knee-jerk response to anything gun related.
Note: Rendell did veto the bill but it was signed by Corbet in
This was in reply to a request in the
Inquirer for responses from people who had attended the various rallies in
Washington, DC in the run-up to the Nov., 2010 election and was written October
I went to the One Nation, October 2nd rally in Washington, DC with thousands of others. It was great seeing the huge mass of people from all over the US, some who had ridden in buses for 2 days to get there.
My trip was minor compared to others but we got up at 5:00AM in Blue Bell, got a ride to Mount Airy to get on the bus, walked about a mile to the Metro, stuffed ourselves in the trains then walked another mile to the rally. Afterward it was the reverse.
I made it a point of taking pictures of all the different T-shirts the people wore and the signs. Of the signs only a few were the ‘attack’ type and those were from fringe groups that had no connection with the organizers of the rally.
What was actually said by the speakers wasn’t important; we just spoke with our feet and bodies.
I won’t be attending the Rally to Restore Sanity/Fear on October 30th as I’ll be too busy on Get Out the Vote activities. I’ll probably tape it and watch it after the election.
I didn't attend the Beck rally because I think he is a charlatan preying on the fears of our nation.
Unpublished letter to the Inquirer, October
Re: 11 charged in W.
Phila. fights, October 6, 2010
I taught in Philly for 35 years and have a slightly different take on the issue that you can see in an article about West Philly HS and violence. If you read the item fully you’ll note that West is suffering from “Principal of the Month Syndrome.” This educational disease is typified by having no stable administration for years at a time and then feigning surprise when there is high teacher turnover, violence and little student progress with horrific drop-out rates.
Three years ago Ackerman put Saliyah Cruz in to stop the fires and fights, “to calm the climate,” and stabilize the teaching staff. But the Mighty Test Scores didn’t rise quickly enough so Cruz is gone, replaced by Ozzie Wright, described as a “fixer,” along with a co-principal LaVerne Wiley (another “fixer.”)
Now Wiley – in charge of academics - is gone, sent to put out another fire that Ackerman just discovered where the Principal wasn’t showing up – seemingly too busy running for office in Maryland. Only they haven’t replaced Wiley yet and Wright doesn’t know when that will happen – if ever.
Lois Powell-Mondesire, another Principal, is in part-time, only this had created questions from teachers and students as to “who is in charge.” Can you blame them? On top of all this, the 9th graders are on their third schedule since September! The article states this is “leading to confusion among staff and students.”
In the midst of all this chaos, Wright is just getting around to the idea of “going out to the neighborhood, finding out what’s going on after dark…. Had we some more information on this, we could have nipped it in the bud.”
In the words of a former student, “Duh!”
Note: one week later Wright was removed from West. So
goes the Principal of the Month Club.
Published in the Public Spirit Willow
September 30, 2010
To the editor:
On Sept. 14, 2010, the Public Spirit and Willow Grove Guide published a guest column from state Rep. Rick Taylor of the 151st District and I completely agree that we must close the “Florida Gun Loophole.”
He wrote about the flawed logic in our current law that would allow someone who was denied a “right to carry” permit by Pennsylvania to go online, pay $117 to another state that has a lower standard for gun ownership and be furnished a permit to carry a weapon on our streets.
This is not only a dangerous concept but is an obvious example of the failure of commonsense. The most recent example of this atrocious loophole was Marqus Hill, whose right to carry was rescinded after a confrontation with police officers. He appealed, lost and then proceeded to assault another officer in the courtroom.
All this made no difference to the officials in Florida as sight-unseen they granted Hill a carry permit.
Just last week he was charged with murder for allegedly killing Irving Santana, 18, using a gun he was legally carrying in Pennsylvania thanks to this loophole. This is a black eye for our state and Rep. Taylor currently has pending legislation to fix this loophole.
The National Gun Owners of America proclaims that “any law-abiding citizen in Pennsylvania has a right to carry a loaded firearm without interference from state officials,” yet it opposes House Bill 2536, which would block anyone who was denied or lost the right to a carry license to go and get a license from states like Florida.
I support Rep. Rick Taylor and his efforts to make our streets safer and pass this bill. We need our representatives in Harrisburg to support sensible gun laws like HB 2546. We need to re-elect Rep. Rick Taylor so that he can continue to sponsor good, sensible legislation and make our streets safer for our families.
Rick Taylor's Original Guest
Submitted to Inquirer
8/21/2010 but not published
Re: Greek church lost in mosque debate
I’ve been hearing this issue touted as some type of excuse not to permit the building of an Islamic community center 2 blocks from the World Trade Center as if one would explain away the other. But I’ve done additional research on the rebuilding and much of the delay is because the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was built for 70 families and was destroyed in the collapse of the Towers, now wants to build a church roughly six times as big as the “beautiful” old one.
In the New York Times there is an extensive background on the issue (3/18/2009) where the New York Port Authority, which owns all the land of the actual World Trade Center – not the proposed site of the Islamic Center – offered $20 million to rebuild, even including $40 million for a blast-proof foundation, but the church wants approximately $65 million for the 6-times bigger new church, $20 million of that “up front.” The Church has only raised about $4 million on its own and the Port Authority feels that the Church might come back asking for more.
The destruction of the Church was part of a tragedy almost beyond measure but that does not seem to justify the raiding of the public coffers to build an edifice far more glorious than existed before 9/11.
To see the letter
I referred to. Be prepared to scroll down.
Published in the Inquirer,
August 5, 2010
Re: "Believed Obama would end America's two
wars," letter, Monday:
I'm sorry that the writer is disappointed in President Obama's performance in office. Like him, I worked in Obama's campaign, but, unlike him, I actually listened to what Obama said. He never said he would get out of both wars, only that we should have never gone into Iraq, and that because of our distraction there, we dropped the ball in Afghanistan.
And think about the writer's comment that the "American people do not have the stomach for wars in two countries that most people here cannot even locate on a map." How many Americans could have found the Pacific Islands we fought for in World War II, or even nations in Europe, in battles that saved the world?
To see the actual
Letter to President Obama
Re: Shirley Sherrod
Wednesday, July 21, 2010, 12:45PM
I voted for you, I worked in your campaign, contributed money and had a bumper sticker on my car, I’m a Democratic Committeeman but I stand, today, very disappointed in you and your administration.
I was aghast as I followed the story of Shirley Sherrod. Firing her because of a heavily edited
blog posting from BigGovernment.com? Didn’t you learn the lesson of the
ACORN debacle? Why would you fire a person before checking the facts?
I listened to the entire 43+ minute recording of her speech – something you and your staff should have done. If you had actually done what is decent you would have been able to respond in a measured way, defended Sherrod and put the onus on the
blog and the dolts on Fox News who sought to embarrass your administration.
Shirley Sherrod spoke of a life where she would be expected to hate whites, yet, after a moment’s hesitation, reached out to a white farm family and saved their farm. She rose above all that one might expect of her to be a better person and had, perhaps, the mistaken faith that acknowledging her short-term failure and growth, she would be seen as an example of how race relations can improve.
Your obligation, now, is simple: apologize to Shirley Sherrod NOW, offer her her job back and put some spine in your administration so that at the barking of the dogs at the gate you don’t go hide in the cellar.
Published in the Inquirer
(slightly edited) May 23, 2010
To the Editor;
It keeps getting worse. [“16 city principals lack credentials.” Wednesday, May 19,
First, Superintendent Ackerman hires someone who just quit bare moments before being fired, then never checks to see if the certification is in place. Now it seems that she was totally unaware that 16 other administrators are illegally holding such important leadership positions.
Explain to us why Ackerman received a $65,000 bonus from the District for “Superior Leadership?” Ackerman should give back the bonus she received – obviously she didn’t function in the proper supervisory role.
The total lack of accountability astounds. We hear from the head of the Administrators’ Association that it’s “too complex” for them to take the time and effort to make sure they have the qualifications for their jobs. Yet this same District is vigilant in rooting out teachers who are unqualified for the same reason – firing 47 last year. Why not fire the illegal Principals, as well?
Yet, how does the Board respond? The Board will send a representative to Harrisburg to get the Emergency Certifications. Who’s paying for the gas? The salary? The paperwork? Why should the Board pay? Talk about a double standard!
Two things should happen, immediately:
The illegal, uncertified Principals should take unpaid leave and go to Harrisburg, stand in line, themselves, to get the paperwork.
Their pay should be docked back to the point they began to break the law.
Published in the Ambler
Gazette, Tuesday, March
Letter: Corbett’s move is a waste of money
To the Editor:
The ink is not even dry on the Health Care Reform Act and we see that
Pennsylvania Attorney General Corbett is joining the attorney generals of
Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Washington in a lawsuit challenging the
constitutionality of the bill. Great to be in the august company of Alabama and
Is it merely coincidence that all of these just happen to be Republicans?
Could they be using our tax money to continue the obstructionism that the
Republicans have been waging for over a year to block even the consideration of
the bill that finally became law just today?
Perhaps Corbett has it in his mind that he’s running for the governorship
of Pennsylvania and he thinks this will play well to his base?
When — and if — he is on the ballot in November, I hope we all remember
how Corbett has misused his office and our tax money for such blatantly
© 2010 MontgomeryNews.com, a Journal Register Property
Unpublished letter to the Inquirer,
February 25, 2010
Re: Specter introduces bill on witness intimidation, Wed, Feb.
Senator Specter is aware, probably more than most in Washington,
of the terrible incidence of witness intimidation that goes on in Philadelphia
mainly because of his experience as District Attorney there. This was
heightened, no doubt, by your series on this issue in December.
He makes an error, though, when he seeks to “make a Federal
case out of it.” Every problem does not need and probably shouldn’t have a
Federal law in remediate it. There already are Federal laws against witness
intimidation in Federal cases as there should be. But when witnesses are killed
and/or threatened in State criminal actions it is the obligation of the State to
act and not to depend on Washington to come to their aid.
That nothing seems to be done in Philadelphia is the shame and
responsibility of local and State authorities. If there are laws that can be
called upon to protect witnesses and their families they should be applied
immediately and the offenders punished severely. If the laws do not provide this
protection – and funds and services to relocate witnesses – then the laws
should be passed immediately.
Every problem does not have – or need – a Federal solution.
The fact that Specter’s proposal actually passed in the House of
Representatives last year overwhelmingly shows a glaring blindness that comes
from trying to “do good” even when it is not in the realm of Federal
responsibility. I am particularly disappointed that newly elected Philadelphia
District Attorney Seth Williams actually lauded Specter's efforts and further
let the local and State authorities off the hook. Where are our local and State
officials when they permit a 25% cut in funding to relocate endangered
witnesses? This is not only malfeasance on their part but passing the buck and
further infantising local and State governments.
Unpublished letter to Inquirer about the Obama
Administration's decision to abandon the return to the Moon.
To the Editor,
Re: Obama retreats from space, by Charles Krauthammer
February 15, 2010
I generally agree with most of President Obama’s decisions but I agree with
Krauthammer that Obama has missed the mark in his decision to cut off
development for low Earth orbit capabilities once the Shuttle program shuts down
by the end of this year and creating a dependency on the Russians to get our
Astronauts into orbit for the foreseeable future.
There are strategic ramifications to this as we will be beholden to a nation
that even in the post Soviet Era, we often have cross purposes. What will happen
to our space station if the Russians just refuse to carry our people into orbit?
But Krauthammer misses another major point in his article: Obama knows he
must spend money to stimulate our economy so we can recover from the disaster we’ve
found ourselves in. But we should consider not just the short term recovery but
long term. We must rebuild our Research and Development foundations to our
economic success of the recent past by using Stimulus Funds to give our
technological sector a tremendous kick-start by going to the Moon and,
Much of the technology that we take for granted today from computers, to
weather satellites to minimally invasive surgical techniques owe their genesis
to the 1960’s space program. We can expect this new effort will be equally
Krauthammer is correct in saying that the goal of going to Mars is too far in
the future to get a reluctant Congress, staring at huge deficits, to put the
money into such a distant goal – in time and distance. Everyone can see the
Moon, and the films of our visits in the 70’s can be used to gather support
for the effort. Emphasis must be placed in the understanding that the money we
will be spending won’t be spent on the Moon but right here in the U.S. and all
the discoveries that will be made in technology will help us forever.
And then there is the sheer adventure of going back to the Moon and on to
Mars. But that is another story.
Published in the Ambler
Gazette, February 2, 2010
Increased taxes taint incumbents’ record
To The Editor:
As a resident and taxpayer in Whitpain Township and the
Wissahickon School District, I am certainly happy that NO Democrats serve on the
Township Board and only one out of nine are on the School Board.
Why am I so happy? Because if there were more Democrats
on those Boards our taxes would actually be going up! Thank goodness we are
protected from outlandish increases…..
Oh, wait. Our Township taxes are going to go up nearly 40% and
while the Wissahickon School taxes are “only” going up 1.9%. That’s only
because of some amazing coincidences: the WSB is eating into its Fund Surplus by
taking out $4 million – incidentally created the last time the Board was lead
by a Democrat – and receiving $1.3 million from the Federal Government, a 55%
increase from last year because of that Democratic President Obama’s Recovery
Even with this Federal help our taxes are going up. Don’t
these Township and School Board members listen to their Republican leadership?
The way to increase revenue is to actually cut taxes. So why are they trying to
sabotage our local economy and send our property values down the porcelain
Perhaps it would be a good idea for residents and taxpayers of
Whitpain Township and the WSD to remember this in the next election when the
incumbent Republicans are sure to begin touting their financial acumen.
RE: Catholics must heed teachings, Rick
December 3, 2009
To the Editor,
I am not a Catholic but I must respond to Santorum’s support of Bishop
Tobin vs. Rep. Patrick Kennedy which runs counter to the history of the U.S.
since 1928 when Al Smith, in his run for President was smashed by anti-Catholic
prejudice exemplified by a cartoon showing the Pope digging a tunnel from Rome
to the U.S. so that when Smith would be elected he could take command of the
country since “everyone” knew that Catholics take their orders from the
We’ve come a long way since then, with John F. Kennedy, in his run for the
presidency, having to state the obvious, that he would use his own mind to make
decisions and not follow the Church’s directives. Partly because of his
statement he was able to eke out a victory in 1960.
Flash forward to 2009 and we see the Church trying to set the clock back to
1928 and have no Catholics holding office. Santorum quotes Tobin saying, “[A]ny
Catholic in public office – his first commitment has to be to his faith….”
Why in Earth, as a non Catholic, would I even consider voting for a Catholic who
would then ignore the wishes of his constituents and blindly follow the
directions of someone who I have no influence or control over? It is bad enough
that we have lobbyists trying to influence our elected officials but if Tobin
and Santorum get their wish, any Catholic official would become a puppet to
Catholic Doctrine as pronounced by religious leaders.
And what about the Catholic Supreme Court Justices? They swore an oath to
uphold the Constitution – nothing about following the dictates of religious
leaders? The Catholic Church is against capital punishment. How Strict
Constructionist is this? Does this mean they must vote against it in any cases
that come before them or burn in Hell for eternity?
Former NY Governor Mario Cumo, himself a Roman Catholic, warned of “unforeseen
consequences” of this entire concept: if the doctrinaire get their way, they
may sweep all Catholics out of office for a generation or longer.
Click to see Santorum's article.
Dredging the Delaware River to 45' *
November 28, 2009
To the Editor,
In reading the OP-Ed piece by Maya van
Rossum, “Dredging benefits dubious,”
November 24, 2009, I thought, “It seems I’ve been reading about this
forever.” Then I realized it has been forever – they’ve been trying to
block this deepening the Delaware to 45’ for over 20 years with claims that it
will cause ecological havoc along the river. Yet they do not protest the “maintenance”
dredging to 40’ that goes on virtually continuously, nor the dredging to 50’
in New York or Baltimore and I wondered why? I also wondered why the State of
New Jersey was still protesting a 45’ channel on the Delaware but not 50’ in
North Jersey, part of the Port of New York, and some lights began to wink on
that something may have to do with the nearly continuous prejudice against South
Jersey and especially anything that might change the balance of North/South in
the State. The arguments of the contaminated “tailings” is gone since it
will all end up in Pennsylvania, and it will cost them nothing, yet they still
I have come to the conclusion that they would be all too happy to see the
Port of Philadelphia – including Camden – just silt up even to less than 40’
making our port unusable by modern ships and the Port of New York be the only
in the Inquirer, March 28, 2010, saying pretty much the same thing - one month
Tearing down historic buildings to construct Convention Center
January 23, 2008
Governor Edward G. Rendell
I voted for you four times – twice each for mayor of Philadelphia and
Governor – besides the times you ran for District Attorney and the primaries,
I no longer live in Philadelphia and now reside in Blue Bell in Montgomery
County but I still have an abiding interest in that city, as I thought you did.
But the actions of your Administration regarding the Convention Center expansion
and the reneging on the deal made for the buildings on North Broad have given me
reason to reconsider my expectations.
I met you several times in 2006 as I ran for the State House of
Representatives against Kate Harper and one of the complaints I constantly heard
as I campaigned was that no one can depend on the word of politicians. I
defended your Administration, saying it was different and that they could depend
With the recent movements on the Convention Center, I think I was wrong.
Those historic buildings should be preserved, as the “deal” required, so
they can be absorbed into the façade so the Center’s face on Broad Street
will not be some giant, blank slab.
You should do the right thing about this, else who will ever consider any
arrangement with the State to be anything but mere empty words?
July 12, 2008
711 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
I am writing to urge you to co-sponsor Senate Bill S. 2862 which directs the
National Science Foundation to fully fund the Arecibo Observatory which is being
threatened with closure. Several of the reasons to justify continued funding for
this essential facility are:
As the largest radio telescope in the world, the Arecibo
Observatory is an important asset to America's scientific and technological
communities. No other radio telescope comes close to the sensitivity of the
Not until the year 2020 will any other telescope even have a
chance to surpass Arecibo. If the Square Kilometer Array (to be
located in South Africa or Australia) gets all of its funding on time, a
decade-long gap without the use of Arecibo will still plague astronomic
planetary, and atmospheric research.
Only Arecibo's planetary radar can image and determine exact
trajectories of potentially threatening asteroids. This makes Arecibo the
best tool for investigating Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and warning the world
about possible asteroid threats to the very existence of the human race.
Radio technologies developed for the Arecibo telescope
strengthen the U.S. competitive edge in the global marketplace. Ionospheric
radio wave propagation studies conducted at Arecibo form an important
component of space technologies, from communications satellites to the
Global Positioning System (GPS).
Arecibo benefits education. Many of our next generation of
scientists and engineers receive training at the Arecibo Observatory.
Arecibo captures the public imagination. Over 120,000 people
per year visit this technical wonder while millions more contribute to
scientific projects conducted with this telescope. I, and over 5 million
participants, have contributed to SETI@home -- the world's largest public
participation science project.
The citizens of the United States, especially those in
Puerto Rico, and the scientific community look at Arecibo with pride. The
Observatory represents a commitment to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and a
major asset to the world scientific community.
I urge you to support S. 2862 to ensure Arecibo Observatory will continue its
vital contributions to all of these important scientific and humanitarian
Phony Yellowcake Justification for Invasion of Iraq
July 8, 2008
I find it amazing that you published the letter from Ted Meehan in response to the article (“Iraq’s nuclear ‘yellowcake’ moved to
Canada,” July 6), which is a gross misreading of the article.
Meehan claims that this yellowcake backs up the Bush administration’s claim
of Iraq’s attempt to build an atomic bomb and WMDs in the run up to the Iraq
The article clearly states in the last paragraph that the yellowcake dates
from 1981 – before Gulf War I and was placed in sealed in sealed drums after
the 1991 Gulf War. It even quotes an official saying there was, “no evidence
of any yellowcake dating from after 1991.”
It would seem that you editorial page staff has some obligation to “fact
check” that the letter submitter at least understood the article he is
referring to and it does not support the conclusion that it “proves” that
our attack on Iraq was justified.
Immigrants & Assimilation
December 9, 2007
Smerconish’s article (What we lose now that newcomers don’t assimilate) expresses an interesting type of blindness: what his
grandparents did was good, but when “new” immigrants do the same thing –
keeping their name – it suddenly becomes a bad thing.
What part of the name “Smerconish” is a “good American name?”
Why didn’t his ancestors change their name to Smer or Smith, for that
matter, so they could “melt” into America with nary a ripple? But keeping
the name Garcia is wrong?
Perhaps he isn’t - as he denies – a xenophobe, but merely a hypocrite.
I taught in a mainly Hispanic Philadelphia high school with a strong and
successful ESL (English as a second language) program and have seen what
Smerconish doesn’t see and/or understand: The immigrants want to learn English
so they can get better jobs and care for their families. Their children are
learning English both in school and on the streets so that many second
generation Hispanics don’t understand Spanish at all.
As to what is an “American name,” Hispanic surnames have been a part of
America certainly since we took over large areas that had been Spanish colonies
in Florida and the Southwest. Smerconish mentions his name having been shortened
from Smerakanich but this still didn’t produce an “American name.”
Perhaps my mother’s family experience would help explain part of this. They
came from Lithuania and their name was Oleroshofsky. When they reached the
immigration official and gave their name he had no idea how to spell it. He said
that since they were Jewish, they should take a “Jewish name,” Goldstein
(actually a German name) and that is what they became. Others shortened their
names but another huge ethnic group – Italians – did nothing like this and I
don’t hear Smerconish deriding this group for keeping their names.
I think Smerconish has missed still another reason why some people changed
their names. It wasn’t just so they could become Americans. Their reason for
being here was proof of that, but they wanted their names pronounceable – but
who can’t pronounce “Garcia,” now or 100 years ago?
A last reason for people changing their names, an ugly one: protection from
An example is my father’s brother, unable to get a job because he had a
“Jewish name,” cut it and lied in his employment application. This cannot be
dismissed as the cause of many first generation-born of immigrant parents for
changing their names.
Today, this is because of discrimination laws, less of a problem. But would
Smerconish want us to consider people without “good American names”
Board salary Rip-Off
August 29, 2007
As a retired Philadelphia school teacher for 34.9 years, you can add me to
the list of those angered by the deal to give Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis $180,000
in severance pay. [Pay deal angers district parents, page 1, Wednesday, August
When I retired two years ago my pension was, and forever will be, reduced
because I chose not to come back in September for 22 days, leaving my students
and school in a long search for a certified teacher.
But Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis, an employee for a mere two years, gets a bonus
for quitting a job that she doesn’t seem to have done. On her watch she saw
the School District fall into a huge $73 million deficit. I wonder how many
firemen would get a bonus for doing nothing while a building burned? But here we
have Nevels, on the way out, handing out a golden parachute to someone whose job
was to be the financial officer of the District and obviously didn’t do it.
Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis had no contractual requirements for severance pay. She
resigned voluntarily, yet, in the face of dire economic straits, she is given
How many teachers, art and music classes, books, class enrichment trips,
paper and other resources now being savaged in the budget cuts would not be
eliminated were Folasade Olanipekun-Lewis’ “parting gift” not been given?
While it is obviously true that her $180,000 is but a drop in the bucket toward
the monstrous deficit, what is this telling the teachers and students of
Philadelphia schools about their relative worth to the District? “If the folks
on Broad Street fail in their jobs, they will be rewarded but if teachers or
students don’t raise those test scores, the fires of damnation will descend
We often hear about accountability. Where, then, is the accountability when a
person who seems to flit between jobs every two years fails in her job but gets
a $180,000 reward?
What is the message we are sending?
Re: Together for SEPTA, letter from Rep. Kate
June 19, 2007
Representative Kate Harper [R-61st District] replied to my letter saying
that “a political opponent [me] mischaracterized” her lack of support for
SEPTA in its “budgetary woes.”
Somehow, I wouldn’t characterize the huge $100 million hole in SEPTA’s
budget as a “woe.” Calamity would be more like it.
She states that she “merely suggested” that it is a “shared
responsibility” of all governmental levels but she stated in a debate at
Foulkeways, in Lower Gwynedd, on October 12th, 2006 during the campaign that her
biggest concern with funding for SEPTA was that “it doesn't take money away
from the highway fund.”
I, on the other hand, was concerned that, “One of the major problems with
SEPTA is lack of dedicated funding,” which makes it impossible to do
In a series of articles in the Inquirer about the funding crisis, it was
pointed out that Pennsylvania, unlike most other states, severely restricts the
ability of localities to raise funds for mass transit and the State Legislature
that Harper was part of the majority did nothing to alleviate the situation –
except berate the localities for doing nothing.
Bills are now before the Legislature to try to help SEPTA in its funding
crisis and perhaps we’ll finally see Rep. Harper do the right thing.
But, based on her previous performance, I have little hope.
Re: Pa. Supports SEPTA
June 3, 2007
To the Editor:
In a letter [Pa. Supports SEPTA, June 3, 2007] PA State Representative, Kate
Harper, 61st District, scolds an Inquirer editorial for not “checking the
facts,” and then goes on to say what a wonderful job the State is doing in the
support of SEPTA. She accuses SEPTA Board chair Pasquale Deon of “trying to
threaten [and] cajole the General Assembly,” for more money.
The only problem is that she is, again, off the mark on the issue. In the
2006 campaign, Harper, in a debate, stated that she is against any permanent,
stable, predictable funding for SEPTA or any other transportation system in the
State. It seems she would rather have this yearly “game” of SEPTA coming hat
in hand to the Legislature, begging for enough funding to keep going for another
year, and then do it again the next year.
This is astoundingly foolish as no organization can plan effectively without
any predictable funding. This leads to the hand-to-mouth situation we see SEPTA
in each year or two.
I am not wedded to any particular funding method: that is for the
Legislature, SEPTA and the Counties that it serves to work out but to continue
the current system is wasteful of time, resources and good will.
To those reading this who don’t use SEPTA and are saying, “Why should
this interest me?” I say you should. The vitality of South Eastern
Pennsylvania depends on a dependable mass transit system to move people both
into Philadelphia and out to the suburbs – like Blue Bell – to bring
shoppers from the City and Norristown and workers in the homes and businesses.
Already, businesses must pay a premium in salary to get workers because of the
time and expense in commuting.
This is only going to get worse as the demand for workers increases and the
cost of gas for those who try to drive increases.
The suburbs need SEPTA so we can thrive.
Re: ‘Illegal’ key problem with immigrants, Michael Smerconish
March 18, 2007
I read Smerconish’s article and heard in the background the same refrain
for about the 10,000th time: “We must do something about this illegal
immigration or the US will be swamped by these ‘illegals.’”
But there are really two, separate, discussions going on here:
- Illegal immigration. No one can argue that the US can and should be
able to control its own borders and who comes into the US to live and work.
- Change. These “people” are “different” and the US will be
changed for the worse because of “them.”
If you shift back to the time that Smerconish’s Great-Grandparents came
over to the US from Eastern Europe – legally, of course – the reaction was
frenzied and hot and not much different from what you hear on the streets and
talk shows today:
- These people are so different – his family was from Eastern Europe.
- They are taking over – “They” seemed to be everywhere.
- They will make this neighborhood/town/city/country different from what
it is today – our church, schools and stores are changing.
- And, most importantly, they don’t speak English and don’t want to
learn English. “Why in a few years, English-speaking people will be a
minority in the Good ol’ US of A.”
It is this last that causes part of the greatest concern since it seems to
the established population the new people are not interested in learning English
when in reality it is 180 degrees wrong. The newcomers want to learn
English. They understand the necessity of being able to speak English so they
can broaden their job potential and so they encourage their children to learn
English, though this is hardly necessary as by the second generation, the
children often don’t even speak their parent’s home language.
The parents, however, have a much more difficult time as the very people who
bewail the lack of English proficiency are uninterested in putting forth the
resources that were used in the 19th and 20th Centuries to “melt” the
immigrants of those days into the general population.
True there are foreign language newspapers, such as Al Dia just as
there were Yiddish, German and Italian papers so that the immigrants can keep up
with the news in both the old homeland and the US. But have you looked at a
recent copy of Al Dia? A good part of it is in English because so many of
the children of Spanish speaking parents can’t read Spanish so, to keep it’s
readers and advertisers, English has been added.
The same thing happened to The Forwards, originally a Yiddish-only
What the outsider doesn’t realize is not that the older immigrants are
refusing to become proficient in English but new immigrants come in unable to
speak English. The same thing happened when Jews moved from Eastern Europe in
the late 1800’s and stores began to include Yiddish in their signs outside so
potential customers would know what the store sold.
There is one, very interesting, change in the way the new immigrants are
different from the old: the old changed their family names – to Smerconish,
for instance. The new immigrants change first names to “American” types and
the pronunciations. If the parents don’t do it, their children do.
As far as Joe Vento and his sign at Geno’s Steaks: following his rules, his
own grandfather couldn’t order a sandwich and what is the sense in that?
Published in the Inquirer,
September 12, 2006
Openness is good
In the Aug. 29 article "Internet anonymity poisons public life," writer Kathleen Parker decries the ability of people throughout the world to actually see and hear statements by politicians. I ask, isn't this a "good thing"?
For years (centuries?) people have cursed the tendency of politicians - especially when they're running for office - to tell one story to one audience and an entirely different, contradictory story to another. This is probably where the expression "two-faced" arose.
It was only when a reporter actually followed the politician around, and compared the various stump speeches, that the voters actually learned what the candidates were saying. Because this was expensive and time consuming, this seldom happened and we had generations of this double-talk. But now with the blogosphere and the ease of finding notations, the age of politicians hiding their statements is over.
As a candidate running for office in the 61st District of the House of Representatives, I welcome this openness. What do I have to hide? As Parker says, I am "running in good faith and [will] try to do something that matters."
If I'm worried that my - future - constituents hear all of what I am saying, what do I have to fear? That is, of course, if I'm being honest with them.
Re: Islamic reaction to cartoons depicting Muhammad
February 2, 2006
The protests outside the Inquirer were a good sign: people know how to
protest peacefully. They felt they had no need to burn down the newspaper office
but that by the sheer act of marching outside the offices let their displeasure
I wish that their fellows in Lebanon, Syria and other locations around the
world had that same knowledge but while their religion is the same, their
experience is not. The people outside the Inquirer live in a democracy, where
religion, the press and their right to complain about anything are protected by
the 1st Amendment.
In most of the nations where the violent protests are taking place there is
no history – no right – to do what the Philadelphians did on Monday.
That said, I found the writing on one sign ludicrous, “Islam = Peace.”
Pardon me? Didn’t they see the Dannish embassies burning? Didn’t Islam
spread from Medina to Mecca, to Africa and Asia by the sword?
But Islam is no different from most other religions; the Christians felt it
was OK to kill others, even other Christians, who held different religions dear.
The ancient Jews annihilated cities in “the Land of Milk and Honey.” They
all felt justified by their faith, as have countless religionists over the
millennia, to slaughter those who don’t pray either to the right god or the
While most Americans have moved to the “live and let live” concept, too
many across the globe still believe that they have the right to kill anyone who
disagrees about religion or, at the least, ridicule them and have no idea that
poking fun at someone’s most basic faith is hurtful and then react with shock
that the target of their ridicule is offended.
That is the real point of this entire nasty incident.
Dropout Rate in College
January 26, 2006
Goodman and King (Pa.’s big test: Improve dropout rate)
are blaming colleges for a host of problems they are not responsible for.
True, colleges have a large dropout rate but this is hardly their total
responsibility: for the last 30 years college has been totally over sold.
Colleges are being encouraged to provide virtual open enrollment to students who
are unprepared for the demands of a four-year institution.
At the same time we are short of technically trained workers, colleges are
cranking out English and history majors who have few places to go, except
For many of the students who are admitted to colleges a better bet would be a
trade school or community college where they could snare an Associate’s Degree
in some technical area that is going unfilled. The student would have a job,
little or no crushing debt and the U.S. would be better able to compete in the
world markets. Instead, they come out destitute and frustrated, with little
prospect of a decent job to support themselves and their families, and end up
functioning as a brake instead of an accelerator for the national economy.
Don't Rename 30th St. Station to
December 25, 2005
So the Pew Foundation wants to change the name of 30th Street Station to
Ben Franklin Station.
In the name of all that’s traditional, “Why?”
As the article notes there are plenty of places and streets named in Franklin’s
honor. When is enough, enough?
We’ve changed the names of Philly streets all too often recently; (Delaware
Ave., East and West River Drive) let the city be.
If the Pew Foundation wants to change something to honor Franklin, let them
change the name of the Pew to the Franklin Foundation and leave the city alone.
For the published
Fight or Run in Iraq & Other Traps
November 11, 2005
I just sent this letter to A Schwartz about this stupid trap the Republicans
are trying to spring on the Democrats.
I understand that the Republicans have set up a vote this evening to try to
force the Democrats and other Anti-Iraq War people to vote to "cut and run,
This is obviously a set up. If you and other Democrats vote to support this
measure, called by Republicans the "Murtah Option," it will doom
Democrats to be the Chamberlains of today.
I, as most thoughtful Americans, realize the War was a grave error - and a
trumped up one at that.
But we can't withdraw at this point - we are trapped because if we do leave,
the Iraqi government will collapse and civil war will break out and the
terrorists - who had little strength in Iraq before we invaded - will triumph
and the US will be the laughing stock of the world.
The Democrats have to vote to "support the troops" even though they
shouldn't be there in the first place.
But we must come up with an alternate proposal - we just can't say,
"Bush is bad," and be done with it.
We must lead, something we haven't been doing a lot of, recently.
Re: Law lets home-schoolers join activities
November 11, 2005
Oh, great! The very people who have run, hysterically from the Public Schools
are now at the gates fighting to get in – sort of.
Those who want no part of the Evil System that teaches such oddball stuff
like Humanism and Darwinism now want their kids to take the positions of
students who are actually part of the school community.
It would seem to me that when the parents took their kids out of the public
school system they did exactly that – took their kids out of the system –
Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer (R., Blair), an advocate of the
bill said, “We should be diverse. We should get to know each other.” How
oxymoronic can we get? If home-schooled kids want to get involved in diversity
let them stop hiding in their homes from the very diversity Jubelirer speaks of.
The article also quotes Susan Richman, a founder of Pennsylvania
Homeschoolers, who says that home-schooled kids have their “own”
institutions such as volleyball and an annual Shakespeare production.
How about taking in public-schooled kids? After all, she says, “What does
it hurt? It may be a valuable interchange.”
Re: From one high school to three in Kensington
September 16, 2005
Kensington High School, long a troubled school, is being “fixed” by
dividing it into three, separate parts.
I was disheartened to discover that what the School District really did was
build walls, hire more administrators and basically flush $2.3 million down the
administrative toilet. It seems the efforts to fix schools has become an
employment project for administrators at the tune of $80,000 per year for each
new administrator. How many tutors or additional teachers could be hired for
this huge amount of money – money that would go directly to helping the
When asked about using this money to actually help the students – via
smaller classes or tutors, the Mr. Bichner, head of all high schools, said it
“would not be fair to other schools in the district.” What isn’t “fair”
about doing what is necessary to help students vs. building Berlin Walls up the
middle of a school? Will a concrete block wall do anything about the skills the
students bring into 9th grade? Kensington had Small Learning
Communities (Academies) for several years of about 500 students but what it didn’t
have was stability at the top as Kensington suffered from the “Principal of
the Month Club” as the leadership changed each year or even monthly.
The final point, made in the last paragraph, about other, larger, schools
such as Northeast, sees no need to “fix something that isn’t broken.…”
suggests the problem is not just size. What Northeast does have is a
forward-thinking, stable administrator. Is it the problem that the Board can’t
find an administrator capable of handling a 1,200 school and can only find those
strong enough to handle 500? I suggest that the Board put down the cement trowel
and look into fixing what actually is broken – leadership.
Re: “Finding the place in history of ‘Deep Throat’”
June 1, 2005
I was hardly surprised, though still outraged, that such convicted Watergate
criminals as Colson and Liddy and Nixon apologists were denying Felt the
honorable ground, saying he “betrayed his oath.”
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
These men were part of a nefarious plot to steal an election and pervert the
legal system of the United States. No wonder they are unhappy they were caught.
Felt deserves a statue erected in his honor – while the convicted criminals
and their fellow travelers who deny his greatness have no honor.
Published in Inquirer,
June 18, 2004
Without leadership, schools suffer
Students complain about having no math teacher and playing basketball instead, of having rafts of substitutes and uncertified teachers all year. I have no doubt that these stories are true since I've taught for 35 years in Philadelphia, but the reason these stories are true go much deeper.
True, teachers with more seniority tend to transfer from the schools mentioned in Dale Mezzacappa's May 27 article, "Students voice ire over lack of certified teachers." The real reason they seek to leave is because of the chaos in those schools, not students' incomes or ethnic backgrounds.
I teach at Edison/Fareira High School, a school that has virtually the same student makeup as Kensington High, except we have what Kensington doesn't: a principal who has been here for nearly 10 years. Kensington is a member of the Principal of the Month Club, where the principals roll in and out before they can make any attempt to change the school's downward spiral - even if they are capable of it.
Tomas Hanna, a special assistant to schools CEO Paul Vallas, was himself principal there for less than a year. He couldn't stabilize it, nor could the appointees who were there briefly before or after him.
What teacher - what worker - wants to try to function in chaos? Edison/Fareira has a mere fraction of its staff leave each year through transfers because the administration is strong, supportive and there - yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Ron StoloffThe original
Published in Inquirer, August 28, 2001
Gains in Philly schools
After reading the commentary by Tom Corcoran and Jolley Bruce Christman (Inquirer, Aug. 23), my reaction, as my students would say, is "Duh!"
I was most impressed by their "discovery" that "teachers want assignments in the best-run schools." Actually, it is chaos they are fleeing. Who wants to work in such conditions?
A well-run school will stabilize its staff, and it takes a good principal to accomplish this. A case in point is a high school, one of the worst performing of high schools in the city. For over a decade teachers transferred out in droves. When a new principal was appointed, this virtually ended.
What changed? Not the students, the building nor its location but the sense of calm and support from the top that made the teachers feel that they were valued and supported. Educational research has shown, over and again, that the most important single factor in a school is the principal. A good one equals a successful school.
The school district needs to do something it rarely does: support these team-player principals.
The difficulty in defining a
August 24, 2000
Once again we hear the cry of, “We should only pay good teachers more. The
bad teachers should not be paid more until they clean up their act - or we
should fire them, outright.”
This sounds great until you try to find some form of valid measurement. True,
some teacher’s students do better than others. But the real question is, “How
much did the teacher do with the difference?”
I teach in an inner-city high school and two colleagues, after years of
fantastic teaching and great frustration, transferred to prestigious magnet
schools in Philly. I know these teachers did not change their methods but now,
“suddenly” their students are jumping leaps and bounds in performance tests.
Can we guess why?
Could it be anything connected to what their students bring into the
classroom? Or didn’t?
I am tired of people who haven’t taught telling me that I should get bonus
pay just like an assembly line worker. What other worker has to worry that
someone will sneak into the factory and disassemble all that he did today? Will
the worker be penalized because the steel had major flaws that caused the car to
fall apart on the way to the loading dock?
This happens to our students every day where just getting to school via SEPTA
and the required $9 per week carfare is a major drain and strain on their
families. Where students have to run a gauntlet of violence, sex and drugs all
dragging them down and putting them in danger on their way to school each
And, wonder of wonders! In April a person at the Warton School told us that
the suburban Colonial School District in Montgomery County is using this method
and “takes into account the socio-economic background” of the kids. What
about the difference between free bus service, safe streets and virtually
Are they controlling for that, too?
Defending against another attack on teachers & contracts
July 7, 1997
To The Editors,
I read, with interest, the latest diatribe by David Boldt (Friday, July 11,
1997, R1) against the teachers in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Federation
of Teachers and promoting vouchers. What made this article different from most
of his in the past was his “fantasy” discussion with Hornbeck over the
arbitrator’s decision concerning the Keystoning of Olney and Audenreid High
Schools. I could just as well envision a “fantastic” discussion with Newt
Gingrich in which he totally agrees with President Clinton. Just because I can
dream it, does not make it so.
Further, he lambasts the PFT for trying to enforce its contract. Let me see:
it is fine to violate agreements if the perpetrator is doing it for a “good”
reason. I wonder how the Inquirer would feel if I appropriated a week’s worth
of newspapers and gave them out for free, so to increase the understanding of
the people of Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs of the issues of the day.
I dare say that the Inquirer would consider this theft, regardless of how many
times I protested that my actions were for the greater good. This is a nation of
laws, not of men. Since Hornbeck wanted to help education in the City, he had to
follow the rules he and the School District agreed to. The arbitrator agreed
with the PFT that he followed not one of the steps in the contract - he did not
In another of Boldt’s points he quotes a researcher’s study that children
who transfer from the public schools to a private or parochial school will see
their chances of graduating go up. I agree totally. Those parents who took the
time to move their children obviously were parents who were involved in their
children’s education. But you do not have to have the student leave the public
schools to achieve this. I have seen in my 28 years of teaching in the
Philadelphia public schools in what some would call the most “deprived”
schools in the city, that the greatest controlling factor in grades, promotion
and general, all around success, was not the poverty level or if the student
went to a “good” or “bad” school, but if the parents were involved. If
the parent keeps after their children, making sure they attend, does their
homework and come prepared and on time, the children will succeed.
Then there is the old chestnut about the Union only trying to protect “mediocrities.”
That is not what the PFT does - it gives the members representation when they
are charged with some infraction and makes sure that the Administration does its
job in documenting what they charge. If the Administration can do this, the
teacher is gone. But Administrators are notoriously derelict in their duties -
only 20 or so teachers are rated unsatisfactory each year. Even I agree that is
preposterous. But Administrators whine that it is “too hard” to do and takes
about “55 hours” to remove a teacher. If they cannot - or will not - do
their job, perhaps these Administrators should be the first on the list to go,
charged with incompetence and dereliction of duty. When I see this, then I will
know that the Administration has really made a commitment to change.
Unpublished letter to the Inquirer February 18, 1997
Blaming teachers for all student failure
I am enraged by the discussion in this paper and the speeches given by the Superintendent
of Schools focusing the blame of failure in schools in general and two schools
in particular. Virtually all these accusations are being made by people who have
never been in a classroom except to breeze by on an inspection yet have no
understanding what makes a class work or not and for the most part could not
survive the period of time necessary to gain this knowledge.
Our students come to school with tremendous burdens. The question is not “It
is a shame about how many fail!” but should be, “It is almost a miracle that
this many succeed!” Many of our students must run a gauntlet of violence on
the way to school, ignore the Siren Call of drugs, prostitution and hopelessness
that seeks to lure them from their path.
I am impressed each day when I see their faces, seeing the clouds that
sometime cross them but knowing that they think enough of what I do in class
each day that they fought such adversity to get to school.
I have taught in the Philadelphia school system since 1969 and have loved
almost every minute of those years. I know there are problems and therefore I
have been involved in many reform movements and will continue to do so in the
future. I have seen enough in these years to know that the problem is only
seldom in the classroom but most importantly in Principal’s office. I worked
in a school where the principal was obstructionist bordering on insane, I know
of another school where the principal locked teachers out of school one day,
locked them in the next. In this case it was only when he threatened the life of
the Superintendent that anything was done about him. In one school a teacher
came to work drunk. Yet, instead of following procedures and having him tested,
he took this man into his office until he sobered up. Study after study of successful
schools show that the one thing they have in common is a principal that is the
educational leader. Most schools that fail do not have this. Blaming teachers
for this failure is akin to blaming an army of brave men and women for losing a
battle because they were ordered into a slaughter.
A colleague of mine worked alongside me for many years in an inner city high
school. He was a dedicated teacher who tried and usually succeeded in the
classroom. However, the years left a toll on him and finally he threw up his
hands and transferred to a “better” school. He is happier now and there is
far less stress. According to Hornbeck, this teacher was terrible in the inner
city school and suddenly, when he transferred, became a better teacher. If
anyone believes this, they have never been in a classroom. But, then, Hornbeck
has never taught in a school like those he seems to revel in attacking.
Schools in Philadelphia need support not attack. Yes, there are teachers who
should not be in the classroom. Administrators, whose job it is to supervise and
lead the teachers complain that it is “too difficult” to weed out the poor
teachers. Their solution? Transfer them so they become someone else’s problem
instead of doing the job they are paid to do - supervise. They complain that it
takes 50 hours to “get rid” of a poor teacher. If this work is too difficult
for them, then they should retire, quit or in some other fashion get out of the
way and let someone else do the job. Fifty hours? Is that so long a time to
spend removing a teacher that affects nearly 200 students a day in five classes
and an advisory? It is my experience of some 27 plus years of teaching that a
much higher proportion of administrators are derelict in their duties than
teachers. If teachers are given the leadership and support from both the
principal’s office and the home we can do our job and it does not take a
complete flushing of the teaching staff to accomplish this.